Updates in Hormonal Emergency Contraception

Document Type


Publication Date



In recent years, there have been many updates in hormonal emergency contraception. Levonorgestrel emergency contraception has been available for several years to prevent pregnancy when used within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure, and it was recently approved for nonprescription status for patients aged 17 years or older. Current research suggests that the primary mechanism of action is delaying ovulation. Ulipristal is the newest emergency contraception, available by prescription only, approved for use up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. The primary mechanism of action is delaying ovulation. When compared with levonorgestrel emergency contraception, ulipristal was proven noninferior in preventing pregnancy. Evidence suggests that ulipristal does not lose efficacy from 72-120 hours; however, more studies are warranted to support this claim. Many misconceptions and controversies about hormonal emergency contraception still exist. Research does not support that increased access to emergency contraception increases sexual risk-taking behavior. Several studies suggest that health care providers, including pharmacists, could benefit from increased education about emergency contraception. It is important for pharmacists to remain up-to-date on the most recent hormonal emergency contraception products and information, as pharmacists remain a major point of access to emergency contraception.