This statement has been prepared by the International Medical Advisory Panel (IMAP) and was approved in November 2017.
Emergency contraception (EC) refers to any contraceptive method that can be used after having unprotected or inadequately protected sexual intercourse (UPSI) but before pregnancy occurs, providing women with the opportunity to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. EC is a safe and effective method for preventing unwanted pregnancy and can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 99%.
In spite of its effectiveness, EC is not frequently used after UPSI. In many countries, women face barriers to accessing EC. The majority of women in low‑income countries are unaware of EC. Moreover, some providers have negative attitudes toward providing EC to women and girls.
One of the common reasons for denying women access to EC is that it is equated to medical abortion. Consequently, it is important to emphasise that EC prevents pregnancy – it does not end a pregnancy. Education of the public, providers and policy makers must therefore stress that EC cannot cause an abortion, that it is safe to use for women of all ages and that there are few side effects.