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Contraceptive Pearl: Prescribing Emergency Contraception (EC) In Advance

Whether emergency contraception (EC) can fulfill its potential for decreasing unintended pregnancies depends on a women’s ability to obtain it.  Of women familiar with EC, fewer than 25% know how to obtain it. Even those who know how to get EC may find it difficult to secure a prescription and get it filled quickly.

Many organizations support the advance prescribing of emergency contraception to women during their routine gynecologic and primary care visits.  In a 2002 study, women provided with EC pills were four times as likely to have used emergency contraception as women in the control group over the course of a year.  Advance provision of emergency contraception significantly increased the use without adversely affecting use of routine contraception (even for teens!).  Advance prescribing (or better yet, advance dispensing) is particularly important for teens under age 17, who can’t get EC without a prescription.

Advance prescription may be particularly appropriate for women who select methods that depends on correct use at the time of sexual intercourse (for instance, condoms or the diaphragm).  Advance prescription is even more important for rural women, many of whom travel long distances to their pharmacies.  Even better, can you dispense EC in your office?  Giving it to women in advance improves the convenience of the method and helps ensure that women/teens have access to treatment as soon as they need it.

We appreciate your feedback! Please write us at with any questions, comments or additional resources to add to our list.


Helpful Resources

Emergency Contraception: Which EC is Right for Me?

Emergency Contraception Pill User Guide

The Emergency Contraception Website



Jackson RA, Schwartz EB, Freedman L, Darney PM. Advance Supply of Emergency Contraception: Effect on Use and Usual Contraception- A Randomized Trial. Obstetrics and Gynecology. Jul 2003; 102 (1): 8-16.

James T, Charlotte E, Felicia S, Elizabeth GR, Tara S. The role of emergency contraception. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2004; 190, S30-.8.

Current issues in emergency contraception: an overview for providers. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2006 Nov-Dec; 51 (6):457-63



The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or contraception. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.