J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2017 Jun 22. doi: 10.1002/2327-6924.12485

Emergency contraceptive pill users' risk perceptions for sexually transmitted infections and future unintended pregnancy

Hickey MT and Shedlin MG


Background and purpose: The availability of emergency contraception pills (ECP) over the counter (OTC) has the potential to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy; however, the increased risk for sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition, related to unprotected intercourse, has not been adequately addressed. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into risk perceptions for STIs and subsequent unintended pregnancy in women who have purchased ECP OTC.

Methods: Twenty-one women, aged 18-24, attending a private university in an urban setting, who purchased and used ECP OTC participated in 1-h, individual interviews.

Conclusions: Narrative, descriptive findings indicated that these women did not consider themselves at risk for STI or unintended pregnancy, despite having used ECP OTC. Pregnancy prevention was paramount for these women, which overshadowed concerns regarding STIs.

Implications for practice: Women at risk for unintended consequences of sexual activity are not fully cognizant of those potential outcomes and do not take measures to prevent their occurrence. The availability of ECP OTC offers protection against unintended pregnancy; however, opportunities for health promotion and prevention counseling may be lost.

Conclusions: The Teen Options to Prevent Pregnancy program represents one of the few evidence-based interventions to reduce rapid repeat teen pregnancy. This relatively brief intervention may be a viable alternative to more time-intensive programs that adolescent mothers may be unable or unwilling to receive.

Comment: This is a practical study about an issue that tends to be forgotten: STDs in women who ask for emergency contraception. All health care workers dealing with this request, must also use the opportunity to ask and advise on the risk for STDs. (HMV)