Emergency Contraception: A Multispecialty Survey of Clinician Knowledge and Practices

Contraception. 2016 Feb;93(2):145-52. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


Objectives: To assess knowledge and provision of emergency contraception (EC), particularly the most effective methods.

Study design: A web-based survey was distributed to a cross-sectional convenience sample of healthcare providers across specialties treating reproductive-aged women. The survey was sent to 3260 practicing physicians and advanced practice clinicians in 14 academic centers between February 2013 and April 2014. We analyzed responses by provider specialty using multivariable logistic regression.

Results: The final sample included 1684 providers (response rate=51.7%). Ninety-five percent of the respondents had heard of levonorgestrel (LNG) EC. Among reproductive health specialists, 81% provide LNG EC in their practice, although only half (52%) had heard of ulipristal acetate (UPA) and very few provide it (14%). The majority in family medicine (69%) and emergency medicine (74%) provide LNG, in contrast to 42% of internists and 55% of pediatricians. However, the more effective methods [UPA and copper intrauterine device (IUD)] were little known and rarely provided outside of reproductive health specialties; 18% of internists and 14% of emergency medicine providers had heard of UPA and 4% provide it. Only 22% of emergency providers and 32% of pediatricians had heard of the copper IUD used as EC. Among reproductive health specialists, only 36% provide copper IUD as EC in their practice. Specialty, provider type and proportion of women of reproductive age in the practice were related to knowledge and provision of some forms of EC.

Conclusions: Awareness and provision of the most effective EC methods, UPA and the copper IUD (which are provider dependent), are substantially lower than for LNG EC, especially among providers who do not focus on reproductive health.

Implications: In our sample of 1684 healthcare providers from diverse specialties who treat reproductive-aged women, knowledge and provision of the most effective forms of EC (UPA and the copper IUD) are far lower than for LNG EC. Women should be offered the full range of EC methods.

Keywords: Copper IUD; Emergency contraception; Levonorgestrel; Ulipristal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Awareness
  • Clinical Competence
  • Contraception, Postcoital*
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices, Copper
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Medicine*
  • Norpregnadienes
  • Pediatrics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Reproductive Health Services


  • Norpregnadienes
  • Levonorgestrel
  • ulipristal acetate