Statement on postcoital contraception

IPPF Med Bull. 1981 Dec;15(6):5-6.


PIP: For the woman exposed to a single unexpected and unprotected act of sexual intercourse, postcoital contraception can be used to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Since the mid-1960s postcoital contraception using orally administered hormones has been found to be highly effective. This should be, however, considered as a 1-time procedure rather than a routine approach to contraception. The recommended oral methods are combined oral contraceptives (OCs) containing ethinyl estradiol 50 mcg and levonorgestrel 0.25 mg. Other similar formulations may also have high efficacy. The dosage schedule is 2 tablets at once followed by 2 tablets after 12 hours. This method is indicated in women exposed to unexpected and unprotected sexual intercourse, such as in cases of rape. It is effective only if it is instituted within 72 hours of the exposure. Data suggest this regime is as effective as that using diethylstilbestrol but with fewer side effects. As with all hormonal contraceptives, the method is contraindicated where a pregnancy is already established. Possible side effects include nausea and vomiting, irregular uterine bleeding, breast tenderness, and headache. The woman should be advised to return after 1 month to reinforce the need for elective contraception or, in the case of failure, to diagnose pregnancy and initiate counseling. In the event of a pregnancy, the woman should be reassured that no evidence exists to associate this regime of OC steroid administration with teratogenesis. Recent evidence indicates that effective postcoital contraceptive can be achieved by the insertion of a copper-containing IUD within 5 days of unprotected, mid-cycle sexual intercourse.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Contraception
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined*
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital*
  • Copper
  • Family Planning Services


  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital
  • Copper