WHO: Contraception delivery during an epidemic

February 2021. The World Health Organization just added two chapters to its Family Planning Handbook. One of them addresses contraception delivery during an epidemic.

These are some of the recommendations:

  • Providers should ensure that individuals make voluntary and informed choices, and that privacy and confidentiality are respected.
  • Multiple doses of emergency contraceptive pills can be provided.
  • Many contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, can be safely and effectively self-administered without a physical exam. Indiviudals can initiate and continue these methods with or without the support of a health care worker.
  • During an epidemic, emergency contraceptive pills (and other methods) should be dispensed without a prescription and distributed in community outreach programs, where allowed by national regulations.

Overarching messages of this chapter are:

  • Family planning services should be maintained throughout an epidemic.
  • Medical eligibility criteria for safe use of contraceptive methods do not change during an epidemic.
  • Some contraceptive methods can be safely and effectively self-administered, with or without support from health care providers.
  • Greater use of digital health technologies may optimize access to care.

Access the full chapter here or from WHO’s Family Planning Handbook website. 


Access to emergency contraception through community pharmacies in Europe: Findings from a participatory survey

January 2021. The European Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ECEC) and the European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YouAct), launched in 2019 a participatory survey in order to better understand how access to and availability of emergency contraception (EC) pills is through community pharmacies in our region.

We are pleased to introduce the survey report, which focuses on five countries: Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malta, Spain and Sweden. You can download the report here.

Our findings suggest that community pharmacies play a very important role in ensuring access to EC pills, with the big majority of pharmacies carrying them (even in countries where they are entitled not to). However, our findings also point at individuals not being systematically offered a choice of postcoital contraception methods in every pharmacy of our sample.

We conclude that access to the highest standard of care in post-coital contraception remains uneven within and among countries in Europe: individuals are likely to have different experiences and outcomes when procuring EC, depending on what European country she/he is in, and also on what pharmacy she/he walks in.

ECEC and YouAct recommend some measures to reduce inequities in access to the highest standard of post-coital contraception care. These include:

  • Reclassifying ECPs so they can be sold in pharmacies and other outlets, without the supervision of a pharmacist.
  • Developing minimum regional and national standards for EC dispensing.
  • Disseminating these standards and making them publicly available, so individuals know what to expect when procuring EC.
  • Conducting non-commercial information campaigns to ensure the ability of all people to access accurate information about all post-coital contraception choices available to them.

Different responsibilities fall on different players. We look forward to starting a conversation to move forward toward a stronger rights-based approach to EC dispensing.

We thank all the organizations, individuals and pharmacy staff that participated in this effort.

Contact us at ecec[at]eeirh[dot]org and join our e-mail list.



New brands of UPA emergency contraception pills in Europe

January 2021. New brands of ulipristal acetate emergency contraception pills are becoming available in some European countries; as of January 2021 these can be found in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. Visit the Country by country section of our website for more details on specific brands available in each country.


EC for transgender and nonbinary patients

January 2021. The American Society for Emergency Contraception just published EC for Transgender and Nonbinary Patients. This fact sheet is a great resource for all healthcare providers offering care to patients of reproductive age.

Pregnancy is possible for any individual with a uterus and ovary(ies) who has receptive penis-in-vagina sex with partners who produce sperm, regardless of gender identity. Patients who are amenorrheic due to testosterone use may (…)  be at risk for pregnancy. This fact sheet addresses medical and social-emotional aspects of EC for transgender and nonbinary patients.

Download the factsheet from ASEC’s website or from here. We thank the colleagues at ASEC for sharing this valuable work with us.

Some policy makers still don’t understand emergency contraception mechanism of action

December 2020.  In Malta, a discussion is being held in Parliament these days, about the need for all pharmacies in the country to carry emergency contraception (EC) pills, in order to ensure timely access to this contraceptive method.

Surprisingly, some members of parliament still consider that EC pills can threaten Maltese law, under which human life is protected from conception.

We thought it would not be necessary to say it one more time (we are almost in 2021), but we will do this again: EC pills work mainly by preventing or delaying ovulation; if ovulation cannot be stopped and fertilisation occurs, EC pills will not interfere with implantation.

If you are going to design a reproductive health public policy, and think you should learn more about EC before, we kindly advice you to read:


EU Parliament urges Polish authorities to repeal law restricting access to emergency contraception

December 2020. On November 26, the Members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the setback to women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Poland, and drawing attention to the legal obligation of the European Union to uphold and protect these rights. The resolution also urges Polish authorities to repeal the law limiting access to the emergency contraceptive pill.

In 2015, UPA EC pills became directly available from pharmacies in Poland (and in all European Union countries except for Hungary) as a result of European Medicines Agency’ recommendations. However, in July 2017, a new law entered into effect in Poland, reinstating mandatory prescription for UPA EC. Local experts report that doctors often deny prescriptions for EC pills on the grounds of personal beliefs.

Poland and Hungary are the sole European Union countries that still require a prescription for EC pills. Both countries disregard EC pills safety profile, and the fact that time to treatment is essential to maximize efficacy.

Read “European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2020 on the de facto ban on the right to abortion in Poland (2020/2876(RSP))” here.



Spain: increase in EC use

November 2020. The Spanish Society for Contraception (SEC) just published the findings of its annual National Contraception Survey 2020, based on phone interviews conducted among 1800 women of reproductive age, between July and August 2020.

With regards to emergency contraception (EC) use, 38% of the women surveyed reported having ever used EC at some point of their lives. The percentage exceeds 40% among women between ages of 20 to 39. In previous surveys conducted by SEC in 2018 and 2011, 30% and 14% of the respondents, respectively, reported having ever used EC.

This shows a clear trend of increased use since prescription requirements were removed in 2009. This trend has also been observed in other European countries such as Italy (see Ministry of Health report of 2018). To our knowledge, only Norway has registered a decrease in EC use in the past few years. According to local experts, this is likely due to efforts to make ongoing contraception more accessible, and to a strong uptake of long acting reversible contraception methods (LARCs) among younger women.