Emergency contraception (EC) can safely prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex and fills a unique niche in the family planning method mix. Twenty years of global partnerships have resulted in a dramatic increase in the availability of emergency contraceptive products, yet closer examination reveals that access remains limited, especially in developing countries.
In these pages, we describe current access to EC, identify access gaps and barriers, and investigate root causes of these gaps. We offer the following recommendations for advocates, policymakers, and other partners to improve women’s reproductive health by expanding access to EC.
- Disseminate accurate information about EC to dispel myths and misperceptions among policymakers, health care providers, and women and communities.
- Create supportive national policy environments for EC by allowing over-the-counter access, incorporating EC into family planning guidelines, and integrating EC into public sector health systems.
- Integrate EC into the family planning components of provider training, including pre-service training and ongoing professional development for pharmacists, doctors, nurses, mid- wives, and other providers.
- Increase EC awareness and demand among women and communities through behavior change communication activities and other community-based interventions.
- Provide EC in all instances of post-rape care by implementing and enforcing policies requiring EC counseling and provision to sexual assault survivors.
- Make EC routinely available in all crisis settings.
- Incorporate EC more fully into existing social marketing programs.
- Define and fill knowledge and research gaps on EC access.