Depo-Provera (The Shot)

Depo-Provera®, the shot a woman gets every three months, is an extremely popular and effective method of pregnancy prevention.

WHAT IS IT?
Depo-Provera® is in injection of as synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, a hormone naturally produced in a woman’s body. A woman using Depo gets an injection every three months (13 weeks). The hormone in Depo induces a resting state in the ovaries, which means that they do not develop eggs for release. Depo may also cause changes in the cervical mucus (so the sperm can’t get through) and in the lining of the uterus that can make it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant.

WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Depo-Provera® requires a prescription. Many private doctors offices have Depo-Provera® available, as do most family planning clinics. Most clinicians require that a woman have a full physical (including a pelvic exam and a Pap test) before beginning on Depo. The health care provider who will administer the injection will the give the woman specific instructions on when to come in for her first shot.

HOW DO I USE IT?
A woman using Depo-Provera® simply has to return to her health care provider every 3 months (13 weeks) for her injection, given in the upper arm or in the buttock.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS?
Some women do experience side effects while using this method. The most common side effects of Depo-Provera® are:

o Irregular menstrual bleeding, which could be absence of bleeding, prolonged light or moderate bleeding, or spotting
o Weight gain (usually less than 5 pounds in a year)

Depo-Provera® has been found to cause temporary bone mineral loss, so women who use it are encouraged to get plenty of calcium (from dairy products or supplements). The loss is reversible, and an adequate intake of calcium while using Depo can help minimize the effects.

Serious side effects of Depo are rare but possible, and include things like stroke or blood clot. Though these side effects are most common in women who are smokers and are over 35 years old, it is important for all women who use Depo to be aware of the warning signs of serious side effects:

o Sharp chest pain
o Shortness of breath
o Coughing up blood
o Sudden, severe headache
o Dizziness
o Fainting
o Sudden problems with eyesight
o Numbness in the arm or leg
o Pain or swelling in the calf
o Unusually heavy vaginal bleeding
o Severe pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen
o Persistent pain, pus, or bleeding at the injection site

If a woman has been using Depo and experiences any of these symptoms, she should contact a health care provider immediately.

HOW WELL DOES IT WORK?
If a woman gets her shots as needed, Depo-Provera® is well over 99% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. Because a health care provider administers the shots, there is little opportunity for user error, which can decrease the effectiveness of the method. Depo does not provide any protection at all against Sexually Transmitted Infections and STIs.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD?
Advantages:
o Very private; no one will know that the woman is using it unless she tells them
o Highly effective
o Reversible
o Not very expensive
o Many women stop having periods while on Depo, and some see that as a positive side effect
Disadvantages:
o Possibility of unpleasant side effects, like weight gain and irregular menstrual bleeding
o Requires a woman to get an injection
o A woman using Depo must make and keep appointments with her health care provider every three months
o It can take 12-18 months for a woman’s menstrual cycles to return to normal after she stops getting the shots

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
How much a woman pays for Depo-Provera® depends on where she goes. At the Family Planning Association, we ask for $30 per shot (which lasts for 3 months), or less depending on what a woman can afford. Private providers generally charge $70-$90 per shot. Some insurance policies will pay for all or part of the shot.