Let’s Talk Contraception: Depo-Provera Injections, Another Progestin-Only Option

Progestin-only birth control pills (POPs), also called the mini-pill, are good options for those who cannot take estrogen. But for those who have lots of trouble remembering to take a pill every day at the same time, Depo-Provera shots may be the way to go. Depo-Provera is medroxyprogesterone, a hormone similar to progesterone. It is given as a shot in a doctor’s office or a health center such as Planned Parenthood, and lasts for three months to prevent pregnancy. Sometimes it is used to treat other conditions, like endometriosis.


One Depo-Provera shot lasts for three months.


The first shot is given five days after you start your period or, if you do not plan to breastfeed, in the first five days after giving birth. You must not be pregnant when you get the shot because its effects may damage the developing fetus. But it’s OK to use Depo-Provera when breastfeeding, as long as you wait six weeks after giving birth before getting the shot. It’s given in your buttock or upper arm. You need to use a backup method like a condom for seven days after getting your first shot. And if you miss getting your regular 12-week injection by only a few days, you may need to get a pregnancy test before getting your next shot.

While you are on Depo shots, your period may change. You may have spotting, bleeding, or even no bleeding. Fifty percent of people who have been on Depo-Provera for one year have no bleeding at all. After stopping the shots, menstrual bleeding returns. Also, after stopping the shots, it may take nine to 10 months to get pregnant.

There are side effects similar to other progestin-only methods, such as mini-pills. These may include headache, weight gain, dizziness, weakness, abdominal discomfort, or fatigue. And Depo-Provera may cause a loss of calcium from your bones that could lead to osteoporosis, so you usually can only get the shots for a total of two years. If you are younger than 35, you may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer or blood clots, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about any side effects you experience, like chest pain, leg pain, or severe abdominal pain. The pro and con of Depo-Provera is that one shot lasts for three months. It may take awhile for side effects to wear off.

These shots could interfere with other medications, so let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are taking any other drugs, vitamins, or herbal supplements. And the shot does not protect you from HIV/AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases. You should not smoke while on birth control because it can increase your chances of heart attacks and stroke.

These shots may cost around $35 to $75 every three months, plus office exam fees, according to Planned Parenthood. You can make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center, where a clinician can help you decide if Depo-Provera is the right choice for you.


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One thought on “Let’s Talk Contraception: Depo-Provera Injections, Another Progestin-Only Option

  1. Thanks, Rebecca, for this clear and concise post that details both the risks and the benefits without exaggerating either. Depo-Provera is not for everyone, but I’m glad the choice is available to those who are good candidates for the drug and who might find the long-lasting shots convenient for their lifestyles. I’m thankful that there is such a wide variety of options for people to choose from!

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