Practice Bulletin Summary No. 152: Emergency Contraception

Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Sep;126(3):685-686. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000471179.25809.d8.


Emergency contraception, also known as postcoital contraception, is therapy used to prevent pregnancy after an unprotected or inadequately protected act of sexual intercourse. Common indications for emergency contraception include contraceptive failure (eg, condom breakage or missed doses of oral contraceptives) and failure to use any form of contraception (1-3). Although oral emergency contraception was first described in the medical literature in the 1960s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first dedicated product for emergency contraception in 1998. Since then, several new products have been introduced. Methods of emergency contraception include oral administration of combined estrogen-progestin, progestin only, or selective progesterone receptor modulators and insertion of a copper intrauterine device (IUD). Many women are unaware of the existence of emergency contraception, misunderstand its use and safety, or do not use it when a need arises (4-6). The purpose of this Practice Bulletin is to review the evidence for the efficacy and safety of available methods of emergency contraception and to increase awareness of these methods among obstetrician-gynecologists and other gynecologic providers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advisory Committees / standards
  • Contraception, Postcoital / methods*
  • Contraception, Postcoital / standards
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital / administration & dosage*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate / trends*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Contraceptives, Postcoital