THE SHOT

The birth control shot is commonly known by the brand name Depo-Provera (DMPA) or Depo-shot. Depo-Provera is a contraceptive injection for women that contains the hormone progestin. Depo-Provera is given as an injection every three months (12-14 weeks). The shot typically suppresses ovulation, keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg. The shot also thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg.

Medroxyprogesterone injection is also available in a lower dosage. This version is called Depo-SubQ Provera 104. While Depo-Provera is injected deep into the muscle, Depo-SubQ Provera 104 is injected just beneath the skin. Both injections have similar benefits and risks. To use Depo-Provera or Depo-SubQ Provera 104, you'll need to visit your doctor or other health care provider.

Risks

In a year of typical use, an estimated 6 out of 100 women using Depo-Provera will get pregnant. But the risk of pregnancy is much lower in women who return every 3 months for their injections.

Depo-SubQ Provera 104 was highly effective in initial studies. However, it's a newer medication, so current research may not reflect pregnancy rates in typical use.

Things to consider about Depo-Provera are

  • You might have a delay in your return to fertility. After stopping Depo-Provera, it might take 10 months or more before you begin ovulating again. If you want to become pregnant in the next year or so, Depo-Provera might not be the right birth control method for you. ... Read More
  • Depo-Provera doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections. In fact, some studies suggest that hormonal contraceptives such as Depo-Provera might increase a woman's risk of chlamydia and HIV. It isn't known whether this association is due to the hormone or behavioral issues related to the use of reliable contraception.

    Using condoms will decrease your risk of a sexually transmitted infection. If you're concerned about HIV, talk with your health care provider.

  • It might affect bone mineral density. Research has suggested that Depo-Provera and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 might cause a loss of bone mineral density. This loss might be especially concerning in teens who haven't reached their peak bone mass. And it's not clear whether this loss is reversible.

    Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration added strong warnings to the injection packaging cautioning that Depo-Provera and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 shouldn't be used for longer than two years. The warning also states that using these products might increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures later in life.

    If you have other risk factors for osteoporosis, such as a family history of bone loss and certain eating disorders, it's a good idea to discuss the potential risks and benefits of this form of contraception with your doctor, as well as learn about other contraceptive options.

Other side effects of Depo-Provera might include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Depression (sleep problems, weakness, mood changes)
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irregular periods and breakthrough bleeding
  • Nervousness
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Weight gain

Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you have:

  • Depression
  • Heavy bleeding or concerns about your bleeding patterns
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pus, prolonged pain, redness, itching or bleeding at the injection site
  • Severe lower abdominal pain
  • A serious allergic reaction, including swelling in your face, hands, ankles, or feet
  • Other symptoms that concern you

Many experts believe progestin-only contraceptive methods, such as Depo-Provera, carry significantly lower risks of these types of complications than do contraceptive methods that contain both estrogen and progestin.