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Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about the birth control shot. We hope you find the answers helpful.
The birth control shot is an injection of a hormone that prevents pregnancy. Each shot prevents pregnancy for three months.
The shot is also known by the brand name Depo-Provera, or by the name of the medicine in the shot, DMPA.
Like other methods of birth control, the birth control shot releases a hormone — progestin — into the body. Hormones are chemicals made in our bodies. They control how different parts of our bodies work.
The progestin in the shot works by
Effectiveness is an important and common concern when choosing a birth control method. The birth control shot is one of the most effective methods of birth control available. It works best when you get the birth control shot regularly, every 12 weeks.
Keep in mind the birth control shot doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. Use a latex or female condom to reduce the risk of infection.
If you get the birth control shot within the first seven days after the start of your period, you are protected from pregnancy immediately. If you get the shot within five days after miscarriage or an abortion, or within three weeks after giving birth, you are protected from pregnancy immediately. Otherwise, you need to use some form of backup birth control — like a condom, female condom, diaphragm, sponge, or emergency contraception (morning after pill) — for the first week after getting the shot.
Each shot of Depo-Provera will protect you from pregnancy for 12 weeks. So you will need to go to your health care provider every 12 weeks for a shot. If you are two or more weeks late getting your shot, your health care provider may ask you to take a pregnancy test, or may advise you to use emergency contraception if you had vaginal intercourse in the previous 120 hours (five days).
Most women can use the birth control shot safely. But all medications have some risks, so safety is a concern when choosing a birth control method. Certain conditions increase the risk of serious side effects.
You should not use the shot if you
Talk with your health care provider about your health and whether the shot is likely to be safe for you.
There are many other methods of birth control that may be safe for you if you cannot use the shot. Read about other methods to find one that may be right for you.
Some women may have undesirable side effects while using the birth control shot. But many women adjust to it with few or no problems. Serious problems do not occur often.
Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect, especially in the first 6 to 12 months of use.
These side effects are completely normal. Some woman may worry that they are pregnant if they do not have a regular period. But when the birth control shot is used correctly, it is very effective. If you are concerned about a possible pregnancy, you can always take a pregnancy test.
There are also some less common side effects:
There is no way to stop the side effects of Depo-Provera — they may continue until the shot wears off, in 12 to 14 weeks.
It’s important that you find a method that won’t make you feel sick or uncomfortable. If the side effects from the birth control shot continue to bother you, talk with your health care provider.
Because the birth control shot is long lasting, it can take a long time to get pregnant after getting your last shot — anywhere from 6–10 months. So, Depo-Provera is not a good birth control method for you if you’re thinking of getting pregnant soon.
Serious problems usually have warning signs. Report any of these signs to your health care provider immediately:
Although Depo-Provera is highly effective in preventing pregnancy, in the very rare cases where pregnancy does occur, it is more likely to be an ectopic pregnancy, which can be life threatening.
Women who use the birth control shot may have temporary bone thinning. It increases the longer they use it. Bone growth begins again when women stop using the shot. Talk with your health care provider about the risks. You can help protect your bones by exercising regularly and getting extra calcium and vitamin D, either through the food you eat or from vitamin supplements.
First, you’ll need to get a prescription. Visit a Planned Parenthood health center, a clinic, or a private health care provider for a prescription. Your health care provider will discuss your medical history with you and give you any other medical exam that you may need. The health care provider will then give you an injection. You may have a temporary bruise.
If you need an exam, it may cost about $0 to $250. Each visit after the initial exam may cost between $0 and $150.
If you are more than two weeks late for your injection, you may need a pregnancy test before getting your shot. Pregnancy tests cost about $0 to $20.
Planned Parenthood works to make health care accessible and affordable. Some health centers are able to charge according to income. Most accept health insurance. If you qualify, Medicaid or other state programs may lower your health care costs.
Call your local Planned Parenthood health center to get specific information on costs.
Q&A with Dr. Cullins