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The role of emergency contraception

  • James Trussell
    Correspondence
    Reprint requests: James Trussell, PhD, Princeton University, Office of Population Research, 21 Prospect Ave, Princeton, NJ 08544.
    Affiliations
    Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJa; Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massb; University of California San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, San Francisco, Calif c; Biomedical Affairs Division, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NCd; Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Miche USA
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  • Charlotte Ellertson
    Affiliations
    Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJa; Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massb; University of California San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, San Francisco, Calif c; Biomedical Affairs Division, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NCd; Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Miche USA
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  • Felicia Stewart
    Affiliations
    Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJa; Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massb; University of California San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, San Francisco, Calif c; Biomedical Affairs Division, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NCd; Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Miche USA
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  • Elizabeth G Raymond
    Affiliations
    Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJa; Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massb; University of California San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, San Francisco, Calif c; Biomedical Affairs Division, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NCd; Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Miche USA
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  • Tara Shochet
    Affiliations
    Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Office of Population Research, Princeton University, Princeton, NJa; Ibis Reproductive Health, Cambridge, Massb; University of California San Francisco, Center for Reproductive Health Research & Policy, San Francisco, Calif c; Biomedical Affairs Division, Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NCd; Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Miche USA
    Search for articles by this author

      Abstract

      Emergency contraception is an underused therapeutic option for women in the event of unprotected sexual intercourse. Available postcoital contraceptives include emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) both with and without estrogen, and copper-bearing intrauterine devices. Each method has its individual efficacy, safety, and side effect profile. Most patients will experience prevention of pregnancy, providing they follow the treatment regimen carefully. There are concerns that women who use ECPs may become lax with their regular birth control methods; however, reported evidence indicates that making ECPs more readily available would ultimately reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancies. In addition, it is typically conscientious contraceptive users who are most likely to seek emergency treatment. Patient education is paramount in the reduction of unintended pregnancies and there are numerous medical resources available to women to assist them in this endeavor. Finally, ECPs are associated with financial and psychologic advantages that benefit both the individual patient and society at large.

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