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Contraception. 2010 May;81(5):414-20. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2009.12.015. Epub 2010 Jan 27.

Contraceptive efficacy of emergency contraception with levonorgestrel given before or after ovulation.

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  • 1Instituto Chileno de Medicina Reproductiva (ICMER), Santiago, Chile.



We aimed to evaluate whether emergency contraception with levonorgestrel (LNG-EC) administered after ovulation is equally effective to LNG-EC administered before ovulation.


We studied a cohort of women attending a family planning clinic for EC. From interview, we recorded menstrual history, time of intercourse and of intake of LNG-EC. On the day of intake of LNG-EC and during 5 days' follow-up, blood samples were taken for examination of luteinizing hormone, estradiol and progesterone concentrations, and vaginal ultrasound examinations were done for size of the leading follicle and/or corpus luteum. Thereafter women were not contacted until next menses or pregnancy occurred.


Of 388 women attending for LNG-EC, 122 women had intercourse on fertile cycle days according to ultrasound and endocrine findings. At the time of LNG-EC intake, 87 women were in Days -5 to -1 and 35 women were in Day 0 (day of ovulation) or beyond. With the use of the probability of clinical pregnancy reported by Wilcox et al. [N Engl J Med 333 (1995) 1517-1521], expected numbers of pregnancies among the 87 and 35 women were 13 and 7, respectively, while 0 and 6 pregnancies, respectively, occurred.


We conclude that LNG-EC prevents pregnancy only when taken before fertilization of the ovum has occurred.

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