Table Of Contents
- What is a Birth Control Shot?
- How is the Shot Taken?
- How Does the Shot Prevent Pregnancy?
- What are the Benefits?
- What are the Disadvantages?
- How Effective is the Shot?
- How Safe is the Shot?
What is a Birth Control Shot?
This birth control method is commonly known by the brand name Depo-Provera (or DMPA). The hormone shot comes in the form of an injection. It prevents pregnancy for up to three months after injection.
How is the Shot Taken?
The first thing you need to do is get a prescription. This can be provided by your doctor or a health care provider after an appointment with you to review your medical history. You might also need a medical exam, depending on your physician and your medical history. The health care provider will provide the injection and temporary bruising may occur on your arm.
The cost of the exam can range from $0-250 and each visit after the exam can cost $0-150, depending on your medical coverage.
If you take the shot late (longer than a 12 week period), you may need to purchase a pregnancy test.
How Does the Shot Prevent Pregnancy?
The injection releases hormones just like other birth control methods. These hormones are chemicals that control different parts of the body.
The progestin in the shot works by:
- Making cervical mucus thicker in the female body, which prevents sperm from getting into the eggs
- Keeping eggs in the ovaries, so they can’t join the sperm
What are the Benefits?
The shot is safe, simple and convenient to use. It provides an effective solution to prevent pregnancy for up to three months. Some of the other benefits include:
- Preventing cancer on the lining of the uterus
- No daily pills required
- Contains no estrogen (for women who are breastfeeding)
- Private method of birth control (no messy packaging left around)
- Improved sex life (feel more spontaneous)
- No prep work before having sex (as required for condoms)
What are the Disadvantages?
Many women adjust to the birth control shot with little to no problems. However, every women is different and so are their bodies. Therefore there can be some undesirable side effects. The most common side effect is irregular bleeding. This usually occurs within the first 6 to 12 months of use and can include:
- Fewer and lighter periods (after one year)
- Heavier and longer periods
- Light bleeding and spotting between periods
Some women think they are pregnant if they don’t get their period. However, not bleeding is common with this form of birth control. If you are taking the shot correctly and consistently, not bleeding is not a problem. This method is effective in preventing pregnancy.
Some less common side effects include:
- Sore breasts
- Change in sex drive
- Increased hair on face/body or loss hair
- Weight gain or change in appetite
There are no ways to avoid the side effects of this method. They will continue to wear off when the shot stops having its effect after 12 weeks (could take up to 14 weeks). However, if you start up again they will persist. The side effects will vary based on how your body reacts to the shot.
Serious side effects, like the ones list below, should be reported to a health profession immediately:
- Yellowing of eyes or skin
- Migraine with an aura – flashing zigzags, seeing bright (before a bad headache)
- New lump on your breast
- Major depression
- Pain, pus or bleeding where you were giving the shot
- Prologue vaginal bleeding
How Effective is the Shot?
When you use it correctly and consistently every 3 months, this method is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- Less than 1 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they always use the birth control method as directed
- 6 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they don’t consistently take the shot or if they take it late
If taken within the first seven days of your period, you are immediately safe from becoming pregnant. The same is true if taken within five days after an abortion, miscarriage, or within 3 weeks of giving birth.
Otherwise, as a precaution you should be using backup birth control, like a female condom or male condom, for the first week. Since the shot is not effective at protecting you from infections, use a condom if STI’s are a concern.
Each birth control shot will protect you against pregnancy for a 12 week period. After every 12 weeks, it is important to go back to your health care provider to receive another shot. If you are two or more weeks late getting it, they will ask you to take a pregnancy test.
How Safe is the Shot?
This is a safe method of birth control. All methods have some risks so it is up to you and your doctor to decide which is right for you.
Do not use the shot if you:
- Have fragile bone fractures (breaks)
- Breast cancer
- Medication (to treat Cushing’s Syndrome)
Again, talk to a health professional to find out which birth control options are right for you.