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Adolescent Comprehension of Emergency Contraception in New York City

Cremer, Miriam MD, MPH1; Holland, Erica BA2; Adams, Brandi BA3; Klausner, Dalia4; Nichols, Sarah5; Scott Ram, Renata MD; Alonzo, Todd A. PhD6

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31819cdbe3
Original Research

OBJECTIVE: To estimate comprehension of the over-the-counter emergency contraception label among female adolescents aged 12 through 17 years, and to compare the results with a similar study that focused on adults.

METHODS: Surveys were administered to female adolescents in New York City in public venues such as malls, movie theaters, and parks. Participants were asked to read the emergency contraception (levonorgestrel) label before answering survey questions. Comparisons were made in SPSS version 13.0 using χ2 tests of independence and Fisher exact tests for sparse data.

RESULTS: One thousand eighty-five girls between the ages of 12 and 17 participated in the study. Overall, adolescents demonstrated high comprehension of the key points of emergency contraception: (1) that it is a method of preventing pregnancy 92% (confidence interval [CI] 91–94%); (2) that it has to be taken within the first 72 hours after unprotected intercourse 83% (CI 83–87%); (3) that if you are already pregnant emergency contraception will not be effective 87% (CI 85–89%); (4) that emergency contraception will not protect against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) 95% (CI 94–96%); and (5) that emergency contraception should not be used as a method of long-term birth control 85% (CI 83–87%).

CONCLUSION: After reading the emergency contraception (levonorgestrel) label, female adolescents aged 12 to 17 understood the information necessary to use emergency contraception safely and effectively as well as their adult counterparts.


Adolescents understand the main comprehension points of emergency contraception as well as their adult counterparts.

1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York; 2University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts; 3Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York; 4University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts; 5Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; 6Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Supported by The Compton Foundation.

Corresponding author: Miriam Cremer, 550 1st Avenue, NBV 9E2, New York, NY 10016; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2009 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.