E-pills, emergency contraception
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Emergency contraception

E-pills, also called morning-after or emergency contraception pills, are drugs you can take when you have had unprotected sex and think that you could be pregnant.

You need to take them as soon as possible after the unprotected intercourse, preferably within 24 hours. After that, they become less effective. The e-pill is available over the counter, which means you can go straight to the pharmacy and without a doctor's prescription.

It might even make sense to have an e-pill at home just in case you ever need it. Then you don’t have to stress about rushing to the chemist, in case of an emergency.

There are two types of emergency contraception pills however only one is currently available in Kenya. The available pill is progestogen-only (using the hormone levonorgestrel) generally referred to as P2. Another form of emergency contraception is the copper IUD. However, this needs to be put in by a medical provider.

There is no limit as to how many times you can use the emergency-pill in a year. However, the e-pill does have short-term side effects that mean it should not be used as a normal form of contraception, but only in case of emergency.

Pros

  • Helps prevent pregnancy in cases of failed or forgotten contraception, or rape
  • Gives peace of mind
  • Easy to get

Cons

  • Can change the timing of next period (early or late)
  • No STD protection
  • Needs to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex

Is the e-pill the same as an abortion pill?

E-pills are not abortion pills. The e-pill works in various ways, but can't do anything if an egg is already fertilized.

If you are already pregnant and take the e-pill, it will have no negative effects on your pregnancy.

How do I get e-pills?

You can get the e-pill over the counter or from your healthcare provider. Because it is most effective the faster you take it, many health care providers even suggest getting an emergency pill and keeping it at home just in case.

Studies have found that keeping e-pills at home doesn't mean you are more likely to have unprotected sex.

What are the side-effects of e-pills?

  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness

How safe are e-pills?

E-pills have a high concentration of hormones and can cause considerable short-term side effects. That's why e-pills should be used only in case of emergency, and are not recommended as a normal method of birth control.

There seem to be no long-term side-effects known for emergency-contraception pills.
There are some cases of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) reported with the use of the e-pills.

Who shouldn't use e-pills?

  • Women with undiagnosed abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Women with a history of DVT (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Women with acute migraines
  • Women with a BMI higher than 35

What can stop e-pills from working properly?

If you vomit soon after taking the pill, it may be less effective. Talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out what your options are.

In both cases, consider the copper-T IUD as emergency contraception.

How long does its effect last?

Scientists are not quite sure how long the effect of the e-pill lasts. So don't assume that, after you took an e-pill, you will be protected from unintended pregnancies for a period of time. You need to take an e-pill every time you've had unprotected sex.

Can I take an e-pill before having sex?

No research has been done on this, and the manufacturers don't recommend it. Taking an e-pill before having sex could prevent an unintended pregnancy, but we don't know for sure.
Also, if you take it beforehand, you might as well choose a better option, like a condom.

P2

The progestogen-only pill makes the mucus around your cervix thicker so the sperm can’t get through. It can also stop ovulation while also releasing a hormone that makes it harder for sperm to travel up towards the egg. You get either two doses of 750mg each that you have to take 12 hours apart or one dose of 1.5mg.

If taken within 24 hours it is 95 per cent effective. The longer you wait before taking e-pills, the less effective they are. They are most effective if taken between 12 and 24 hours after unprotected sex. If taken later, they can still be effective for 72 hours after intercourse, but then your chances of getting pregnant are higher. If taken between 49-72 hours the pill is only 58 per cent effective.

Progestogen-only pills work less well for women who are overweight. If you have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 35 then it is suggested to use the Copper IUD as emergency contraception.

Don’t know your BMI? Use a calculator to figure it out!

Progestogen-only pills can even be used several times in one cycle if needed, though should not be used as a normal form of birth control. For more regular forms of birth control check out our section on birth control methods.

The 'morning after' IUD

Another kind of emergency contraception is the ‘morning after IUD’. You have to have it fitted by a doctor. This is possible four to five days after you’ve had unprotected sex. You can find more information here.

This is actually just the same as having an IUD fitted as a contraceptive. Once it’s in, you can just leave it in place to stop you getting pregnant in future. But you need to think whether it’s the right kind of contraception to suit you – see the section on birth control.

Comments
Hi Pauline, you are experiencing irregular periods. In younger women, periods maybe irregular but are likely to be regular later. In other cases an irregular period maybe caused by excessive exercising, significant weight loss or even weight gain, physical or emotional stress, or occasionally chronic illness. You can consider consulting your health care provider to have your for treatment to regularized your period. Check out this article;- https://lovematters.co.ke/our-bodies/female-body/menstruation
Hi ,after my period on the 7day I had sex and took the epill and after 4hrs I had sex again can I get pregnant and also on the 11day to 12day I experience blood pls want could be the cause

Hey Beauty, the E-Pill is 95 per cent effective when taken within the first 24 hours after having unprotected sex. This means there is a high chance that you won't get pregnant. The E-Pill is also likely to change your cycle so that it is late or comes earlier than expected, you have lighter or heavier bleeding on your next period and also bleeding or spotting before your next period. Do have a look at the article above. 

Hey Yumna, the Emergency Contraception Pill works more effectively when taken within the first 24 hours after having unprotected sex. It's 95 per cent effective when taken within this time. When taken after the first 24 hours have elapsed, its effectiveness reduces though the E-pill can still provide protection upto 72 hours after having sex. There is no way to tell if you are going to get pregnant or not. The option is to wait and see. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception

I had the levonorgestrel on the 72 hours. I haven't had my cycle in over a month. Did a test 2 weeks ago that came out negative. Should I re-do the test? thank you

Hey Rimat, the E-Pill only works when it is taken within the first 72 hours after having unprotected. This time has expired for you and you have also missed a period. It is important that you get a pregnancy done to be certain that your pregnant or not especially because there are other reasons that can cause a missed or delayed period including; hormonal imbalance, eating disorders, weight gain or weight loss and even stress. Do get a pregnancy test, visit a medical centre for this test where they can also advice how on to proceed. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Hey Rimat, the E-Pill only works when it is taken within the first 72 hours after having unprotected. This time has expired for you and you have also missed a period. It is important that you get a pregnancy done to be certain that your pregnant or not especially because there are other reasons that can cause a missed or delayed period including; hormonal imbalance, eating disorders, weight gain or weight loss and even stress. Do get a pregnancy test, visit a medical centre for this test where they can also advice how on to proceed. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Hi KK, the following are important questions to consider as you think about as you decide which method to choose; How important is it that you don't get pregnant? Would it be a total disaster if you were pregnant? Or would it be okay, but just not quite the right moment? How well does the birth control method work? What's the 'failure rate'? Could the birth control method have side effects for you or your partner? How soon would you like to have children? Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/how-to-choose

i and my husband we had unprotected sex on wed night Thursday and then i took P2 on Friday morning is there chances of becoming pregnant

Hi Ruth, the emergency contraception pill should be taken with the first 72 hours after unprotected sex. The sooner one takes the E-pill the the more effective it is. For instance, when taken within the first 24 hours, after having unprotected sex, the pill is 95 per cent effective. This also mean there is a failure of 5 per cent which also increases with time. Check out the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception

Hey Chris, the P2 or Emergency Contraception pill works well taken within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex. The pill is however most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex, this also means the longer one takes to take the pill the less effective it becomes. Also, the pill will not protect one from the risk of getting infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Condoms however when used correctly and consistently, they will help prevent both unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Check out the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception 

I took P2 during the day and had sex with my partner later in the night and two more times in the morning. Am i protected since i had sex three times?

Taking the E-pill as soon as possible after having sex increases its chances of being effective. The manufacturers of emergency contraception advises to take the pills after sex and it is important to stick to this. Its likely, the e-pill would protect you if you took it right before having sex. But, as this has not been thoroughly researched, you are better off following the manufacturer's instructions. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/can-i-take-the-e-pill-before-sex

Hi Stella, one of the side effects of emergency contraception is that it can change the timing of the next period making the period come earlier than expected or later than expected. If the periods do not come after 14 days it will be important you take a pregnancy to get to know if you are pregnant. Remember, while P2 can be taken anytime with the first 72 hours, it is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex. The longer it takes for one to take the pill the less effective it becomes.

Hi Mary, usually one birth control is enough. Such a pill will either work or it won’t. It doesn’t really matter how many times one had unprotected sex in one night. The pill is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex though it can be taken any time within the first 72 hours. The longer one takes to take the pill the higher the failure rate or possibility it wont work. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/is-one-emergency-pill-enough

Hi Sally, usually one birth control is enough. Such a pill will either work or it won’t. It doesn’t really matter how many times one had unprotected sex in one night. The pill is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex though it can be taken any time within the first 72 hours. The longer one takes to take the pill the higher the failure rate or possibility it wont work. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/is-one-emergency-pill-enough

Now that P2 is more effective when taken with the first 24 hrs can I take it on Friday evening if I plan to sex sex on friday night? How many times can I have sex after I have taken the pill?

Hi Aisha, No research has been done on this, and the manufacturers don't recommend it. Taking an e-pill before having sex could prevent an unintended pregnancy, but we don't know for sure.
Also, if you take it beforehand, you might as well choose a better option, like a condom since P2 should be used in emergency situations only. Emergency contraception works regardless of how many times one has had sex.

Hey Michy Gal, this is actually possible. The Emergency Contraception pill is 95 percent effective when taken within the first 24 hours after sex. Which means there is a 5 per cent chance one would get pregnant. This percentage drops further as time passes. It is because of this 5 per cent chance that one is encouraged to use a second method at the same time, particularly a condom.  

My girlfriend & I had unprotected sex but she took E-pills within 24 hrs. She vomited after 2 or 3 hrs of taking them..does she need to take the pills again..plz help!

Hi Lenox, if she vomited before 3 hours were over this will greatly affect the possibility of the E-pill working. For this reason she needs to take another E-pill to for the same purpose of preventing pregnancy. If this keeps happening you and your partner may need to consider a different method in the future like the use of condoms which help prevent both unplanned pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/condom

Hey Beattie, the first seven days before and after your period, as well as the time of your period, are relatively safe. But, if you have a shorter cycle (shorter than 28 days), or an irregular one, this will vary. Also keep in mind that sperm can survive for up to five days and longer inside the body- so even if you have sex on a 'safe' day, you can still get pregnant, because the sperm survived until your ovulation date. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/our-bodies/female-body/menstruation

Hi Amy, one shouldn't take the P2 before sex. No research has been done on this, and the manufacturers don't recommend it. Taking an e-pill before having sex could prevent an unintended pregnancy, but we don't know for sure. Also, if you take it beforehand, you might as well choose a better birth control option, like a condom. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/can-i-take-the-e-pill-before-sex

Hi, No emergency contraception doesn't affect your fertility. However, if you find yourself needing to use emergency contraception, you need to consider using a birth control method since the emergency contraception should only be used in emergency situations. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraceptive-pills-myths-busted 

Hi Dama, the P2 is 95 per cent effective when taken within the first 24 hours, which also means there is a 5 per cent chance that one could get pregnant. On the other hand, the P2 will affect your next period so that it either comes early or late. To be certain, take pregnancy test ti rule it out. 

Anonymous
Fri, 08/17/2018 - 22:12
I had unprotected sex with my girlfriend she took P2 the next morning. She didn't vomit out the pill and we didn't hav sex again. She is saying now that she is pregnant. Is it possible that P2 did not work?

Hey there, all birth control methods have a failure rate. If taken within 24 hours, the P2 is 95 per cent effective, which means it has a 5 per cent failure even when taken within the first 24 hours. The longer one waits before taking e-pills, the less effective they are. They are most effective if taken between 12 and 24 hours after unprotected sex. If taken later, they can still be effective for 72 hours after intercourse, but then your chances of getting pregnant are higher. If taken between 49-72 hours the pill is only 58 per cent effective. The pill will affect one next period so that it comes early or it delayed. Has your partner taken a pregnancy test? This is the best way to find out if one is pregnant.

Hi there, one of the reason that would make emergency contraception not to work is if you vomit soon after taking the pill, it may be less effective. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible to find out what options one has. Also, remember the pill is only likely to work when taken within the first 72 hours after sex. 

There are a number of reasons that can make one miss their period including stress, extreme exercises, change in environment and diet, hormonal issues among others. Taking emergency contraception can also lead to a delayed period or make them come early. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraceptive-pills-myths-busted

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