Emergency contraception

Sheila Dunn, Edith Guilbert, Guylaine Lefebvre, Catherine Allaire, Jagmit Arneja, Colin Birch, Michel Fortier, John Jeffrey, George Vilos, Marie-Soleil Wagner, Lorna Grant, François Beaudoin, Donna Cherniak, Rosana Pellizzari, Leslie Sadownik, Rajni Saraf-Dhar, Valerie Turnbull
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: JOGC 2003, 25 (8): 673-9, 680-7; quiz 688-90

OBJECTIVE: To review current knowledge about emergency contraception (EC), including available options, their modes of action, efficacy, safety, and the effective provision of EC within a practice setting.

OPTIONS: The combined estradiol-levonorgestrel (Yuzpe regimen) and the levonorgestrel-only regimen, as well as post-coital copper intrauterine devices, are reviewed.

OUTCOMES: Efficacy in terms of reduction in risk of pregnancy, safety, and side effects of methods for EC and the effect of the means of access to EC on its appropriate use and the use of consistent contraception.

EVIDENCE: MEDLINE and the Cochrane Database were searched for English-language articles published from January 1998 through March 2003, to update the previous SOGC guidelines published in 2000. Clinical guidelines and position papers developed by health or family planning organizations were also reviewed. Key words used were: emergency contraception, post-coital contraception, emergency contraceptive pills, postcoital copper IUD.

VALUES: The studies reviewed were classified according to criteria described by the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Exam and the recommendations for practice were ranked based on this classification.

BENEFITS, HARMS, AND COSTS: These guidelines are intended to help reduce unintended pregnancies by increasing awareness and appropriate use of EC.

RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. Women who have had unprotected intercourse and wish to prevent pregnancy should be offered hormonal EC up to 5 days after intercourse. (II-2A) 2. A copper IUD can be used up to 7 days after intercourse in women who have no contraindications. (III-B) 3. Women should be advised that the levonorgestrel EC regimen is more effective and causes fewer side effects than the Yuzpe regimen. (I-A) 4. Either 1 double dose of the levonorgestrel EC regimen (1.5 mg) or the regular 2-dose levonorgestrel regimen (0.75 mg each dose) may be used, as they have similar efficacy with no difference in side effects. (I-A) 5. Hormonal EC should be started as soon as possible after unprotected sexual intercourse. (II-2B)6. Women of reproductive age should be provided with a prescription for hormonal EC in advance of need. (I-A) 7. The woman should be evaluated for pregnancy if menses have not begun within 21 days following EC treatment. (III-A) 8. A pelvic examination is not indicated for the provision of hormonal EC. (III-A) Validation: These guidelines have been reviewed by the Clinical Practice Gynaecology and Social and Sexual Issues Committees of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

SPONSOR: The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.

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