Essential Knowledge

In Managua, Nicaragua, a representative from Ixchen discusses diverse aspects of the Reproductive Health/Emergency Contraception (RH/EC) Project with Jolene Beitz from PATH and Laura Murray from PRIME II/Intrah. © 2002 Alfredo L. Fort, Courtesy of PhotoshareWhen used within five days after unprotected sex, emergency contraceptive pills help prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation, and the copper intrauterine device (IUD)the most effective form of emergency contraceptionhelps prevent pregnancy by inhibiting fertilization. The Essential Knowledge section of the Emergency Contraception Toolkit provides advocates, policy makers, program managers, service providers, and others with key background and reference materials on emergency contraceptives, including fact sheets, guidelines, and information briefs.

Key Facts About Emergency Contraception

  • Emergency contraceptives (ECs) do not disrupt an existing pregnancy, and they do not work if a woman has already ovulated or is already pregnant.
  • ECs provide no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
  • ECs are safe for all women.
  • ECs can be provided safely and effectively without a pelvic exam, blood tests, cervical cancer screening, pregnancy test, or a breast exam.
  • Unlike the IUD, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) will not protect against pregnancy if further acts of unprotected intercourse take place.
  • Unlike the IUD, ECPs are not intended for use as a regular, routine contraceptive method.
  • Data suggest that ECPs are less effective or ineffective for heavier women or women with higher body mass index (BMI), but it is unclear at exactly what point effectiveness diminishes and by how much. Current guidance recommends that because ECPs are so safe, no woman should be denied them based on her weight.

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