An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception

By Elizabeth Westley

Elizabeth Westley is the director of the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, where this article first appeared. 

To meet the global Family Planning 2020 goals, a full range of family planning methods must be available, including user-controlled, short-acting methods. The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method.  Half of unmarried women with an unmet need for family planning report infrequent sex as the reason that they do not use a family planning method. A quarter of married women not using contraception fall into the same category.  Not feeling themselves at high levels of risk, these women may wish to avoid the appointments and waiting times, dependence on providers, side effects, discomforts, and other commitments that long-acting contraceptive methods sometimes entail. Other women may not be using modern contraception because they are unaware of their options or are faced with inaccessibility due to distance barriers, poor health infrastructures, stock outs, or high prices. As well, many women are located in humanitarian and fragile settings where contraceptive access can be challenging.  For many women and girls not currently using a long-acting contraceptive method, a simple, discreet, user-controlled, low-commitment, one-time “on demand” form of contraception that can be accessed easily and quickly is a critically important option. This method already exists: emergency contraception. Continue reading “An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception”

Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about

By Elizabeth Westley and Monica Kerrigan

Elizabeth Westley leads the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception. Monica Kerrigan is a global leader in family planning and previously served at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and as a senior adviser to Family Planning 2020.

This article originally appeared on Devex.

Unintended pregnancies take a harrowing toll on women, young people, families and nations. When women are unable to decide whether and when to have children, maternal and newborn deaths rise, educational and economic opportunities are lost, families, communities and countries suffer greatly.

Global data highlights the tremendous challenge we face: 213 million pregnancies occur annually and an astonishing 40 percent — about 85 million — of these are unintended. In the United States alone, there are approximately 3 million unintended pregnancies each year, and in India, a staggering 18 million. A woman’s ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health is one of the most basic human rights. It is a decision that can determine what kind of future she will have — and whether she will have one at all.

Emergency contraception is a unique tool for women to space and time their pregnancies. It is grossly underutilized, underfunded, and not fully optimized globally. It is the only contraceptive method that can be taken after unprotected sex and is effective for several days to prevent pregnancy. It is especially needed by women who have been sexually assaulted, who are often desperate to avoid becoming pregnant by their rapist. Continue reading “Emergency contraception: The reproductive health innovation everyone should know about”