By Jennifer Tolep
The reasons a woman might need emergency contraception might be obvious. A condom breaks or a couple gets caught in the heat of the moment. Perhaps a victim of rape or incest fears a horrifying victimization could result in an unwanted pregnancy.
It makes sense that emergency contraception is often the frontline defender to ensuring women have reproductive options. But would you know which one to choose?
PSI Sexual and Reproductive Health Technical Advisor Christine Bixiones recently led a debate on exactly which emergency options are worth investing in. She explained that although all emergency contraception methods provide protection, the copper intrauterine device (IUD), according to the World Health Organization, has proven to be over 99 percent effective, offering the most reliability. Not only is it the most effective form in the short term, it can also be left in place for up to 12 years providing on-going highly effective protection from unwanted pregnancy.
Because the copper IUD isn’t yet a well-known option for emergency contraception, PSI, in collaboration with USAID and FHI360, created a checklist that helps providers determine whether or not it is the best option for a woman. The tool helps rule out any chance a woman might already be pregnant and other scenarios where the copper IUD wouldn’t be safe for the individual.
“It is the first global tool of its kind,” said Bixiones of the checklist, which has been translated to Spanish and French.
PSI is promoting the checklist within various programs to educate providers on how to offer the IUD as emergency contraception. Lack of funding or general knowledge, as well as some religious concerns that the IUD could be confused with abortion, has kept some social marketing programs from amplifying messages about using the IUD in this context.
Currently, PSI distributes emergency contraception pills in nine programs and aims to expand in the future. With this checklist, PSI family planning programs that currently provide the IUD among other choices can easily add-on the IUD as EC. “Choice is an essential component to any comprehensive family planning program,” said Bixiones, explaining that providing more contraception options increases the likelihood of women using protection at all.