What Is The Birth Control Shot? How Does Depo-Provera Work?

woman getting a shot from a nurse

It’s possible to get birth control as a shot. | Source: Shutterstock

We’ve covered other types of lesser-talked about birth control like IUDs, but today we’re jumping into a little fact session about the birth control shot.

Depo-Provera is a shot that is administered to you by your doctor. That means you need to make a regular visit there every 12 weeks to get your shot. This allows a certain kind of privacy and convenience, as you don’t actually have to carry around birth control, take anything daily or be on top of checking on if it’s in.

How does it work? The shot is a progestin form of birth control and it works by preventing eggs from being released from the ovaries, as well making cervical mucous thicker (which helps prevent sperm from reaching a woman’s eggs). If you get the shot within a week of your period’s start, Depo-Provera starts working right away. If you don’t get it during that time in your menstrual cycle, using a back-up form of birth control is recommended for that week after the shot.

While some of you may find shots a little scary, but let’s just say that there’s nothing scary about the effectiveness of the Depo-Provera shot. It is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, like the pill and IUDs, the Depo shot does not protect you from STDs (so again, as always, wear a condom!)

One of the most common side effects is an altered period – this includes irregular bleeding, and in fact, many women on Depo-Provera stop getting their period over time. According to the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective resource, Our Bodies, Ourselves, because each shot of Depo-Provera lasts for an extended time, for some women that means uncomfortable side effects can also last longer.

One side effect in particular that has been studied is the effect that Depo-Provera shots have on a woman losing bone density. Depo-Provera actually comes with a warning that discusses how the shot can decrease bone mineral density (and that loss may not be fully reversible) and also how it could lead to “osteoperostic fractures” later in life. The warning also states that Depo-Provera isn’t suggested as a birth control method for greater than two years, unless its the only adequate option.

While we are here to let you know what sorts of birth control options exist, remember that it’s your doctor who can answer any personal questions in order to find what method will work best for your body and needs. They can further discuss side effects or who is a good candidate for Depo-Provera with you. As usual though, it’s just good to know that there are multiple kinds of birth control options out there to help you find what works best for you!

Would you ever consider using a birth control shot? Has your doctor talked to you about Depo-Provera? Tell me in the comments!

What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You About Your Birth Control Options

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  • Angela Johnson

    I’m on this my doctor recommended me this option due to i can’t have estrogen, I don’t have any weight gain at all. I love it.

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  • Nora

    Depo have made my life a living HELL, I only got 1 got, 3 days after I steratd feeling sick, Dizzy, headachs, palpitations, been in and out †̥ђε ER countless times, been Atmitted a few times, doctors can’t find anything, stress test, Mri, EP study, chest Xtray, EKG,blood work †̥ђε whole works, nothing ώǻa7 found, I never went back for a next shot, I just wonna know how long before these side effects go away? I am FED UP

  • Jackie

    I got the shot and I loved it at first. After about two months I got my period and it stuck around for three weeks! I ended up having to take super strong birth control pills to make it stop. I wont be getting the shot again!