EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION: Study Finds Home Use Safe
A study on the home use of the morning after pill in this week's New England Journal of Medicine found that women who had easy access to the method were more likely to use it once but not repeatedly. Noting that "widespread use of emergency postcoital contraception could prevent 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and 0.8 million abortions each year in the U.S.," the researchers concluded that home use of postcoital emergency contraception "does no harm and may reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies." Study participants consisted of 1,083 women in Scotland who had either previously used emergency contraception or had an abortion. Researchers provided 553 women -- the treatment group -- with emergency contraception for home use, while 530 women -- the control group -- were required to obtain the pills through a doctor visit. Forty-seven percent of women in the treatment group used the morning after pill "at least once," versus 27% in the control group. Twelve percent of the women in the treatment group were "not more likely to use it more than once," versus 13% in the control group. Of the women in the treatment group who used the method, 98% used it correctly and had no serious side effects.
There's Got To Be A Morning After
The findings are significant because they indicate that women can properly administer the morning after pill themselves and would not depend upon it as their primary method of birth control. The study also found that women who had easy access to the method did not abandon other more reliable forms of contraception (Glasier/Baird, 7/2). In an accompanying editorial, Boston University's Dr. Phillip Stubblefield notes that while not statistically significant given the sample size, women in the treatment group had 30% fewer pregnancies. He also notes that "[f]rom a medical point of view, the use of emergency contraception should not be considered abortion" since it works prior to implantation. Stubblefield concludes that making emergency contraception available without a prescription could reduce unwanted pregnancies, "prevent[ing] both induced abortions and unwanted births and provid[ing] important benefits to women, their children and society." He says as an "interim method" health care professionals should "prescribe a supply of such contraception that can be kept at home" (New England Journal of Medicine, 7/2). Click here to view an abstract of the NEJM study.
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