What is the birth control shot?
The birth control shot, most commonly known as Depo-Provera® or DMPA, is an injection of the progestin hormone. This hormone is injected into the arm or the buttocks every three months in order to prevent the egg and sperm from joining. Since it does not protect against STIs, the birth control shot should be used with a latex or female condom. It costs about $35-$100 per injection and is available prescription only through a healthcare provider.
The shot is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly. It provides immediate protection if it is injected:
- within the first seven days after the start of the menstrual period.
- within five days after a miscarriage or abortion.
- within three weeks after giving birth.
If injected at any other time, a backup form of birth control (i.e. a condom or diaphragm) should be used for the first week following the shot. If the follow-up shot is taken two or more weeks late, there is a high risk for pregnancy.
There are several advantages to the birth control shot. Unlike the pill, which is taken on a daily basis, the shot is injected only once every 12 weeks. Also, there is no way to misuse this form of birth control as long as you attend the doctor appointments. It allows females to take control and responsibility over their pregnancy protection. There is also no fear of failure (like a condom breaking). The birth control shot can reduce menstrual cramps, provide protection against endometrial cancer, and help prevent iron deficiency anemia.
For most females, their menstrual period will become lighter and less frequent. After the first year, half of the females receiving the shot may completely stop having their period. The shot will also help to maintain sexual spontaneity, since it does not require application prior to intercourse. It also does not contain estrogen, so women with a family history of blood clots and women who are breastfeeding can use this form of birth control.
The shot DOES NOT provide protection against STIs. The shot may also cause irregular menstrual bleeding, especially within the first year of use. Though many females will begin having shorter and lighter periods, some may experience longer and heavier periods and increased spotting between periods. Less common side effects may include a change in sexual desire, change in appetite or weight gain, depression, hair loss, excessive hair growth, headaches, nausea, or sore breasts. There is no way to stop side effects once injected, so they may continue the three months until the shot wears off. Talk to a health care provider if experiencing discomfort from the shot.
Since it is injected, some females may also feel physical pain from the needle. The shot may also cause temporary bone thinning, linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis. To provide protection, females should exercise regularly and get enough calcium and Vitamin D through their diet or from supplements. Bone growth begins again once the shot is stopped. If pregnancy does occur while on the shot, there is increased risk for ectopic pregnancy. The birth control shot is not immediately reversible, so it can take 6-10 months to become pregnant following the last shot.
Last Updated 28 February 2013.