How well do you understand EC?

Dr Philip Goldstone takes a look at awareness and understanding of emergency contraception among pharmacists

In November and December 2016, we surveyed pharmacists in an effort to investigate pharmacists’ awareness and understanding of ovulation and fertility and their awareness and experience when dispensing emergency contraception (EC)1.

The survey was completed by 65 pharmacists ranging from 20-70 years old in various regions of Australia.

Our survey supported the findings of previous research, which has shown that pharmacists’ knowledge of women’s fertility and ovulation and how the emergency contraception pill (ECP) works may benefit through further training and education1, 2.

In addition to the findings published in AJP online on 8 May 2017, the survey found that:

  • 100% (65/65) of respondents are aware of post-coital contraception i.e. contraception that can be used after sex or EC.
  • 100% (65/65) of pharmacists surveyed correctly responded that the ECP doesn’t work all the time i.e. the ECP is not 100% effective.
  • Only 46% (30/65) of pharmacists correctly identified the mechanism of action of the ECP as delay of ovulation.
  • Only 23% (15/65) of the pharmacists surveyed responded that some ECPs can be used up to 120 hours after UPSI.
  • Only 42% (27/65) of survey respondents knew that a copper intrauterine device (IUD) can also be used for EC.
  • 28% (18/65) believe other methods can be used for contraception after sex.
  • 86% (56/65) of the pharmacists surveyed responded that ECPs can be safely and effectively used by adolescents.
  • Most pharmacists correctly identified that ECP side effects are mild(78%, 51/65) or moderate (22%, 14/65).

This article is the second of a three part series.

For more information, please contact

Disclaimer: Marie Stopes Australia includes the Dr Marie network of clinics and the not-for-profit pharmaceutical company, MS Health. MS Health is the sponsor of the EllaOne® (ulipristal acetate) emergency contraceptive pill.


  1. Survey data on file at MS Health
  2. Hussainy, S. Y. et al. (2011). ’Provision of the emergency contraceptive pill without prescription: attitudes and practices of pharmacists in Australia’ Contraception, 83(2), 159-166. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2010.07.001

Dr Philip Goldstone is the Medical Director of Marie Stopes Australia (Dr Marie and MS Health).

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