The idea of getting a single shot that protects you against an unwanted pregnancy for months at a time is very appealing. But is it worth it and how does this injection work? The injection is called by its brand name, Depo Provera. It works by releasing a hormone called progestin. The hormone prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation. If there is no egg in the fallopian tubes, then pregnancy cannot occur. It also works in a second way by thickening the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from getting through. When the egg and sperm cannot meet, pregnancy is prevented.
What Are the Advantages of Depo-Provera?
The main advantage of having a birth control shot is its sheer simplicity. With just a single shot you can obtain long-lasting and highly effective protection against unwanted pregnancy. You won’t need to do anything else before having sex, and you won’t need to remember to take a pill each day. It’s extremely discreet because you won’t need to carry anything with you and there’s no packaging or any other evidence to show which method of birth control you use.
The injection can be a good choice for women who are unable to take estrogen and who would be unsuitable for other methods of birth control including the pill or patch. Because of this, the shot can be used for women who are breastfeeding. There’s also the possibility that it could help protect against cancer in the lining of the uterus.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
As with any type of medication, some women will experience unwanted side-effects the most common of which is irregular bleeding that can occur during the first six months to a year of use. Most women will find their periods become lighter and less frequent, and some may stop having periods altogether. Other women may experience longer and heavier periods or spotting in between. If you do experience any side effects, then these will wear off with the shot.
How Frequently Would I Need a Birth Control Shot?
To make sure your birth control shot is still working to its full potential, you must get a new shot every 12 weeks or approximately three months. That’s only four times a year. The shot must be given to you by your obstetrician or by a nurse, so you must make an appointment and then remember actually to attend!
If you are two weeks late in getting your shot, you might need to take a pregnancy test, just to check before you have another injection. You can have the next injection from 10 weeks onwards after receiving the last injection, and up to 14 weeks after receiving the last birth control shot. If you have the injection beyond 14 weeks, then you will need to use another form of contraception.
You can begin using the shot whenever you want, and if you schedule it for within the first week after the start of your period, you’ll be protected against pregnancy immediately. There’s nothing to stop you getting the shot at any other time during your cycle, but you will need to use another form of birth control for the first week. You can also receive the shot within five days after an abortion or miscarriage, or just three weeks after giving birth.
Is It Effective?
Provided you remember to get your shots on time then the effectiveness of Depo-Provera is more than 99%. What this means in practice is that less than one out of every 100 women who use the shot will get pregnant. However, in reality, the shot has an effectiveness rate of approximately 94% because not everyone will remember to get their shots on time. It is vital to remember that the birth control shot won’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections.
Is It Safe?
Depo-Provera is exceptionally safe for most women, but your health care provider can talk about potential risks and will need to discuss your medical history with you. Every medication carries some level of risk, so it’s essential to ensure you choose the right method of birth control for your needs. A birth control shot may not be suitable for you if you are taking medication for Cushing’s syndrome, or if you have fragile bones and have experienced fractures, if you have had breast cancer, or are pregnant.
Even if Depo-Provera isn’t right for you, your health care provider can most likely discuss other more suitable methods of contraception and can help you choose a method that is more appropriate.