DAVID K. TUROK, MD, MPH, FACOG Clinical Senior Lecturer Honorary Consultant in Cardiology Institute of Health Informatics Faculty of Pop Health Sciences University College London

Emergency Contraception: Hormonal vs Copper IUDs Compared

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

DAVID K. TUROK, MD, MPH, FACOG Clinical Senior Lecturer Honorary Consultant in Cardiology Institute of Health Informatics Faculty of Pop Health Sciences University College London

Dr. Turok


MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Researchers and clinicians have long known that copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) work extremely well for emergency contraception, using contraception after sex to prevent pregnancy. However, the hormonal IUD (levonorgestrel 52 mg IUD) has distinct characteristics that many people prefer. Namely, it reliably reduces or eliminates menstrual bleeding and cramping. Until now we did not know if the levonorgestrel IUD worked for emergency contraception. Now we know. In a first-of-its-kind study, our team at the University of Utah Health and Planned Parenthood Association of Utah found that hormonal IUDs were comparable to copper IUDs for use as emergency contraceptives.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: Main findings:

We recruited more than 700 people, ages 18 to 35, who were seeking emergency contraception at six Utah health clinics. All of the participants had unprotected intercourse at least once in the previous five days. In addition, they had regular menstrual cycles, knew the date of their last menstrual period, had a negative urine pregnancy test, wanted to prevent pregnancy for at least a year, and were interested in using an IUD. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either a levonorgestrel or copper IUD. One month later, none of the 321 participants who received a copper IUD were pregnant. Pregnancy occurred in only one of the 317 participants who received LNG IUDs 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: You have another option for emergency contraception! Hormonal IUDs work for emergency contraception (in addition to emergency contraception pills and the copper IUD). Hormonal IUDs are more effective as emergency contraception pills and not less effective than the copper IUD.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The next phase of research on this topic is investigating ways to communicate that the hormonal IUD is an effective emergency contraception option to people considering using emergency contraception and educating providers to improve care by providing this service 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: IUDs are not for everyone but if someone wants a highly effective method of emergency contraception and a method that they can keep on using then this is a great option.

Unlike emergency contraception pills, hormonal IUDs can continue to provide highly effective contraception for up to seven years.

This research supports providing IUDs to those who want one at any point in the menstrual cycle, regardless of recent unprotected intercourse, giving people a broader range of emergency contraception options.

The last new method of emergency contraception was approved for use by the Food & Drug Administration over 10 years ago. Hormonal IUDs may become an attractive choice for emergency contraception because they are already used widely and are already FDA-approved for use as birth contr


Levonorgestrel vs. Copper Intrauterine Devices for Emergency Contraception

David K. Turok, M.D., Alexandra Gero, M.P.H., Rebecca G. Simmons, Ph.D., Jennifer E. Kaiser, M.D., Gregory J. Stoddard, M.P.H., Corinne D. Sexsmith, M.S., Lori M. Gawron, M.D., and Jessica N. Sanders, Ph.D.January 28, 2021
N Engl J Med 2021; 384:335-344
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2022141 

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Last Updated on January 28, 2021 by Marie Benz MD FAAD