YUZPE: Emergency Contraception for Costa Rica

Emergency contraception is something that has been part of women’s lives for a long time in a lot of countries, however in Costa Rica, this is not the reality. My country is very Catholic minded and the politics are mostly dictated by religion, specially when it comes to body politics.

The sexual education is almost non existing, specially in public schools. Teacher are not allowed to talk about sexuality and reproductive health with students and even if they wanted to there is no class or curriculum that allow them to talk about this with their students. The problem goes beyond the classrooms because most of the families are still very close minded which means that children and adolescents (even young adults) don’t have the confidence to talk to their parents about these subjects.

When it comes to contraception methods, the lack of education causes that a lot of young women that are sexually active doesn’t know how to properly prevent a pregnancy, which leads to the fact that in 2016, 14.7 out of 100 new borns were from an adolescent mother (number that was celebrated as the lowest in the history of the country).

Costa Ricans have access to regular contraception pills over the counter, but there is no way to get the emergency contraception pill. No pharmaceutical company has ever register the drug (mostly because the way that the Catholic believes affect the laws and the decision making process in the Congress).

In the 70’s a researcher found a way to have emergency contraception using regular birth control pills: “The Yuzpe regimen is a method of emergency contraception that uses a combination of ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel. It is less effective and less commonly used than a larger dose of levonorgestrel alone, a dose of ulipristal acetate, or insertion of a copper intrauterine device”. Because it is possible to buy regular contraception pills over the counter it is possible to do the YUZPE method, however most women doesn’t even know this exist and they have no idea if exist or which kind of pills to buy and how to consume them.

Recently a company tried to finally register the drug, since it is not an abortive pill, the congress has to approve its use, however they are trying to find ways to make it more difficult for women to have access to it, for example, the commercialization of the pill will implicate that a medical prescription will be necessary and also, if it is implemented in the Social Security system, it will be only in cases of rape.

This is the beginning of my Critical Object for body politics. I wanted to create an emergency contraception kit with currently available pills in Costa Rica and an easy guide on how to use it and in which cases it is not possible to use, such as women in lactant periods, women over 35 y/o or women who smoke frequently (this is due the combination of two different hormones, instead of only one like is the case with pills like “Plan B”).

My process started defining the framework to use, starting with the research, mood-board and creating a prototype and finally the Design and Implementation. After I started the research, the sketching of ideas became a very crucial part of my design, I knew that the project was going to heavily rely on layout, graphic design and visual communication therefore I had to make sure that the layout design of the pills blisters was going to be the core of my project.

The next phase was to define a moodboard. I did benchmark research to understand how the packaging design of birth control pills has been done in the past. I also wanted to create a project with a 70’s look and feel to exemplify the fact that the YUZPE method was discovered in the 70’s however there have been a lot of newer findings (one pill that prevent the women from vomiting and allows to be taken by a wider range of the female population), however, in Costa Rica we are still using very old and insecure technique.


The next phase was the fabrication of the prototype. I started by creating the form in the laser cutter, after I defined the layout in Illustrator, I used the Vacuum Former in order to create the pills blisters (3 different ones) that are going to be placed inside a box. The final prototype consisted on 3 different pills blisters, with white paper to indicate the instructions on how to take the pills. The prototyping process allowed me to test and correct the size of the actual pills and quickly iterate in order to have a better final result.

The three blisters consist on:

  • Blister A: The desired scenario of having only one pill with one hormone that causes less nauseas and it is more effective. This blister is empty because we do not have access to this drug in Costa Rica.

  • Blister B: Contains two pink pills (anti motion sickness pills to prevent the women from throwing up) and eight combined (2 hormones) contraceptive pills.

  • Bister C: Since the combination of hormones is heavy for the system, the women is likely to vomit the pills, if this happens before one hour, she has to take them again.

Blister Description

Blister Description

I also designed an instructive on how to consume the pills. The time that the women needs to wait since they take the first wound until the second one is crucial and this information is normally difficult to find, specially it is difficult to visualize in an easy and intuitive way. The visual design was done paying attention to how to effectively communicate how to take the pills and how much time to wait.

The final design of the box and the blisters is a concept of a 70’s themed box that contains all the pills and the necessary information to “legally” practice an emergency contraception in Costa Rica using the YUZPE method.

Final Project | Critical Objects

For the final project I decided to continue working on the same line of the YUZPE pill, I noticed that the criticality of the empty pill was missing and I wanted to improve the design components that lead me to communicate the message in a better way. There were also aspects about the fabrication in the first iteration that I wanted to correct therefore I decided to continue the project.

After I presented my project YUZPE: Emergency Contraception for Costa Rica, three days after I read the amazing news that finally, after some time of discussion the government decided to allow the sanitary registration of “the day after pill” in Costa Rica.

I was really happy about it specially since I have beed working on my Critical Objects project related to that topic. I thought that this was the end of my criticism, however, a day after that news were release, the Catholic Church emitted an official position to the news.

Basically the Catholic Church is saying:

“ For the representatives of the Church, the pill is linked to abortion. In addition, they affirmed that they want to accompany these women and their children, show them the greatness of God's love, Lord of life and propose to all people of good will that the solution to the difficulties is not to eliminate the lives of the most defenseless, but to protect basic human rights, starting with the right to life and continuing with the rights to decent work, education, health and safety for women and their children.”

The group was asked to choose two limitations and a framework:

Limitations: This is a project for a third world country, therefore there is no universal access to internet and also the population who are more affected by this policies and church intervention are the ones with less income, therefore low income will also be a limitation for my project.

Framework: I would like to stick to the regular design framework that I used for the YUZPE assignment: Research, Concept, Moodboard, Prototype, Testing and Implementation.

Emergency Contraception pills
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