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Reproduction. 2020 Mar;159(3):R139-R149. doi: 10.1530/REP-19-0355.

Mechanisms involved in the contraceptive effects of ulipristal acetate.

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Laboratory of Reproductive Medicine, Biochemical Chemistry Area, School of Biochemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, National University of Rosario, Rosario, Argentina.
Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental (IBYME-CONICET), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, Brazil.


The use of emergency contraception (EC) methods is increasing worldwide as it constitutes an effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. During the last decade, ulipristal acetate (UPA), a selective progesterone receptor modulator, has emerged as the most effective EC pill, and it is now recommended as first-line hormonal treatment for EC in several countries. Its principal mechanism of action involves inhibition or delay of follicular rupture, but only when administered during the follicular phase before the luteinizing hormone (LH) peak. However, considering the high efficacy of UPA, it is possible that it also exerts contraceptive effects besides ovulation. In the present review, we summarize and discuss the existing evidence obtained on the effect of UPA on sperm function and post-ovulatory events as potential additional mechanisms to prevent pregnancy. The bulk of evidence collected so far indicates that UPA would not affect gamete function; however, it could impair embryo-uterine interaction. Thus, besides the described effects on ovarian function, UPA contraceptive effectiveness might also be attributed to post-ovulatory effects, depending on the moment of the female cycle in which the drug is administered.


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