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Findings advance access to emergency contraception and long-lasting birth control

New York, NY — A new study shows that patients may have a new option when it comes to emergency contraception. Today, the New England Journal of Medicine published results from a randomized controlled trial investigating the effectiveness of two intrauterine devices (IUDs) when used as emergency contraception. Conducted by researchers at the University of Utah Health in close partnership with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, the three-year study found that Liletta — a levonorgestrel 52 mg IUD — is no less effective as an emergency contraception method as Paragard, the copper IUD. The findings represent a clear advance in clinical practice and patient access to care —  providing another highly effective option for patients who seek emergency contraception and ongoing birth control.

Up till now, there had been little data on the effectiveness of hormonal IUDs as a standalone emergency contraception method. Best practices had recommended that patients who had  unprotected sex before placement of the Liletta or Mirena IUD also take oral emergency contraception, such as Plan B or ella. This study not only provides critical insight into the effectiveness of Liletta as an emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex, but it also demonstrates that only one method of emergency contraception is required to prevent unintended pregnancy.

“This study broadens emergency contraception options for people and should expand access to emergency contraception,” said Dr. David Turok, primary investigator on the study, who serves as Planned Parenthood Association of Utah director of Surgical Services as well as chief of the Division of Family Planning at the University of Utah. “We hope that providers can begin to deliver this method to everyone who wants and needs it, and that people considering both emergency contraception and an ongoing method of birth control know that they now have the option of a hormonal IUD in addition to the nonhormonal, copper IUD.”

The study, supported by the National Institutes of Health and carried out at six Planned Parenthood health centers in Utah, found:

  • The Liletta IUD is no less effective than Paragard as an emergency contraceptive following unprotected intercourse in the previous five days.
  • The Liletta IUD is effective on its own — with no need to supplement with an oral emergency contraception — as an emergency contraceptive.
  • The Liletta IUD can be used as a quick-start method of birth control, meaning that it can become effective at any day of the menstrual cycle, as long as there is a negative pregnancy test prior to having it placed.

While all participants of the study — conducted between 2016 and 2019 — received Liletta, its findings would also apply to Mirena, a levonorgestrel 52 mg IUD as well.

Over the last decade, the collaboration between Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and the University of Utah Family Planning Division has resulted in over 25 peer-reviewed research papers that have improved patient care locally, nationally, and globally. This study is just one of the ways that the partnership expands options for care and increases access to family planning services.

“This study is a clear example of how Planned Parenthood’s research, in close collaboration with institutions and other community partners, can directly improve clinical practice and expand the available options for patients seeking high-quality sexual and reproductive health care,” said Dr. Hannah Simons, senior director of Research and Evaluation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Research is a core pillar of Planned Parenthood’s work to improve clinical practices and innovate delivery of sexual and reproductive health care for patients. In tandem with universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies, and community partners, Planned Parenthood has coordinated numerous clinical trials on birth control, sexually transmitted infections, and other areas of reproductive health care, directly influencing accepted best practices today.

Emergency contraception is fairly common. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 1 in 9 women have used emergency contraception in their lifetime, primarily as a result of unprotected sex or  concerns about their regular method of birth control. Liletta and Mirena IUDs are an appealing option for patients who want safe, longer-term pregnancy prevention. Both are highly effective options for emergency contraception as well as ongoing birth control beyond their one-time use; and Liletta and Mirena are over 99% effective with known benefits such as lighter, less painful periods. Liletta and Mirena can work for up to seven years and a person’s ability to get pregnant returns quickly once they are removed. 

Planned Parenthood knows that access to sexual and reproductive health care  — including emergency contraception and other forms of birth control — can’t wait, even in a pandemic. Planned Parenthood health centers across the country are proud to offer affordable services, both in-person and via telehealth, to ensure that people can get the critical, time-sensitive health care they need, when they need it. During this health crisis, telehealth birth control counseling is available to patients seeking IUDs and post-IUD placement check-ups — shortening in-person visits and providing care as quickly and safely as possible.

Today’s article is now available online and will appear in the July 2021 print edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.  


Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives