Birth Control Shot at a Glance
- A shot in the arm or buttocks that prevents pregnancy
- Safe, effective, convenient
- Easy to get with a prescription
- Lasts for 3 months
- Cost is $0-$100 per injection, plus any exam fees
Is the Birth Control Shot Right for Me?
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about the birth control shot.
What Is The Birth Control Shot?
The shot (aka Depo-Provera, the Depo shot, or DMPA) is an injection you get from a nurse or doctor once every 3 months. It is a safe, convenient, and private birth control method that works very well if you get it on time as prescribed.
How Does The Birth Control Shot Work?
The birth control shot contains the hormone progestin. Progestin stops you from getting pregnant by preventing ovulation. When there is no egg in the tube, pregnancy cannot occur. It also works by making cervical mucus thicker. When the mucus on the cervix is thicker, the sperm cannot get through. And when the sperm and the egg do not get together, pregnancy cannot happen!
Does The Shot Protect Against STDs?
No. The shot is really good at preventing pregnancy, but it will not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
Luckily, using condoms every time you have sex really lowers the chance of getting or spreading STDs. The other great thing about condoms is that they also protect against pregnancy, which means that using condoms along with the shot gives you excellent pregnancy-preventing power!
How Do I Make The Shot Work Best For Me?
To get the shot’s full birth control effects, you have to remember to get a new shot every 12-13 weeks. That’s about every 3 months, or 4 times a year. The shot must be given to you by a doctor or a nurse, so you have to make an appointment and then remember to go to the appointment. It sounds simple, but sometimes things come up, so you must plan for that.
You can start using the birth control shot whenever you want. If you get your first shot within the first 7 days after the start of your period. You’re protected from pregnancy right away. If you get it at any other time in your cycle, you need to use another form of birth control (like a condom) for the first week after getting the shot.
After your first shot, it is all about remembering to get your follow-up shots. Here are some tips to make sure you stay on top of it:
- Use a birth control reminder app or set an alarm on your phone
- Add it to whatever calendar you use on a daily basis
- Ask friends, family members, or your partner to remind you
Bottom line: do whatever works for you to make sure you get your follow-up shots about every 12-13 weeks. If you are 2 or more weeks late getting your shot, your doctor or nurse may ask you to take a pregnancy test, or tell you to use emergency contraception if you had vaginal sex in the previous 120 hours (5 days).
There Can Be Negative Side Effects While You Use the Shot
Some people may get annoying side effects while using the birth control shot, but many of them go away after 2 or 3 months. Many people use the shot with no problems at all.
Most women have some change in their periods, including bleeding more days than usual, spotting between periods, or having no period. This is most common during the first year.
Lots of women who use the shot stop getting their period altogether after about a year of using it. This, like all side effects of the shot, goes away after you stop getting the shot. Your period should go bak to normal within a few months after your last shot wears off.
Other possible side effects of the shot include:
- nausea or mild stomach pain
- weight gain
- decreased sex drive
- headaches or joint pain
- breast tenderness
- hair loss or more hair on the face or body
- depression or feeling tired or irritable
- slight bruising where the shot was administered
- very rarely, a small, permanent dent in the skin where the shot was given
If you get any of these side effects and they really bother you, talk with your doctor or nurse.
It may take up to 10 months after discontinuing the birth control shot to get pregnant. If you decide that you want to get pregnant right away after you stop getting the shot, you should know the shot may delay your ability to get pregnant by up to 10 months. However, some people do get pregnant soon after stopping the shot. There is no way to know how long it will take you.
How Effective Is The Birth Control Shot?
When used perfectly, the birth control shot effectiveness is more than 99%, meaning fewer than 1 out of every 100 people who use it will get pregnant each year. But when it comes to real life, the shot is about 94% effective, because sometimes people forget to get their shots on time. So in reality, about 6 out of every 100 shot users will get pregnant each year. The better you are about getting your shot on time, the better it will work. But there is a very small chance that you could still get pregnant, even if you always get the shot on time. If effectiveness is the most important thing to you when picking what birth control to use, you might want to investigate IUDs and the implant. They are the most effective kinds of birth control. But if you decide the shot is right for you, make sure you always get your follow-up shots on time.
If you remember to get your shots on time, the shot (Depo-Provera) is a very effective method of birth control. If you want maximum protection from pregnancy, you can also use condoms along with the shot, which will then also protect you from STDs.
The Shot Is Convenient and Private
The birth control shot is easy to get and convenient. Once you get it, you only have to think about birth control four times each year. It is great for people who don’t want to deal with taking a pill every day, or who don’t want to use birth control that interrupts sex.
It is also super private because it is a shot that you get in a doctor’s office; there is no packaging or other evidence of birth control lying around. So nobody has to know that you are using it.
The shot is birth control you don’t have to use during sex, so it won’t get in the way of the action. If you use the shot correctly, you are protected from pregnancy all day, every day. Many people say the shot makes their sex lives better cease they don’t have to interrupt sex or worry about pregnancy.
The Shot Can Make You Get Your Period Less Often While You Use It
Many women like the shot because it makes their periods get lighter. Half of people who use the shot stop getting their periods completely. That usually happens after about a year of using the shot. Not getting your period is totally safe so there’s nothing to worry about. However, for the first 12 months, many women say they bleed more days than usual and have spotting between periods. Your period should go back to normal a few months after you stop using the shot.
The Shot Has Health Benefits
The shot can help protect you from cancer of the uterus and from ectopic pregnancy.
The Shot Is Temporary
Many people who use the birth control shot want to have kids when the time is right. One of the great things about the shot is that it is not permanent, so you can get pregnant after you stop using it if you want to.
While the shot doesn’t change your ability to get pregnant in the long run, it can cause a delay of about 9-10 months in being able to get pregnant after stopping it. So, if you think you will want to get pregnant within the next year or so, talk with your doctor or nurse about other birth control options.
Get Emergency Medical Help If:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
These are signs of an allergic reaction.
Also, please call your doctor immediately if you have any of these serious side effects:
- menstrual periods that are heavier or longer than normal
- sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance
- chest pain, sudden cough, wheezing, rapid breathing, coughing up blood
- pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs
- nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice
- swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet
- symptoms of depression such as sleep problems, weakness, or mood changes