Depo-Provera (aka “the birth control shot”) is a progestin only form of birth control. It is administered via a shot to the hip once every 3 months. The first injection should be administered within the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle. It prevents pregnancy by blocking eggs from being released to the uterus and when there is no egg to be fertilized, no pregnancy can occur. Overall it is a relatively simple form of birth control: go see your doctor or a nurse practitioner once every 3 months, get a shot and you’re good to go. It is also an incredibly effective form of birth control; only 1 in 100 women will get pregnant with proper use (meaning you get your shot on time, every time). If you miss a shot or get one late, your chances go up to 6 in 100, which is still pretty good.
Depo is a great option for women who are worried about forgetting to take their pills every day or who just don’t want to have to take a pill every day. It is also a good option for women who can’t use estrogen based birth controls because they are at high risk for stroke, over 35 and smoke, have or have had breast cancer or who have migraines.
Depo does have a few side effects to consider before going with this option as your birth control. During the first 6-12 months of use, there is an increased likelihood of irregular bleeding; though after one year on the shot about half the women who take it will stop having their periods all together. For some that may be a great thing, for others it may lead to increased worry about if you are that 1 woman in 100. Depo can also lead to weight gain, change in sex drive or headaches though these are less common.
Also, once a shot has been given there is no way to reverse it so if you think you may decide you want to get pregnant with in the next year or so this may not be right for you. Although the depo is out of your system within about 12-14 weeks, your body may take up to one year to resume its normal menstrual cycle, so it may take longer than average to get pregnant once you go off it. That is not true for all women though; some can and do get pregnant within only a few weeks of going off the shot.
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a long-term birth control option or just don’t like needles but still need a progestin only birth control, other options include the mini-pill or an implant. For more information and to get a prescription, contact your local family planning clinic to schedule an appointment.
As a final note, I just want to point out that the depo-provera shot does not protect against std’s so unless you are in a mutually monogamous relationship please remember to use a condom every time.