In 2013 alone, we distributed 3,252,968 emergency contraception pills, averting 60,053 DALYs and providing 162,648 CYPs. Currently, we provide emergency contraception in 10 countries.
Emergency contraception is an important component of a comprehensive family planning program. It can be used to reduce the chance of unintended pregnancy following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure or misuse (such as forgotten pills or torn condoms), or in cases of sexual assault.
Worldwide there is a lack of awareness among service providers and consumers of the pregnancy prevention options available to women once unprotected intercourse has occurred.
Our objective using social marketing for emergency contraception is to decrease the incidence of unintended pregnancies by making it available to women who have had unprotected intercourse. We meet this objective by designing social marketing solutions that:
- Create awareness of emergency contraception through advertising and educational efforts.
- Build service provider knowledge of emergency contraception and how to appropriately administer it to their clients through training, medical detailing and supportive supervision.
- Make the product readily available through sales and distribution efforts.
- Offer the product at an affordable price.
- Increase product acceptability through education and advocacy.
There are two forms of emergency contraception: emergency contraception pills and copper-bearing intrauterine devices (IUD).
Key facts about emergency contraception pills:
- To prevent unintended pregnancy, they should be taken as soon as possible up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
- They work by preventing the release of an egg (ovulation) or by stopping the egg and sperm from meeting. Using emergency contraception pills cannot terminate or interrupt an established pregnancy and will not stop a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, nor do they harm a developing embryo.
- Several kinds are simply higher dosage formulations of regular, hormonal birth control pills. The type of emergency contraception pills we promote using social marketing are progestin-only pills containing levonorgestrel, which have been shown to be more effective and have fewer side effects than combined pills, which contain both progestin and an estrogen.
- They are not as effective as other contraceptive methods, and they are not recommended for use as an ongoing contraceptive method.
Making a Difference
With support from the William and Flora Hewlett foundation, PSI network member PS Kenya implemented a three-year program to increase awareness and use of emergency contraception.
The program consisted of the awareness-raising campaign “Tulia” (“Relax”, in Kiswahili) to inform women about the availability and use of emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy within the context of a range of methods. Health service providers, with assistance from other health-based NGOs, received training as well as nationally-developed guidelines for emergency contraceptive administration.
Interventions with pharmacies aimed to increase pharmacist knowledge of emergency contraceptive provision, to provide resources for women who have questions about emergency contraception and to link users to broader family planning services. Read more about the project.
PSI is a member of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception.