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At-home administration of the birth control shot reduces barriers for patients and could lower the chances of unintended pregnancy

NEW YORK, NY — A new study published in the journal Contraception from researchers at Planned Parenthood finds that giving people the option to self-administer the birth control shot at home is safe, improves access to health care, and means patients are more likely to continue using the shot. The study is a unique contribution to research on the birth control shot, and it’s the largest study yet showing that women of all ages who self-administer the birth control shot at home experience fewer barriers to continued use. The authors conclude that self-administration should be made widely available as an option for patients interested in using the birth control shot.

“As a doctor, I see firsthand what a difference birth control can make in the lives of my patients,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This study shows that making it easier for people to use their preferred birth control method at home, rather than having to go to a health care provider every three months, eliminates barriers to access, including visit costs and transportation — and it allows patients to be more in control of their reproductive health.”

The birth control shot (sometimes called Depo-Provera, the Depo shot, or DMPA) is a safe and effective method of birth control that requires people to get an injection from a health care provider every three months. This study randomized 400 women ages 16–44 who requested the birth control shot at Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas and New Jersey to either self-administer Depo at home or continue to return to the health center every three months for injections as usual. Participants who would be self-administering the birth control shot were taught how to self-inject and a health care provider observed the first injection.

After one year, 69 percent of people in the self-administration group were still using the shot, compared to 54 percent in the group that received injections at the health center, a statistically significant 15 percent difference. Among the self-administration group, 97 percent reported that self-administration was very or somewhat easy, and 87 percent said they would recommend it to a friend.

“Planned Parenthood is an expert on birth control, and we work every day to increase people’s access to health care, so we’re excited to put these findings into practice,” McDonald-Mosley said. “People safely self-administer various types of injectable medications, for reasons ranging from diabetes to hormone therapy to infertility. Why should the birth control shot be any different?”

Planned Parenthood health centers provide 2.8 million birth control services to patients each year, and serve 41 percent of contraceptive patients accessing care through the nation’s family planning program. About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood's birth control patients decided to use the birth control shot in 2015.

“Planned Parenthood uses the latest research to improve our standards of care and break down barriers to people’s access to reproductive health care services,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “It’s critical that we do everything we can to make birth control more accessible, especially at a time when politicians are doing everything they can to make it more difficult. This study shows one way we can improve people’s access to the birth control method of their choice, while increasing the effectiveness of that method — and that’s what Planned Parenthood is all about.”

The Trump administration poses the biggest threat to birth control access since it became legal more than 50 years ago. In the months since Trump has taken office, we’ve seen a full-on assault on women’s health and rights. This administration is filled with people who oppose access to birth control, and it’s become clear they are likely to continue restricting access — whether by getting rid of programs that help women with low incomes access birth control, by further eliminating no-copay insurance coverage for birth control, or even by prohibiting health care providers from giving women information about birth control and abortion.

“Congress and the Trump administration should listen to the American people and stop attacking access to basic reproductive health care, including birth control,” Richards said. “People want to see policymakers working to improve health care access, not take it away.”

Planned Parenthood will incorporate the study’s findings into its national medical guidelines in the coming year, which will allow health centers to make at-home administration of Depo an option for patients. Planned Parenthood has one of the most rigorous medical standards and accreditation processes in the country, including a set of evidence-based Medical Standards and Guidelines that are updated regularly to reflect new evidence and research on best practices.

The study’s lead author is Dr. Julia Kohn, national director of research for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The research was funded by a grant from the Tara Health Foundation.

Planned Parenthood understands that birth control methods are not one-size-fits-all. A method that’s perfect for one person may not be right for another. The best birth control method is one that meets your needs, and those needs can change throughout your life. By choosing a method that best fits your individual needs, you'll be more likely to use it correctly and stick with it. That’s why Planned Parenthood offers the full range of contraceptive options — including the birth control shot — along with information and education to help people make informed decisions about which method is best for them.

For more information about the birth control shot or any other method of birth control, visit PlannedParenthood.org.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.