Deciding what method of birth control is best for us can be intimidating, but when considering options it can be helpful to ask what we’re most comfortable with. For some, that’s taking a pill every day, using a patch, or condoms. But others may feel more comfortable with long-acting reversible contraception, like Depo-Provera (Depo), also known as “the Depo shot.” Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) provides more protection long-term than the aforementioned methods, and it’s also a discreet option that doesn’t require doing something every day.
In this blog, we’ll explain what Depo shot is, how it prevents pregnancy, its possible risks, and how long it can protect you!
What is “The Shot” (Depo-Provera)?
Depo is an injection of a drug called depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA, or progestin) which prevents you from getting pregnant by stopping ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. It protects you from unintended pregnancy for three months, and injections are usually administered in the arm or buttocks by a medical professional in a clinic or at home. Since the shot is only effective for 13 weeks, scheduling an appointment before it expires is important, as the rate of efficacy decreases after the 13 weeks.
Like the mini-pill, Depo is a great option for people who are unable to take estrogen, which is found in combined hormonal contraceptive pills and the patch.
Does it work right away?
You do not need to use a backup method, such as condoms or contraceptive pills if you receive the Depo shot within five days of the first day of your period, or within five days of childbirth. However, using a backup method outside of those days is recommended for the first week following the injection.
How effective is the Depo Shot?
Like other long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, the shot is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy—fewer than 1% of users become pregnant—but it can be less effective when injections are delayed beyond 13 weeks. Use a backup method if you’re unable to make your next Depo visit!
What are the side effects?
Like other long-acting reversible contraception, changes in your menstrual cycle are a possible side effect. Furthermore, a small percentage of Depo users experience weight gain in their first year of using the shot, as it can increase appetite. Changes in the menstrual cycle could include increased or decreased bleeding, spotting between cycles, and other irregularities like prolonged bleeding. Other side effects some users have experienced are nausea, hair loss, dizziness, changes in mood, and more.
Any birth control that impacts the hormones in our body has the potential to cause uncomfortable side effects, but there are benefits to these methods, too! The Depo shot is easily concealable, doesn’t require taking a daily pill, and is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy for three months. Plus, it’s as easy as filling a prescription at your local pharmacy, picking up the injection, and having it administered by a medical professional at a healthcare provider or at home.
Does Depo-Provera cause infertility?
While the Depo shot doesn’t cause infertility, because possible side effects include changes in menstrual cycles, it can stop periods completely and in some cases, they take longer to come back—but this isn’t infertility. With the shot, it can potentially take up to six months or longer for your period to return, which means it may not be the right option for someone who wants to try getting pregnant immediately after stopping their birth control. Unlike IUDs and the implant, the Depo shot is the only LARC associated with difficulty getting pregnant right away.
Depo may not be recommended for some people, but not every person has uncomfortable side effects with the shot. Some people really enjoy this method! It can be normal to want to avoid methods that we think may negatively impact our health, but at Austin Women’s Health Center, we want to make sure you have access to evidence-based information when it comes to making decisions about your reproductive health. We’re here to answer any questions about the Depo shot. If you want to consider other options check out our blog post about other methods of birth control on our blog!