Patricia Kombo, Lynn Omondi, Masha Caro, Verah Okumu, Sherine Awuor.

From left: Patricia Kombo, Lynn Omondi, Masha Caro, Verah Okumu and Sherine Awuor.

| Pool

Our 'P2 babies': Oops! We popped the morning after pill, but it didn’t work

What you need to know:

  • Dr Juliet Obanda Makanga, lecturer at Kenyatta University School of Pharmacy, has sounded an alarm for young women who abuse the morning-after pill: ‘Stop it!’ She says the drug should be used not more than twice a year and only in emergency situations.
  • Dr John Ongech, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, cites high hormone concentration as the greatest danger with the P2, which disrupts the menstrual cycle and could eventually stop them; causing more complications.

A pill that was meant to serve as an emergency contraceptive in situations of sexual assault has now become the contraceptive of choice among a majority of Kenyan women, and its access has been as easy as asking for a painkiller at over-the-counter chemist shops. The sale of Postinor-2 (P2) pills is precipitous and unaware of their dangers, young women are finding it easy to fork out Sh150 for a dose, but health experts are warning that this growing trend is a ticking time bomb.   

Abusing the drug, which should be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, and not more than twice a year, is a crisis-in-waiting, as college women use them almost every month. The failure of the pill could have been due to misuse, probably taking a counterfeit or not adhering to the said directive written on the packet.

Its brands include Next Choice One Dose (Actavis UK), Opticon One Step (Sun Pharma), Option 2 (Perrigo, Australia and UK), and Plan B One Step (Teva, Israel and US).

Senior Health Reporter Angela Oketch spoke to five women who happened to conceive after taking the pill.

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‘Forgive me Father, for I want to kill’

Patricia Kombo, 28

Patricia Kombo.

Patricia Kombo.

Photo credit: Pool

Last night my daughter drew a sketch of our family as part of her CBC assignment. In the assignment she was also supposed to indicate the date she was born and her full name and what the name meant. As we helped her fill her birth dates, memories flew of how we got her and I flashed back to when I read a feature story in the Daily Nation on women getting pregnant while on contraceptives. What a coincidence!

Let’s take a walk to 2016. I was this sweet and ambitious girl who wanted to become a renowned journalist… little did I know I’d be a mother before I graduated from university. I thought I was one of the luckiest girls at the time as I dated an engineering student at the Technical University of Kenya. The long-distance relationship was working out well for I did not have to perform “wifely duties” every time like many of my classmates who were dating within the university.

On that fateful April holiday, I was happy to be joining Second Year, after the break. I was also happy that we were breaking for the holiday as that meant I would visit my boyfriend in Nairobi. Second Year and Form Two have something similar in my view as that’s when adolescent or cunning traits start to dominate. I recall vividly how I lied about opening dates so that I would have an extra day hidden in Nairobi by him. 

One day, on the morning after, I walked to a chemist shop, bought the morning-after pill commonly known as P2, and went back to school, confident that my shenanigans would never be exposed.

Nothing is more worrying than a missed period while in school. There is this myth that when periods have delayed and you sit next to someone already in her days, some magic occurs and immediately you start your menses. Total lie, that one. I know because it didn’t work for me. 

Even with delayed period I was hesitant to test for pregnancy, but the more the days went by the more I got worried eventually I decided I had to test, so I walked to the nearest chemist shop and purchased a kit. 

Have you ever googled what ‘single line’ and ‘double line’ means even when it is so well explained in the kit? Have you! Well, that was me! 

Today I look back and laugh because I purchased six more kits from different outlets to confirm whether I was pregnant and still I was never satisfied. The innocent me walked to a private hospital, lied about my name and did the blood test and the doctor confirmed I was expectant and I needed to start clinic.

In my state of panic, I still had to break the news to my boyfriend. How would he take it, I wondered. How could I be expectant yet I took a P2? How in the medical world could that happen? The first thought was how to secure an abortion. I mean, how could a 20-year-old be expectant? What was I going to tell my family? How would I handle the rejection that would definitely come from my friends?

Mr Google came in handy for me and through him, I knew where I could secure an abortion, the amount of money I needed for the service, and the dos and don’ts while on the abortion journey. I was able to raise Sh7,000 to terminate the pregnancy, which I paid to the clinic and got an abortion appointment for May 20, 2016, a Friday. 

My greatest prayer was to have a successful abortion, but do you believe in miracles? Do you believe God sends signs to warn people? 

So, on my appointed Friday I woke up, said my rosary and whispered: ‘GOD I DON’T WANT TO DIE’. Throughout the day I became extremely disturbed but was determined that that would not stop me from getting rid of the baby. 

At 2pm I walked to the reception area of the clinic, ready to terminate the pregnancy. Then I walk into the doctor’s small room and he tells me: “Patricia, we are sorry. We have run out of the pills but another consignment is on the way from Nairobi.” I was mad, but the doctor assured me that we would proceed on the following Monday.

I’m a Catholic, and Catholics go for confessionals on Saturdays. Two days before my appointment with the abortion doctor I walked confidently into the confessional booth and told the priest what I was about to do.

“Forgive me Father, for I want to kill,” I informed him. “Please intercede for me that all goes well.”

I heard him take a heavy breath on the other side of the confessional booth, and then he changed the session from a confession to a guidance and counselling meeting. I, however, told him I would proceed with my plans. As I left, he said: “If you are a Christian, I pray that God sends you a sign before Monday.” Too late, I imagined.

A day later, on Sunday evening, I received a call from home that a primary schoolmate had passed on after a botched abortion. The news broke me. Was it the sign the priest had talked about or was it just a coincidence? That night I did not sleep, my mind was all over.

I know you might be wondering how I came up with the name Ndungwa. On the morning of my abortion date with the doctor, my mother woke me up at six. She was all over the place, kicking up a ruckus and shouting: “Happy birthday my daughter!” 

I had been so stressed that I could not even remember my 23rd birthday. My mum mentioned again about the schoolmate who had passed on and then told me: “Ukiwa shule ujichunge.” After a lot of banter here and there she calmly said: “Heri tu kuitwa nyanya kuliko kupoteza mtoto na mjukuu.”

That conversation was the sign I had asked for, and that’s how I changed my mind about the abortion and decided to name the baby after mum if it was a girl. Five years later, my P2 baby is now in PP2 and thriving in gymnastics and swimming.

‘My P2 baby was with my high school crush’

Lynn Omondi, 26

Lynn Omondi

Lynn Omondi.

Photo credit: Pool


I took the emergency contraceptive pill within the recommended 72-hours period that was written on the packet. Then I waited for my period and waited and waited. 

Let me start the story better. It all began in 2011. I was a virgin, in form two and an innocent 15-year-old girl when I was introduced to some guy who was a fellow student by a classmate. Before long, we started hanging out. Quite innocent at the time, the most extreme “intimacy” we would achieve at that time was to hug each other and holds hands. After a short while, we broke up for two years but then rekindled everything in 2013. We were in form four at the time and I was still in love with him, even after the breakup.

Given that I was in day school and he was boarding, communication was a problem, so we both had to get those cheap feature phones called “kabambe” in Kenya. We were excited that we were about to graduate from high school and couldn’t wait to celebrate the achievement by “eating the forbidden fruit”. It had been years since we met and we had agreed that we wouldn’t do it until after we left high school. 

We, however, didn’t do it. Even after clearing high school. Instead, we broke up. Again. For the whole of 2014. I didn’t date anyone else after that break-up, and I don’t know whether he did, but in 2015 we hooked up again. I was already working at a cyber café in town waiting to join college. Since I lived with my aunt I didn’t have the freedom that a lot of teenagers have and so I had to sneak out every time I wanted to see him.

After two months of his coming back, we did “it” with my high school sweetheart. Just once. Yes once. On the afternoon of a 17th. We had really waited for this moment and since there was no condom and shops were far away, we had no time to wait for protection and other worries; it just happened. 

Once I reached home, I told him on phone that I didn’t want to get pregnant as my aunt would kill me. The next day, very early in the morning, my sweetheart brought me Postinor 2, the emergency contraception pill. I took the two tablets immediately. And then the side effects kicked in…..nausea, dizziness, a little bit of fever and all that. I thought the drug was working so I didn’t mind the side effects. I was wrong.

After about three weeks I got sick. Pregnancy symptoms started knocking me off but I told myself it can’t be.

 When the symptoms persisted I decided to get a pregnancy test kit. Guess what?

Positive!

It must be a mistake, an error, I reasoned, so I bought another kit and went to my guy’s house so that we could test together.

Positive!

Now I was devastated. And in shock. I didn’t know where to begin from how to approach my family, how to deal with this. I was supposed to join college in the next few months, so would this pause my life? My plans?

My guy, my sweetheart, the father of my baby, left for Nairobi soon afterwards and I was all alone with the pregnancy. We stopped communicating.

The first trimester was really tough for me. I became suicidal and thought of ending my life several times but because I had resigned from my cyber cafe work, I did not even have the money to finance my suicide. It was terrible! I was so embarrassed and stressed.

In the second trimester my pregnancy developed complications that affected my blood pressure and after six months I gave birth to a premature baby, who was placed inside an incubator for a month. I couldn’t even afford the medical bill when they eventually released us to go home and I had to cry my way out for them to release me.

Fast-forward, long story short… my P2 baby is now a handsome young man who just turned seven.

‘He wasn’t ready, I wasn’t either. He left, I kept the baby’

Sherine Awuor, 25

Sherine Awuor.

I am the mother of a beautiful baby girl who is two years and one month old. She’s called Aleyna Zeena. I am telling this story because I am done with the bitterness that followed my pregnancy. 

I got into a relationship in 2017 while still in university. I was madly in love and thought at the time that I would one day tell the world about the amazing love journey I would have shared with my man; little did I know what awaited me. 

The guy was okay in our first year together, but after that our relationship starting having the usual issues that adults in love must grapple with every now and then. We would fight a lot but soon go back together. By then he had graduated from university but I was still in school.

We lived together most of the time and I was sure that he had made up his mind about me, and that we would be together for life. However, in 2019 the relationship became a bit heavy for me and I decided to give up on it. But before I could, I felt I was not okay. I was constantly sickly and had been taking anti-malarial drugs and taking a lot of rest, but as days went by it got worse and worse until I decided to visit a hospital.

Upon reaching the hospital the nurse just looked at me and said: “Wewe uko na mimba, unaglow sana kwa uso.” Her words frightened me, so I went to the laboratory for a urine pregnancy test that turned positive. 

With the news I felt weak and devastated. How on earth could I be pregnant yet I had taken my emergency pills on time, and better still I had been on my safe days when we were intimate with my lover? 

I called him and told him to pass by my place so that we could talk. When he came I told him I was pregnant and he said he wasn’t ready for it. I wrote about him on my WhatsApp status and he got so annoyed that he came to tell me I was tarnishing his name. How sure, he asked, that the child was his? 

I grieved for quite some time and kept the pregnancy secret. Then the semester came to an end and I had to travel home. My plan was to keep the pregnancy secret until school resumed, but then the coronavirus pandemic happened and all learning was halted, so I was stuck at home with my parents.

I called one of my cousins and asked her to tell my mum about the pregnancy. The family was devastated but all went quiet after some time. The father of the baby kept saying he wasn’t ready to be a father and we slowly drifted apart. 

I don’t regret having my baby as she brightens my world in all perspectives. I have learnt a lot since then and I have started building a life as a single mother. Two years later, Zeena still makes me proud.

‘He had just arrived from Mombasa, we didn’t have time to think’

Masha Caro, 29

Masha Caro p2 baby

Masha Caro.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

This story takes me back to the year 2015, when I was in love. Totally crushing on my man. I think it was during that phase they call a honeymoon stage in life and my boyfriend had travelled to Mombasa with his friends for a one-week vacation. We were so much used to each other and him being away for one week seemed like a whole year. He eventually came back though, arriving in the morning and coming straight to my house as we had agreed on phone. Seeing him, touching him, being with him after a week away… let me just say the feeling was out-of-this-world. 

I prepared tea with groundnuts (don’t judge me or rush into conclusions, you imaginative dud!). After that we shared a shower and got into bed. No protection. Nothing. Carried away by the craziness of the moment. 

A few hours later we walked into a chemist shop in the Buru Buru neighbourhood of Nairobi and bought P2. This was not my first time using the pills and it didn’t bother me at all. My boyfriend was in his final year of study at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and most of the time I would visit him during weekends. After a month I missed my period, and after some time I got worried as I was already a mother of one, still in my early 20s and not ready for another baby. 

Five weeks after that early morning unprotected encounter I spotted some blood down there. Oh, what a relief! I thought to myself. But I was mistaken; that light spotting was one of the early signs of pregnancy.

On the second month, I stared having nausea and vomiting out anything I’d eat. I did a pregnancy test and it turned positive. To be honest, I had mixed feeling: the joy of being a mother again, yet sad that I was not ready for this. I shared the news with my boyfriend and I remember he was so supportive he promised to take responsibility and be there for us no matter what. As he came from a boys-only family, he wished for a girl. With his support and assurance, I gathered the courage to carry the pregnancy to full term,

It was not an easy pregnancy though. Even though my boyfriend had assured me of support, I was alone emotionally as he was still in university and I couldn’t tell my parents about my second ‘slip’. I was alone most of the time as my boyfriend would come and check on me mostly on weekends or during his free time, but then I needed someone to be there for me fully. I attended all my antenatal clinic appointments religiously and sometimes my boyfriend would accompany me, mostly for those scanning dates. 

It is now six years after the P2 failure and our beautiful princess is in Grade One. She makes our life so beautiful and happy, and in her I see God’s plan because I can never imagine my life without her. We named her after my mother-in-law (yeah, we started living together after he cleared JKUAT). 

‘I was 19, he was 32. Trouble’

Verah Okumu, 24

Verah Okumu

Verah Okumu.

Photo credit: Pool

I was 19, fresh out of high school and working in a hotel in town when I met Steve, and he was everything I had wanted in a guy. He was aged 32 and I loved the fatherly treatment I got from him. I’m saying ‘fatherly’ because that’s what I had missed in my then ex, who was a university student. Being that many years older than me, I trusted him. I mean, who wouldn’t? I got everything: dates, money here and there, and the freedom I had to visit his home every time.

My first encounter with him was protected as we used condoms, but as time went by I got to trust him and so we stopped. I knew of family planning but I thought it was hectic getting proper care, so I resorted to taking pills because we never met frequently.

He would personally give me the money or most times escort me over the counter to get the pills, and I thought I’d be fine as always. I celebrated my birthday the next year in March in his place and we obviously went down, took my pills as usual and went back to my normal business.

And that’s when the trouble began. I wasn’t even anxious about my menses because I had the most irregular of them. Work suddenly became boring and I wasn’t looking forward to waking up any longer. There was nothing amusing anymore with the service to customers and sleep became my cup of tea. I’d give any excuse to skip work. There was nothing else alarming except that I got easily irritated.

Then we began the next month of April, and in the middle of it I sensed things were not okay. End-month came and still… nothing. I was shaken. I had to self-test; it was positive.

I told nobody at that time because the confusion that set in left me clumsy and unable to think.

A few weeks earlier Steve had resigned from work due to some wrangles with the management. Now phone calls to him went unanswered during the day, and when his phone was on, it was only for a few minutes. I had to inform him, so I looked for him physically.

I can’t say exactly what his reaction was because while I was contemplating an abortion, he wasn’t for it. See, the guy at that time was jobless and within a month everything had changed about him. He had even sold his phone and was using a small one. At the time, he was working as a construction worker despite all his academic qualifications. I was devastated. The only thought was that my child would suffer. How was I going to go through pregnancy? I wanted out, but he refused.

The following week after I told him about the baby he asked that we move in together. Marriage at 20? With a 32-year-old-man? It was not making a lot of sense.

It happened that my grandmother had passed on and after the burial I took the opportunity to travel with a cousin to Nairobi, just to escape the pestering Steve had on me. Still, I was the only person who had this knowledge of the pregnancy.

I became super-cautious and anxious and resorted to buying high-waist pants, but as time went by they became tighter and tighter. I always wanted to be alone.

At four months I was still thinking about abortion but had no money and trusted nobody, not even my cousin. 

I was confused.

I was afraid.

I was lonely.

I didn’t have anyone at the time because I gave up my phone.

Then I finally gathered the courage to tell my cousin and I had never been so relieved. I just wanted to go home and be with my mother. I knew she would be broken after this news but that was all that was in my mind. I managed to retrieve my numbers and gave Steve’s number to my mum. It wasn’t going to be easy but he was ready for the care.

At five months I began my antenatal care and I was surprised by the amount of care my aunts showed me. I wished I had not hidden myself in loneliness and self-pity that long.

Looking back, I know I would be dead now because I had taken to overdosing during that lonely phase. I would take any medicine in the house.

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