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Emergency Contraception Effective Up to 120 Hours After Unprotected Sex, Study Says

KaiserNetwork.Org
Daily Reproductive Health Report
Contraception & Family Planning News Release
June 3, 2003

Emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse, is still effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, according to a study published in the current issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a study sponsored by the New York-based Population Council, Charlotte Ellertson, president of the not-for-profit group Ibis Reproductive Health in Cambridge, Mass., and fellow researchers compared the failure rates of EC between a group of 111 women who requested EC between 72 and 120 hours after unprotected sex and a group of 675 women who took EC within 72 hours after unprotected sex. Among women who took EC as directed between 72 and 120 hours after unprotected sex, 1.9% became pregnant, compared with 2% of the women who took EC as directed within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The authors conclude, "Even if effectiveness declines ... it still seems unreasonable that effectiveness would drop to zero precisely at 72 hours. Certainly, even if starting therapy after 72 hours confers less protection than more prompt initiation, some women could still benefit." However, the authors emphasized that EC should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. According to the study authors, the finding is particularly important for women who might not have access to a doctor within 72 hours of unprotected sex. EC is available only by prescription in most states (Reitman, Los Angeles Times, 6/2).

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