Birth Control – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Depo Provera?

Depo Provera, or DMPA, is a brand of birth control. It is administered as an injection, and is sometimes referred to as the birth control shot. It injects a hormone that prevents pregnancy from happening, and each injection inhibits pregnancy for three months; therefore, a year’s worth of birth control can be achieved with only 4 injections.

How Does Depo Provera Work?

Depo Provera works like other types of birth control, releasing the progestin hormone into the body. The progestin stops pregnancies because it prevents a female from releasing eggs from her ovaries. This process is called ovulation. If ovulation does not take place, the sperm cannot find the eggs, and pregnancy is avoided. In addition, progestin helps in making the female’s cervical mucus thicker, and this aids in obstructing the sperm from connecting with the egg.

Is Depo Provera Effective?

Figuring out the most effective birth control method is a very important step. The Depo Provera birth control shot is one of the most effective methods of birth control available today. The shot is most successful when taken in succession. This means that if you get the shot regularly, every 3 months, its effectiveness is increased. Below are some statistics associated with the Depo Provera birth control shot:

  • Less than 1% of women will become pregnant each year if they always use the birth control shot as directed.
  • Approximately 3% of women will become pregnant each year if they do not always use the birth control shot as directed.

It is significant to note that although the birth control shot does help prevent pregnancy, it does not prevent against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It is necessary to incorporate the use of a condom during sexual activity to protect yourself against these infections.

Getting the Depo Provera shot within the first week after the beginning of your period will protect you from pregnancy right away. In addition, if you get the shot within a week of having an abortion or miscarriage, or within a few weeks after giving birth, you receive protection from getting pregnant immediately. If you are unable to get the shot during these times, it is essential to use another type of birth control in conjunction with the shot, such as: latex condom, female condom, morning after pill, diaphragm, etc. After the first week of using the additional method, the shot should start working effectively on its own.

As stated above, the shot is administered every 3 months. You have to go to your clinic or healthcare provider every 12 weeks for your shot; if you are two or more weeks late getting the shot you may have to use emergency contraception (morning after pill) if you have had vaginal intercourse in the past 5 days leading up to your shot appointment. It is not unusual for your healthcare provider to ask you to take a pregnancy test. Depo Provera needs to be strictly administered every 12 weeks, otherwise the chances of getting pregnant increases.

Is Depo Provera Safe?

Depo Provera is a very safe method of birth control, but there are side effects that can intensify under certain conditions:

Do not take the shot if these conditions are present:

  • You are taking medicine for Cushing’s syndrome
  • You are already pregnant
  • You have breast cancer
  • You have a blood clot in a vein/artery and are not taking medicine for it
  • You have had bone fragility or fractures/breaks

It is important to communicate with your clinic or healthcare provider about birth control and if the Depo Provera shot is right for you.

Advantages of Depo Provera

  • It is very safe, convenient and a simple procedure
  • It is an effective, semi-permanent pregnancy protection
  • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day
  • There are no procedures before engaging in sexual intercourse
  • It is private, with no pills or packages
  • It contains progestin, as opposed to estrogen, which is easier for some women to take, or better for those who cannot take estrogen or are breastfeeding.
  • It has been shown to help prevent cancer in the uterus lining.

Disadvantages of Depo Provera

The side effects are possibly the worst deterrent for some women on Depo Provera. However, there are many women who take the shot with no problems or side effects at all. The side effects really depend on each woman and their particular response to the medication. Below are some disadvantages associated with the Depo Provera birth control shot:

  • Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect, especially in the first 6 to 12 months of use.
  • During the 6 to 12 months there can be irregular bleeding
  • Half of the women will stop having periods after one year of use
  • However, some women have longer, heavier periods.
  • Some women experience spotting and light bleeding between periods.
  • Some experience a change in sex drive
  • A change in appetite
  • Weight gain (this one causes the most concern)
  • Depression
  • Hair loss or hair increase (usually on face)
  • Increased headaches
  • Increased nausea
  • Nervousness and dizziness
  • Rashes or darkening of the skin
  • Tender and sore breasts

The side effects of the shot can wear off during the first and second cycle (3 months or more). Most women do not usually have side effects that last this long, but some do. If you feel uncomfortable or ill, it is imperative to go to your clinic or speak with your healthcare provider to find out if the shot should be continued.

Because of Depo Provera’s effectiveness, if you are thinking about getting pregnant within the next year or so, the shot may not be right for you. It can take anywhere from 8 months to over a year to get pregnant again after using the shot.

How do I get Depo Provera?

You can get the Depo Provera shot from your clinic or healthcare provider, but you will need a prescription. A medical examination is needed before any injection is administered. Talk to your local clinic to find out if the Depo Provera shot is an option that fits your lifestyle.

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