To evaluate whether advance provision of emergency contraception increases its use and/or adversely affects usual contraceptive practices.
We performed a randomized controlled trial comparing advance provision of emergency contraception with usual care in 370 postpartum women from an inner-city public hospital. Participants were followed for 1 year; 85% were available for at least one follow-up session. All participants received routine contraceptive education. The intervention group received a supply of emergency contraception (eight oral contraceptive pills containing 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel and 30 μg of ethinyl estradiol) and a 5-minute educational session. We compared use of emergency contraception and changes in contraceptive behaviors between groups.
Women provided with pills were four times as likely to have used emergency contraception as women in the control group over the course of the year (17% versus 4%; relative risk [RR] 4.0; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.8, 9.0). Women were no more likely to have changed to a less effective method of birth control (30% versus 33%; RR 0.92; 95% CI 0.63, 1.3), or to be using contraception less consistently (18% versus 25%; RR 0.74; 95% CI 0.45, 1.2). About half of each group reported at least one episode of unprotected intercourse during follow-up, but women who received emergency contraception were six times as likely to have used it (25% versus 4%; RR 5.8; 95% CI 2.1, 16.4).
Advance provision of emergency contraception significantly increased use without adversely affecting use of routine contraception. It is safe and appropriate to provide emergency contraception to all postpartum women before discharge from the hospital.