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Pericoital pill ‘moderately effective’

By Alisdair Stirling

Pericoital oral levonorgestrel – taking the pill before or after sex – is safe and ‘moderately effective’ as a contraceptive, new research suggests – but regular use is not recommended without further research.

A systematic review of 15 studies examined data where, in total, 2,628 women received pericoital levonorgestrel 0.75mg and 5,787 received other doses of the drug.

US researchers compared the efficacy of contraceptive methods by calculating the pregnancy rate in the population divided by 100 years of exposure and found the 0.75mg dose resulted in 5.1 pregnancies per 100 woman-years, while other doses varied from 0 to 9.0 pregnancies per 100 women-years. Some 4.9 pregnancies per 100-woman years were seen across all studies.

Other results suggested the main side effect was frequent menstrual irregularities, no serious adverse events were reported and most women said they liked the pericoital method.

Lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Raymond, associate medical director of Family Health International, North Carolina said. ‘The data suggested that pericoital oral levonorgestrel is safe and moderately effective.

‘However, the quality of the studies was suboptimal. A pressing need exists for rigorous research to evaluate pericoital use of levonorgestrel as a primary means of contraception.’

Obstetrics and Gynecology 2011; 117: 673-681

Pericoital pill ‘moderately effective’