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IFPA welcomes increased access to emergency contraception

By March 16, 2011News

16 February 2011

– Quicker access reduces the risk of unplanned pregnancy

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) welcomes the announcement today that the Irish Medicines Board has granted over-the-counter status to emergency contraceptive pills. This means that emergency contraceptive pills are now available directly from all pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription.

IFPA Dr Medical Director Caitriona Henchion said: “Making the emergency contraception pill available over the counter in all pharmacies will speed up access to this important emergency intervention for women and girls. Emergency contraceptive pills offer women and girls an important second chance to prevent pregnancy when a regular method has failed, no method was used or sex was forced.

“The sooner emergency contraception is taken the more effective it is – the success rate reducing from 95% in the first 24 hours to 58% by the third day. Access to emergency contraception directly from a pharmacy reduces delay, therefore reducing the risk of unplanned pregnancy.

“Ireland is now one of 18 European Union countries in which emergency contraception is available over the counter. Research studies from around the world have consistently found that improved access to the emergency contraceptive pill does not result an increase in its use, an increase in unprotected sex or a decrease in regular contraceptive use.”

The IFPA will continue to offer high-quality emergency contraception services at its two clinics in Dublin city centre and Tallaght.

Four Myths & Facts about the Emergency Contraceptive Pill:

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken the “morning after” unprotected sex.

FACT: The emergency contraceptive pill can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex but is more effective the sooner they are taken. Efficacy is 95% if taken within the first 24 hours, 85% if taken between 25 and 48 hours and 58% if taken between 49 and 72 hours.

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken three times over a woman’s lifetime.

FACT: This is one of the most common myths about the emergency contraceptive pill and is simply not true. The emergency contraceptive pill is made out of the same hormone as regular contraception and is gone from the body within 72 hours. Frequent use of the emergency contraceptive pill is not recommended because it is not as effective as regular contraception but repeated use poses no health risks and has no effect on future fertility.

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill causes an abortion.

FACT: The emergency contraceptive pill cannot cause an abortion, it prevents pregnancy. The emergency contraceptive pill works by preventing or delaying ovulation and has no effect on a pregnancy if a woman is already pregnant when the emergency contraceptive pill is taken.

  • MYTH: Only teenage girls use the emergency contraceptive pill.

FACT: Women of all ages use the emergency contraceptive pill as a safe and effective way of preventing an unwanted pregnancy when a regular method fails (e.g. condom burst, missed pill or late start to a new cycle of pills), when no contraception was used or when sex is forced. A survey conducted by IFPA in 2009 found that 52% of women accessing emergency contraceptive pill services in IFPA clinics were over the age of 22.