COMMENTARY

Emergency Contraception After Rape

Judith A. Linden, MD; Jasmine C. Mathews, MD

Disclosures

April 29, 2014

In This Article

Introduction

The risk for pregnancy after rape is approximately 6%-7%.[1,2,3] There are an estimated 25,000 rape-related pregnancies per year in the United States; if every woman who was raped took emergency contraception (EC), which is estimated to decrease risk for pregnancy by approximately 90%, 22,000 of those pregnancies could potentially be prevented.[4]

Timely access to EC after assault is critical for this intervention to be effective. Over-the-counter access for women who do not present acutely is critical: According to the National Women's Study, only about 17% of women who were raped underwent a medical examination after sexual assault.[5]

EC is now commonly available over the counter, and is available to women of all ages without identification. The use of EC after assault is the standard of care, and knowledge of ongoing advances regarding EC efficacy, side-effect profiles, and patient-specific limitations will aid providers in their recommendations.

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