In 2016 alone, we distributed 3,695,493 emergency contraception pills, averting 25,982 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and providing 184,775 couple years of protection (CYPs). Currently, we provide emergency contraception (EC) in 13 countries.
Emergency contraception is an important component of a comprehensive family planning program. It can help 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. It also helps to empower women, as it expands the method mix available to them and increases choice.
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. Furthermore, there are many misconceptions about EC. Studies of emergency contraception use among young women show that increasing access does not lead to or increase:
- Inappropriate use of EC as a routine form of contraception for adolescents;
- Number of sexual partners;
- Frequency of unprotected intercourse; or
- Frequency of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Young women who have increased access to emergency contraception are also no more likely to use it repeatedly than women who obtain it from a clinic or healthcare provider; but they are more likely to use it sooner, thereby increasing the efficacy of the treatment.
PSI socially markets emergency contraception to empower women and girls to prevent an unintended pregnancy. 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 five 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
Population Services Khmer (PSK) launched the emergency contraception product Next 72 in August 2013 to complement its comprehensive range of socially marketed family planning products. Network providers also offer the copper IUD as emergency contraception. In 2015, PSK sold more than 46,000 emergency contraception pill doses and inserted 50 IUDs as emergency contraception provided by 30 Sun Quality Health Network (SQHN) providers.
PSK’s intensive provider behavior change communication program targets private sector clinical providers participating in the SQHN social franchise as well as more than 326 private providers and pharmacy outlets. It trains providers and community outreach workers on emergency contraception’s mechanism of action, how to use the product, and how to promote regular family planning use.
In addition, PSK supports a women’s health hotline which provides information on the full range of family planning products, including emergency contraceptives, to over 1,000 people who call every month requesting information on family planning and reproductive health services and products.
PSI is also a member of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception.