Depo Provera

What is Depo Provera and how does it work?

Depo Provera is a long acting form of birth control and is used to treat irregular periods (menstrual irregularities). It is given by injection (a shot) into the muscle. It is slowly released over 3 months. It has a female hormone (progestin) and works by stopping the release of an egg each month.

Depo Provera follow up

You must go back to the clinic 12 weeks after you get your shot of Depo Provera. This appointment will be with a nurse. The nurse will only be able to give you the next shot.

If you want to change to a different birth control, please call the clinic at 1-319-356-2294 for an appointment with a doctor.

You will see your doctor at your yearly exam. You should have yearly exams for your routine health care.

How is Depo Provera used?

The shots are given in the hip once every 12 weeks.

They may be given earlier than 12 weeks if you cannot make your next appointment at the scheduled time.

Do not have a shot more than 1 week late or you could become pregnant.

How well does Depo Provera work?

Less than 1% of users become pregnant during the first year of use. This means it works as well as birth control pills or getting your tubes tied.

Pros

  • Ease of use
    • You get a shot at 3 months instead of taking a pill each day or using something each time you have sex.
  • It works well if you get your shots on time. 
    • If the first shot is given during your period, the birth control works within 24 hours.
    • If you are not having your period, a pregnancy test will be done and you must use a backup method of birth control for 3 weeks.
  • You can become pregnant again after stopping the shots.
  • It can be used by women who cannot take estrogen, the hormone in most birth control pills.
  • Studies have shown that there is no greater risk for breast, ovarian, liver, or cervical cancer. It lowers the risk of cancer of the uterus.
  • It is safe to use while breastfeeding. 
    • It will not change the quantity or quality of milk.
    • It will not harm the baby.
    • The shot can be given in the first few days after childbirth.

Cons

  • You can have irregular bleeding (mostly spotting) in the first year of use. The bleeding lessens over time. After 1 year, half of the women using this method will stop having periods.
  • Some women have had loss of bone mineral density. For most women, this bone density loss is partially or totally replaced after stopping. Women with known osteoporosis should have periodic assessment of their bone density while on it.
  • Weight gain
    • Women may gain 5 to 10 pounds. This happens most often for women who eat high fat diets and/or who do not exercise.
  • Fertility may take a while to come back after the shots are stopped. Most women who want to become pregnant will become pregnant within 6 to 8 months after the last shot. It rarely may take longer than a year.
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condom use is to lower your risk of infections.
  • Rare side effects are:
    • Headaches
    • Feeling nervous
    • Lowered sex drive
    • Dizziness
    • Fatigue
    • Breast tenderness

Who should not take Depo Provera?

  • If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
  • If you have irregular vaginal bleeding that has not been checked health care provider.
  • If you have certain types of liver disease.
  • If you have had breast cancer.
Last reviewed: 
March 2020

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