Contraception and COVID-19: recommendations from WHO

April 14, 2020. The World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes Contraception/Family planning and COVID-19, a Questions and Answers (Q&A) document that provides short and to the point responses regarding contraception accessibility and use in the current times.

Use of emergency contraception (EC), and other self-care methods, is proposed if access to regular methods is disrupted. The document reminds us that EC pills “can prevent up to 95% of pregnancies when taken within 5 days after intercourse, and they can be taken by anyone with or without a health condition”. It also suggests policy makers to “ensure access to emergency post-coital contraception, including consideration of over the counter provision.”

Access the full document here.

Guides for SRH services during COVID-19

April 7, 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting more and more countries all over the planet, national contraception societies are developing guides to help ensure access to high quality sexual and reproductive health services that are safe for both users and providers during these times, and that help alleviate the current burden on the health systems. We are pleased to share resources in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, which also include measures to ensure timely access to emergency contraception:


ESC and FIAPAC 2020 congresses postponed

March 22, 2020. The Executive Committee and Secretariat of the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) announced this past week that, in order to safeguard against COVID-19 and the spread of the coronavirus, the 16th Congress of the ESC (Dublin May 13th-15th 2020) has been postponed until further notice.  See for further information. 

Likewise, and for the same reasons, the International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates (FIAPAC) also had to cancel its upcoming 14th Conference, due to take place in Berlin in October 1-3, 2020.


New resources in Spanish 

March 2020. Two recent publications provide good up-dates on emergency contraception (and other methods) in Spanish: 

Valuable resources for practitioners, advocates and anyone interested in learning more about postcoital contraception.


Belgium: reducing financial barriers to EC pills and other contraceptives

February 2020. On February 21st, the Council of Ministers of the Belgium Federal Government, approved the Royal Decree that will make emergency contraception (EC) pills free of charge to all women, regardless of age. Until now, EC pills could be provided free of charge to women under 21. In addition, under this new policy, regular contraception pills will also be made available free of cost to women up to 25 years of age (until now, this cover women until age 20). These measures are expected to cost the Federal Government over 6 million euros annually, and to entry into force by April 1st.

In the past few years, Belgium has intensified efforts to make contraception information and methods more accessible: new reimbursement schemes (also for long-term contraception); special arrangements for young people; and government supported websites such as and This won Belgium the first position in the Contraception Atlas of 2019, along with France.

Switching EC to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy

January 2020. The paper Switching emergency contraceptives to non-prescription status and unwanted pregnancy among adult and teenage women: A long-term European comparative study was published in the South Eastern European Journal of Public Health and is available as open access.

This study’s assessed abortion/birth rates among adult and teenage women in Europe before and after the switch of EC to non-prescription status. Findings suggest, among others, that the switch contributed to reduce abortion and live birth rates among teenagers.

 Click here to read the paper. 


Council of Europe calls for promoting access to contraception

January 2020. A draft resolution calling for greater access to contraceptives, including emergency contraception, was adopted by the Equality Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last December.

The resolution highlights the key role contraception plays for women’s empowerment, and calls on member and observer states to ensure access to contraception by ensuring, among others, the following measures (see section 9.2):

  • provision in the public sector;
  • inclusion in public health insurance schemes,
  • subsidisation schemes for vulnerable groups, including youth
  • counselling services that enable choice
  • mandatory training for health care professionals
  • development of evidence-based guidelines, based on WHO standards

Read more on the Committee’s website and download the report here.

Spain: Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory report

Report 2019 - Observatory DSRDecember 2019. The first Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory report was launched on December 10th in Barcelona. The Observatory monitors the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights in Catalonia, in order to promote and protect them.

The section on emergency contraception (EC) reports, among others, the case of a 16-year-old women who was denied her right to buy EC pills in a community pharmacy, because of previous use in the past 3 months. She was informed that 6 months need to pass between one EC pill intake and the next. This information is incorrect: previous use of EC is not a contraindication for use.

The report summary (available in English here and in Spanish here) documents the urgent need to create and disseminate an up-to-date and evidence-based guidance on EC dispensation for pharmacy staff in Spain.



Slovakia: Failed attempt to reinstate prescription for EC pills

December 2019. A draft bill proposing a number of measures to make pregnancy termination services less accessible a was introduced in the Parliament at the end of November, by members of the Slovak National Party. During the discussion new amendments were introduced, among which, reinstating mandatory prescription to buy EC pills. The proposed bill was voted on December 5th 2019, but it did not pass: EC pills will remain directly available at the pharmacies in the Slovak Republic.

While emergency contraception is not related to abortion services accessibility, this is a pattern that has been observed in many other countries: when attempts to restrict access to abortion fail, efforts to restrict access to EC become, ironically, the plan B.

More details in Bulletin Num.10 of the ASTRA Network.

United Kingdom: RCOG calls to reclassify EC pills for sale without consultation

December, 2019. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist (RCOG) recommends to reclassify emergency contraception (EC) pills as General Sales List products (so they can be sold straight off the shelf without consultation), as a simple and cost-effective measure to improve women’s access to health care. 

This is one of several recommendations made by RCOG in Better for Women, a report launched on December 2nd and which points at simple measures that can improve the health and wellbeing of girls and women in the United KingdomWith regards to EC pills, RCOB recommends to provide easier access and supports FSRH calls for individuals, including under-18s, to have full access to free emergency contraception at time and place of need.

You can access the report directly from RCOG webpage