OBJECTIVES: Emergency contraception (EC) has been freely accessible in Swiss pharmacies since November 2002. Today some groups are still concerned that free access might result in less use of efficient contraceptive methods, overuse and more risky sexual behaviour.
METHODS: Profiles of EC users one and six years after deregulation were analysed with regard to age, contraceptive methods used, reasons for EC use, and last contact with a gynaecologist. Data were collected from a centrally located pharmacy. Written official assessment forms concerning 1500 women (750 in 2004 and 750 in 2009) were analysed.
RESULTS: Free access to EC use had no impact on regular contraceptive behaviour. The percentage of pill and condom users was very high (85%). The percentage of EC-users without any contraception (17-18%) was the same over the years. In 2009, condom rupture was reported more frequently (p < 0.001). In addition significantly more women had used EC previously in their history.
CONCLUSION: Free access to EC has not resulted in less use of efficient contraceptive methods. In the context of falling abortion rates our results are reassuring. This also applies to adolescents, who mainly used EC as a back-up method and seldom in the context of unprotected intercourse.