Emergency Contraception from Historical Myth to Modern Reality: A Historical Timeline and Updated Interpretation
Author(s): Norman D Goldstuck
Introduction: Emergency contraception is the use of a birth control method after coitus has taken place and there is a fear that it may lead to a pregnancy. Historical attempts were more likely to be harmful rather than effective. Oral estrogens, progestins, anti- progesterone, and partial agonist/antagonists of progesterone have all been used with varying degrees of efficacy. Currently ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel combinations, levonorgestrel alone, ulipristal acetate, and mifepristone are the usual oral methods depending on availability. Copper carrying and more recently levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine devices have also been used successfully. The intrauterine devices appear to be more effective than the oral methods and are also regular contraceptive methods and in addition have therapeutic properties.
Background: The evolution from longer duration oral treatments with side effects to the current single tablet of levonorgestrel, ulipristal acetate, or mifepristone with low side effects and reasonable efficacy is described. The role of the highly effective copper intrauterine device and now also the levonorgestrel intrauterine device for emergency contraception is examined.
Conclusion: Oral emergency contraception is a short term solution. Expanding emergency contraception to include the levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine device may provide long term contraception and health benefits as well as providing emergency contraception.