Commonly referred to as the birth control shot, Depo-Provera® is an injectable form of birth control. This contraceptive option is a shot that’s given on a regular schedule (every three months). It doesn’t require any daily action and is very effective when taken according to the schedule.
Depo-Provera® (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate) is an injectable birth control method for women. Commonly called the depo shot or birth control shot, this medication is injected into your arm or buttocks. It contains a type of progesterone hormone Depo-Provera® shots provide protection against pregnancy for up to 14 weeks — though you typically need to receive one shot every 12 weeks.
Although Depo-Provera® is effective at preventing pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s important to still use barrier protection (condoms) to prevent STIs.
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The Depo-Provera® shot works by impacting ovulation — the part of the reproductive cycle when an egg is released from a woman’s ovary — and thickening your cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from successfully getting to the egg.
The shot is injected into your muscle (often your arm or buttocks) and needs to be provided on a schedule of approximately every 12 weeks or three months.
This injectable type of birth control has a few differences from other forms of birth control. Unlike an oral contraceptive, you do not need to do anything daily with the birth control shot. You receive the shot every three months from your provider and — other than making sure you stick to the schedule for receiving your shot on time — you don’t need to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.
This type of birth control is a prescription medication that must be ordered by your healthcare provider (often your Ob/Gyn or women’s health provider). In many cases, the injection is given in your provider’s office by a nurse or a nurse that can come to your home. There is a different brand of the birth control shot that can be administered by patients at home. This shot is called Depo-subQ Provera 104. Unlike the Depo-Provera® shot that you may receive in your provider’s office, this version doesn’t need to go into your muscular tissue. Your provider will teach you how to properly give yourself this shot before you start doing it on your own. Currently, there’s no generic version of this medication. For cost reasons, many patients plan for intramuscular injections given by nurses.
The first injection of Depo-Provera® is usually given within the first seven days of the start of your menstrual period. However, it can be given at another time if you and your healthcare provider are confident that you aren’t pregnant. Your provider may have you take a pregnancy test before getting the shot.
Once your provider has given you the shot, 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. It’s important to stick with the schedule for your shot. You shouldn’t be more than two weeks late coming in for your Depo-Provera® shot. If you are late or miss a shot, you can get pregnant. You can come in earlier than 12 weeks if you need to. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best timing for your shots and the risks of missing a shot.
You’re immediately protected after receiving the first Depo-Provera® shot if you get it during your menstrual period. If it’s given to you at another time during your cycle, you may need to wait a week to 10 days before having intercourse without a condom to prevent pregnancy.
Depo-Provera® is 96% effective in preventing pregnancy, which means that about four unplanned pregnancies will occur out of every 100 women every year. Women at greatest risk of accidental pregnancy while taking the birth control shot include younger women, such as adolescents (teens). This is typically related to human error, such as not getting your shot on time or missing a shot. IUDs (brand names ParaGard®, Mirena®, Skyla®) and implants placed in the upper arm (Nexplanon®) are considered to be the most effective forms of contraception.
Most women can safely use Depo-Provera®. However, the birth control shot isn’t recommended for everyone. Women who have certain conditions may not be good candidates for the birth control shot. These conditions include:
Talk to your healthcare provider about your complete medical history when considering the birth control shot.
Depo-Provera can cause you to experience a number of side effects, including:
You should talk to your healthcare provider about any possible side effects of Depo-Provera®.
Most of these side effects are not common. Changes in your menstrual cycle is the most common side effect that women experience. You may experience irregular bleeding or spotting. After a year of use, about 50% of women will stop getting their periods. It’s not medically necessary to have a period every month to be healthy. Periods usually return when you stop talking the shot.
You can become pregnant after taking Depo-Provera®. You could become pregnant as soon as 12 to 14 weeks after your last shot. It could also take up to a year or two to conceive after stopping this type of contraception. If you’re planning on becoming pregnant in the next year, you may not want to start taking the birth control shot.
Remember, you can also become pregnant if you miss a dose of the birth control shot or if it’s late.
The birth control shot does not protect you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To help protect yourself from STIs, use a male and/or female condom each time you and your partner have sex.
There are several advantages of using Depo-Provera®, including:
Your healthcare provider will discuss the disadvantages of this birth control option before you take your first shot. These disadvantages can include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It is important to find the right birth control that fits your lifestyle and goals. Talk to your healthcare provider about factors like how often you want to take birth control and your plans for any future pregnancies. Certain options, like the birth control shot, are good for people who do not want to take a daily contraceptive. However, you do have to stick to a schedule for your shots when you take Depo-Provera®. Talk to your provider about the pros and cons of the birth control shot to decide if it’s the right option for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/12/2021.
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