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Emergency contraception.

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Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust Family Planning and Well Woman Services, University of Edinburgh Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 18 Dean Terrace, UK.


The last decade has seen a huge interest in emergency contraception (EC) because of the potential it has to reduce abortion rates. A variety of hormonal methods is available although mifepristone-arguably the best method-is only licensed in China. The intrauterine device is highly effective but its use is limited because of the technical skill required for successful insertion. The mechanism of action of both the Yuzpe regimen of EC and of levonorgestrel is poorly understood and for all methods there are serious methodological difficulties involved with calculating efficacy. Nevertheless the risks and side-effects of EC are negligible and the practicalities of prescribing it are extremely simple. Research and programmatic efforts should concentrate on improving availability if EC is to fulfil its promise as a public health intervention to reduce unwanted pregnancy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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