E-pills, emergency contraception

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.


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


  • 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.


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.

Riddle ID

Did you learn something new?

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 02:58 pm
Hi.. I Had sex day before yesterday and took an i-pill within 24 hours.. But today I am suffering from diarrhea will this effect in stopping my pregnancy?

Hey Rakshitha, the pill may be less effective if you vomit soon after taking the pill. Diarrhea is however one of the expected side effects of the Emergency Contraception pill. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception 

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 03:06 pm
Hi... I had sex with my bf day before yesterday.. I took my ipill within 24 hours.. But today I am suffering from diarrhea.. Will this effect in stopping my pregnancy?

Hey Rakshitha, the pill may be less effective if you vomit soon after taking the pill. Diarrhea is however one of the expected side effects of the Emergency Contraception pill. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception 

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 03:36 pm
Hi,I had unprotected sx 3 days after my periods.but never took p2, again after 11 days of my periods but took p2 within 3 hrs.. Then 3 days to my periods but never took p2.I've missed my periods for 23 days.. Could I be pregnant?

Hi Veratue, I suggest you have a pregnancy test done to determine if you are pregnant since this is the best way to know if you are pregnant or not. You can have this done at a health centre or buy a pregnancy test from a pharmacy and do the test at your own convenience at home. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 02:30 pm
I dated my wife for for 3 years before we got and because we did not want to have a child then she used the injection and P2 because the inject had side effects to prevent pregnant. We have been officially married now for over one year and we have also been trying to have a baby for about 6 months but we have not been successful. Do this birth control methods interfere or cause delay when you are ready to have a child?

Hi Ernesto, Emergency Contraception or P2 doesn't affect once ability to get pregnant when they get ready to. However, the Shot or injection has one major disadvantage is that one won’t be able to immediately get pregnant when they stop using; it may take around ten months for one to get back to their normal fertility. Lastly, it may take upto 12 months for one to get pregnant, seeing that it has been 6 months for you and your partner you are still within the expected period of time. C|heck out the following articles for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/shot


Hi Hollie, Emergency contraception should only be used in emergency situations only and not as a regular birth control method. If you find that you are using P2 regularly, it is important that you consider getting a birth control method. Remember, while it may help prevent unplanned pregnancies, you are still exposed to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Using condoms however will help prevent both unplanned pregnancies and STIs Have a look at the following article for options you can choose from;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control

Hi, you may have to get a pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy. Remember, there are a number of other reasons that can lead to a delayed period including stress, hormonal issues, change in environment, change in diet, extreme exercise among others. Lastly, taking emergency contraception affects your next period so that it either comes in early or late. 

I had unprotected sex before ovulation and ovulated a day later though I had taken the pills within the first 24 hours,,,am now experiencing some discomfort in one of my ovary,,, could if be fertilisation

Hi Tik, it's not possible to tell for certain if it is fertilization. To get to know if it is and whether you got pregnant you will have to wait atleast fourteen days or after you miss your next period to do a pregnancy test. Check out this article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Hey Nasike, it may or may not work. Emergency contraception should be taken within the first 72 hours after having sex. It is most effective when taken within the first 24 hours of sex and its effectiveness decreases as time progresses. There is no way to tell if the pill you took worked or will work other than waiting until your nest period. 

Tue, 04/16/2019 - 10:51 pm
I took the e pill an hour after unprotected sex and am currently on my 10th day of the cycle which is 5 days before I ovulate. Is there a risk of pregnancy

Hey Asenath, using emergency contraception has no known long term effect other the short term side effects like a delayed period. However, if you find that you are using this method frequently, you need to consider using a regular birth control method. Have a look at the following article for more information;- 



Hello Judy, yes the pill can help prevent unplanned pregnancy.. Emergency contraception can be taken within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex. The sooner one takes the pill, the more effective it is, for instance, if taken within 24 hours it is 95 per cent effective and if taken between 49-72 hours the pill is only 58 per cent effective.

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 04:59 pm
I didn't take the e-pill though we had sex only once one month after intercourse and I have a missed period does it mean I am pregnant??

Hi Robbie, safe days are one of the most unreliable ways to prevent pregnancy, and we really don't recommend it at all. When your safe days are really depends on the length of your cycle. Technically speaking, 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. So you see, it's a very inaccurate. And lastly, of course this won't protect you from STDs. Only condoms will. So we really recommend a more reliable method. Lastly, as a side effect, taking emergency contraception will affect your next period so that it comes early or late. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/are-safe-days-safe

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 02:24 pm
I took P2 and then vomited 30 minutes later. I had another pill which I took but this time I didn't vomit. Should I be concerned? Will it work?
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