Volume 44, Issue 3
Pages 184 - 193

What Do We Know About Males and Emergency Contraception? A Synthesis of the Literature


Unintended pregnancy rates are high in the United States. It is important to know whether improving males’ access to emergency contraceptive pills may help prevent unintended pregnancy, especially in cases of -condom failure.


A search of the PubMed, PsycINFO and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature databases was conducted to identify studies published from January 1980 to April 2011 concerning males and emergency contraception. Forty-three studies met the specified criteria and examined relevant knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, intentions or behaviors, from the perspectives of males, clinicians or pharmacists.


The proportion of males who were familiar with emergency contraception ranged from 38% among teenagers to 65–100% among adults. Small proportions reported that they and their partner had used or discussed using emergency contraceptive pills (13–30%) or that they themselves had ever purchased them (11%). Most providers (77–85%) reported general knowledge about emergency contraceptives, but the proportions who knew the time frame within which the pills can be prescribed were smaller (28–63%). Most males approved of emergency contraceptive use following contraceptive failure (74–82%) or unprotected sex (59–65%), or in cases of rape (85–91%), but both pharmacists and college students reported concerns that females might feel pressured to use the method. No study examined clinicians’ attitudes and behaviors (e.g., counseling or advance provision) regarding males and emergency contraception.


Studies are needed to determine whether male involvement in emergency contraception can reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and to assess health professionals’ ability to counsel males about the method.

Authors' Affiliations

Arik V. Marcell is assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore. Ashten B. Waks is a graduate student, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health; and Lainie Rutkow is assistant professor, Department of Health Policy and Management—both at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Rob McKenna is director of training programs, Male Training Center of Family Planning and Reproductive Health, Family Planning Council, Philadelphia. Anne Rompalo is professor, Departments of Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology; and M. Terry Hogan is program administrator—both at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

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