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N Engl J Med. 1998 Jul 2;339(1):1-4.

The effects of self-administering emergency contraception.

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  • 1Edinburgh Healthcare National Health Service Trust Family Planning and Well Woman Services, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Emergency postcoital contraception prevents pregnancy, but it must be prescribed by a doctor and taken within 72 hours of intercourse. It has been proposed that emergency contraception be made available without a prescription. We undertook a study to learn how women might behave if given a supply of emergency contraceptive pills to keep at home.

METHODS:

We assigned 553 women to be given a replaceable supply of hormonal emergency contraceptive pills to take home (the treatment group) and 530 women to use emergency contraception obtained by visiting a doctor (the control group). The frequency of use of emergency contraception, the use of other contraceptives, and the incidence of unwanted pregnancy were determined in both groups of women one year later.

RESULTS:

The results for 549 women in the treatment group and 522 women in the control group were available for analysis. Three hundred seventy-nine of the women in the treatment group (69 percent) and 326 of the women in the control group (62 percent) contributed detailed information at follow-up. One hundred eighty of the women in the treatment group (47 percent) used emergency contraception at least once. Among those who returned the study questionnaire, 98 percent used emergency contraception correctly. There were no serious adverse effects. Eighty-seven women in the control group (27 percent) used emergency contraception at least once (P<0.001 for the comparison with the treatment group). The women in the treatment group were not more likely to use emergency contraception repeatedly. Their use of other methods of contraception was no different from that of the women in the control group. There were 18 unintended pregnancies in the treatment group and 25 in the control group (relative risk, 0.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.4 to 1.2).

CONCLUSIONS:

Making emergency contraception more easily obtainable does no harm and may reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies.

PMID:
9647872
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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