Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy after sexual intercourse. The FDA has approved two “morning-after” pills for this purpose, and the copper intrauterine device (IUD) is an order of magnitude more effective than these oral options. For non-emergency contraception, many people prefer the hormone levonorgestrel-releasing IUD over the copper IUD because it reduces or eliminates menstrual bleeding and cramping.
University of Utah Health researcher David Turok, MD, and colleagues were the first to evaluate the levonorgestrel IUD for emergency use. Their NIH-funded research randomized 638 people seeking emergency contraception in six Utah clinics to either the levonorgestrel IUD or the copper IUD and found the hormonal IUD to be as effective as the copper IUD for emergency pregnancy prevention. As a result, levonorgestrel IUD has already been approved for use by all Planned Parenthood Federation of America clinics nationwide.
By demonstrating that people can begin a levonorgestrel IUD at any time in the menstrual cycle, regardless of recent unprotected intercourse, this study introduced the first new emergency contraception option in a decade, providing effective contraception with a favorable side-effect profile.
Levonorgestrel vs. copper intrauterine devices for emergency contraception. Turok DK, Gero A, Simmons RG, Kaiser JE, Stoddard, GJ, Sexsmith CD, Gawron LM, Sanders JN. N Engl J Med. 2021 Jan 28;384(4):335-344.