What is Depo-Provera®?

Depo-Provera® is a birth control method for women. It is made up of a hormone similar to progesterone and is given as a shot into the woman's arm or buttocks. Each shot provides protection against pregnancy for up to 14 weeks, but the shot should be received once every 12 weeks. Depo-Provera does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

Where can I get Depo-Provera?

This is a prescription medication and must be ordered by a doctor or nurse practitioner. The injection is usually given in the office by a nurse. There is a different brand that can be administered by patients at home, called Depo-subQ Provera 104. Patients will need teaching on how to give themselves the shots before they can start doing this on their own.

How is Depo-Provera used?

The first injection is often given within 5 days of the beginning of your menstrual period. However, it can be given at another time if you and your doctor can be confident that you are not pregnant. Once the shot has been given, no additional steps are needed to prevent pregnancy. With Depo-Provera, you must receive another shot once every three months (12 weeks) to remain fully protected. You should not be more than 2 weeks late coming in for the Depo-Provera shot, otherwise you can get pregnant. However you can come in earlier than 12 weeks if needed.

How soon does it work?

Protection begins immediately after the first shot if given during a menstrual period. If given at another time in the cycle, wait a week to ten days before having intercourse without a condom.

How effective is Depo-Provera?

Although it used to be quoted that Depo-Provera is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, it turns out that there can be anywhere between 6-12 accidental pregnancies in every 100 Depo users each year. Women at greatest risk of accidental pregnancy include younger women such as adolescents. Much of this may have to do with human error, such as forgetting to come in for the shots on time. IUDs (brand names ParaGard®, Mirena®, Skyla®) and implants placed in the upper arm (Nexplanon®) are considered to be the most effective forms of contraception, and are 99% effective.

Can any woman use Depo-Provera?

Most women can use Depo-Provera. However, it is not recommended for women who have:

Are there side effects associated with Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera can cause a number of side effects, including:

  • Irregular menstrual periods, or no periods at all
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Acne
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive growth of facial and body hair
  • Hair loss

You should discuss the potential side effects of Depo-Provera with your doctor.

Most of these side effects are not common. Change in the menstrual cycle is the most common side effect. You may experience irregular bleeding or spotting. After a year of use, about 50% of women will stop getting their periods. It is not medically necessary to have a period each month to be healthy. In fact, many women enjoy the freedom of not having a monthly menstrual cycle. Periods usually return when shots are discontinued .Weight gain is of particular concern for women who are already overweight.

Can I become pregnant after I stop using Depo-Provera?

With Depo-Provera, you could become pregnant as soon as 12 to 14 weeks after your last shot. It may take some women up to a year or two to conceive after they stop using this type of birth control.

Does Depo-Provera protect against sexually transmitted diseases?

No. To help protect yourself from STDs, use a male condom each time you and your partner have sex.

What are the advantages of using Depo-Provera?

  • You don't have to remember to take it every day or use it before sex.
  • It provides long-term protection as long as you get the shot every three months.
  • It doesn't interfere with sexual activity.
  • It's highly effective.

What are the disadvantages of using Depo-Provera?

  • It can cause unwanted side effects.
  • It does not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
  • It can cause irregular menstrual periods.
  • You need to stop taking Depo-Provera several months ahead of time if you plan to become pregnant.
  • Regular office visits for injections can be inconvenient (for those who don’t want to do the shots at home themselves).

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