Semin Reprod Med 2010; 28(2): 095-102
DOI: 10.1055/s-0030-1248133
© Thieme Medical Publishers

Emergency Contraception: Update and Review

Aileen Langston1
  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
29 March 2010 (online)


Emergency contraception (EC) is the postcoital method of pregnancy prevention. Three methods of EC are used in the United States: (1) levonorgestrel-only pills, Plan B (Barr Pharmaceuticals, LLC, New Jersey) (2) combined estrogen and progestin pills, and (3) the copper intrauterine device. Used within 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse, EC reduces the risk of pregnancy by 60 to 94%. EC is a critical component of medical care for sexual assault survivors, and several states have laws mandating this standard of care. Levonorgestrel-only EC is available to women ≥17 years of age without a prescription. Women who were counseled by their clinician about EC were 11 times more likely to use EC in the following 12 months. Advance provision of EC to women has not been found to decrease rates of unintended pregnancy compared with routine pharmacy access; however, women routinely prefer advance provision. The newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration single-dose EC, Plan B One-Step (Barr Pharmaceuticals, LLC), may affect unintended pregnancy rates among EC users by simplifying use.


Aileen Langston, M.D. 

Clinical Instructor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University Medical Center

622 West 168th Street, PH 1669, New York, NY 10032