Original research article| Volume 98, ISSUE 2, P115-119, August 2018

The intrauterine device as emergency contraception: how much do young women know?



      Unprotected intercourse is common, especially among teens and young women. Access to intrauterine device (IUD) as emergency contraception (EC) can help interested patients more effectively prevent unintended pregnancy and can also offer ongoing contraception. This study evaluated young women's awareness of IUD as EC and interest in case of need.

      Study design

      We conducted a secondary analysis of data from young women aged 18–25 years, not desiring pregnancy within 12 months, and receiving contraceptive counseling within a cluster-randomized trial in 40 US Planned Parenthood health centers in 2011–2013 (n=1500). Heath centers were randomized to receive enhanced training on contraceptive counseling and IUD placement, or to provide standard care. The intervention did not focus specifically on IUD as EC. We assessed awareness of IUD as EC, desire to learn more about EC and most trusted source of information of EC among women in both intervention and control groups completing baseline and 3- or 6-month follow-up questionnaires (n=1138).


      At follow-up, very few young women overall (7.5%) visiting health centers had heard of IUD as EC. However, if they needed EC, most (68%) reported that they would want to learn about IUDs in addition to EC pills, especially those who would be very unhappy to become pregnant (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.0–1.6, p<.05). Most (91%) reported a doctor or nurse as their most trusted source of EC information, over Internet (6%) or friends (2%), highlighting providers' essential role.


      Most young women at risk of unintended pregnancy are not aware of IUD as EC and look to their providers for trusted information. Contraceptive education should explicitly address IUD as EC.


      Few young women know that the IUD can be used for EC or about its effectiveness. However, if they needed EC, most reported that they would want to learn about IUDs in addition to EC pills, especially those very unhappy to become pregnant. Contraceptive education should explicitly address IUD as EC.


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