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?


Hi Leah, when you take emergency contraception it affects your next periods so that it come early or late. The delayed period maybe as a result of the emergency contraception. On the other hand, one can still get pregnant even when they used emergency contraception. Remember, the sooner one takes the pill the more effective it is likely to be. Give it a few more days before taking a pregnancy test to  rule out pregnancy. Check out the following article for aditional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception-top-five-facts 

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:23 am
I had sex 1week after my period and I took p2 2hrs after sex ever since have been feeling pain in my breast nd sometimes headache nd dizziness could it be that an pregnant... Please reply

Hello Julian, it is challenging to tell if you are pregnant. You may need to take a pregnancy test to get to know if you are pregnant. You can have a test done at a health facility or get a home pregnancy test to do it yourself at home. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:53 am
I had sex on the 7th day after my period I took p2 2hrs after sex i.e the first tablet I took it at 6:37pm nd the 2nd at 6:37am nd since then I have been feeling pain in my breast and sometimes headache nd dizziness does this p2 works or could it be that am pregnant please reply now...

Hello Julian, it is challenging to tell if you are pregnant. You may need to take a pregnancy test to get to know if you are pregnant. You can have a test done at a health facility or get a home pregnancy test to do it yourself at home. Have a look at the following article for additional information;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/pregnancy/unsure-about-being-pregnant/am-i-pregnant

Hi Agnes, there is no limit as to how many times you can use emergency contraception. However, if you find that you need to use P2 regularly it is important to consider a regular birth control method since P2 should only be used in emergency cases. There are also no known long term future effects of using P2, short term effects are however listed above. Have a look at the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/choosing-the-right-birth-control/how-to-choose

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 04:24 pm
Hae I don't happen to knw the director bt it's my first time using morning after pill and I have had changes my ovulation stopped and l use to pass out blood bt in small amount bt in form of ovulation and nw my periods have come a week earlier is it OK pliz advise me
Mon, 11/11/2019 - 04:55 pm
I took the epill before meeting my bf I am worried it may not work. I wanted to use condoms also but there was not any and we were overcome by our feelings. How soon can I know if I got pregnant?

Hi Sallie, there has not been any research that has gone into this and for this reason it cannot be quantified. It is for this reason that you stick to the instructions provided which includes using the pill in emergency cases and after sex not before. Check out the following article;- https://lovemattersafrica.com/birth-control/types-of-birth-control/emergency-contraception-top-five-facts

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 02:57 pm
Hi ..I did sex on 5th March took the pill on 6th march in the morning on 14th March I received my period bt unfortunately on aprill till now may 5th my period are missing and I didn't have sex again what could be the problem
I took p2 last month,this month after my menstruation ,if I engage in unprotected sex,will I get pregnant??does the safe days still count after my period?pls
It has been 21 days since I had unprotected sex with my partiner and I took p2 45 min after the act..have since not received my periods and have been having abdominal pains...what could be the problem.

Hi Jj, thank you for reaching out to us. 45 Minutes after having sex is within the window. Studies show that the sooner you take the tablet the more effective it is. P2 is a tablet that has a high concentration of a hormone and so it can affect your cycle. Also, if taken at the same time as antibiotics it will not be as effective. At 21 days a pregnancy test is sensitive. If it turns up negative we strongly advise for you to see a medical practitioner for advice on the way forward.

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