Are we making progress with emergency contraception? Recent findings on American adults and health professionals

J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 1998;53(5 Suppl 2):242-6.


Objectives: To determine how awareness of and practices and attitudes toward emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) have progressed among the American public and US health professionals.

Methods: In 1997, we conducted two nationally representative telephone surveys of Americans and health professionals of their knowledge, attitudes, and practices on ECPs and compared the findings to previous surveys.

Results: 66% of women and 51% of men 18 to 44 years old had heard of ECPs, up from 61% of women and 45% of men the same age in 1994. Only 1% of women surveyed reported having ever used this method, reflecting no change from 1994. Only 11% of women knew enough about ECPs to be able to use them. Americans named media as the primary source of information about ECPs. The proportion of physicians who had prescribed ECPs at least once in the preceding year increased significantly in 1997: 85% of obstetrician/gynecologists and 50% of family physicians compared to 69% and 34% in 1995. Almost all health professionals considered ECPs to be safe (99%) and effective (100%), yet relatively few discussed this option with their patients, and even fewer commonly prescribed it.

Conclusion: Ongoing efforts are needed to improve awareness among the general public and to encourage health professionals to discuss and offer ECPs more widely.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital*
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel / education*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Contraceptives, Postcoital