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Depo-Provera is the brand name of the birth control shot. It’s an injectable form of the medication depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, or DMPA for short. DMPA contains progestin, a synthetic hormone that works like progesterone, the female sex hormone.

DMPA was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. It’s highly effective at preventing pregnancy. It’s also very convenient, since one shot lasts 3 months.

Depo-Provera is the birth control shot (also sometimes called the Depo shot). It’s a contraceptive injection that contains progestin.

DMPA blocks ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovaries. Without ovulation, pregnancy can’t occur. DMPA also thickens the fluid on the cervix to stop sperm from getting through the cervix to the egg.

Each shot lasts 13 weeks. After that, you have to get another shot to continue preventing unwanted pregnancy. It’s important to schedule your appointment to get the shot well before your last shot is due to expire.

If you don’t receive the next shot in time, you risk becoming pregnant because of decreased medication levels in your body. If you can’t get your next shot on time, you should use an alternative birth control method.

You can receive your next shot up to 2 weeks after your due date. But once you reach the 15-week mark from your last shot, you may want to use backup contraception within 7 days of your next dosage. You can also use emergency contraception when appropriate during this period.

The shot is generally not recommended for use longer than 2 years, unless you cannot use other birth control methods. This is because researchers have found that extended use of DMPA may increase a person’s chances of bone thinning.

Birth control is a deeply personal decision. You should choose your primary form of contraceptive based on:

  • your lifestyle
  • ease of use
  • if it’s reversible
  • what hormones it releases (if any)
  • side effects
  • cost

You may prefer Depo-Prover to other forms of birth control if:

  • you’re a busy or forgetful person (You don’t have to take something every day, and you’ll only have to remember to make an appointment to get your shot every 3 months.)
  • you’re intolerable to estrogen
  • you have health conditions, such as anemia, seizures, sickle cell disease, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids
  • you don’t have plans to become pregnant for a while

You should take all of these components into account when deciding if Depo-Provera is the right contraceptive method for you. Generally, though, Depo-Provera is a highly effective form of birth control that’s low maintenance and best for short-term use.

If you’re still unsure whether the birth control shot is for you, you can talk with your doctor. They can help you balance the facts and weigh each option based on your health history and lifestyle.

First off, your doctor needs to confirm that it’s safe for you to receive the shot. You also need to make sure that you’re not pregnant prior to receiving it. You can make an appointment to receive it after your doctor’s confirmation.

The first shot is usually given within the first 5 days of your period or during the first 5 days of giving birth, just to be sure that you’re not pregnant at the time you take it. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the benefits of using DMPA outweigh any risk of using it while pregnant. But you have to do a pregnancy test within 2 to 4 weeks after taking the shot.

Your doctor will usually give the shot in your upper arm or buttocks, whichever you prefer.

If you get the shot within 5 days of starting your period or within 5 days of giving birth, you’re protected immediately. Otherwise, you need to use additional birth control for 7 days.

You’ll need to return to your doctor’s office every 3 months for another injection. If 14 weeks or more have passed since your last shot, your doctor may perform a pregnancy test before giving you another shot.

The Depo-Provera shot is a highly effective birth control method. Those who use it correctly have a risk of pregnancy that’s less than 1 percent. However, this percentage increases when you don’t receive the shot at the recommended times.

According to some experts, the usual dose of Depo-Provera, taken every 3 months, is 99.6 percent effective for preventing unwanted pregnancy. Even when a person takes a lower dose, the efficacy rate stands at 99 percent.

Most people taking the shot have progressively lighter periods. Your period may even end up stopping entirely after you’ve received the shot for a year or longer. This is safe. Others may get longer, heavier periods.

Other common side effects include:

  • headaches
  • abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • nervousness
  • decreased sex drive
  • weight gain, which can be more common the longer you use it

Less common side effects of the shot include:

  • acne
  • bloating
  • hot flashes
  • insomnia
  • achy joints
  • nausea
  • sore breasts
  • hair loss
  • depression

People who use Depo-Provera may also experience decreased bone density. This is more common the longer you use it.

You’ll recover some bone mineral density after you stop using the shot, but you might not have a full recovery. Your doctor may recommend that you take calcium supplements and eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to help protect your bones.

Serious side effects

Though rare, serious side effects can occur. You should seek immediate medical attention if you start having the following symptoms while you’re on the birth control shot:

  • major depression
  • pus or pain near the injection site
  • unusual or prolonged vaginal bleeding
  • yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
  • breast lumps
  • migraine with aura, which is a bright, flashing sensation that precedes migraine pain

How can I prepare for getting Depo-Provera?

After going over your medical history with your doctor and receiving a prescription for the shot, you’ll make an appointment to get your first dosage.

Make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you’re taking to ensure Depo-Provera won’t interact with any of them.

Depo-Provera is administered like any other shot. Depending on your start date, your doctor may recommend that you use a backup form of birth control for the first 7 days. Backup contraceptives won’t be necessary for the rest of your injections, though.

How can I make Depo-Provera work best for me?

To make sure you’re getting the most out of Depo-Provera, you’ll want to reschedule an appointment every 12 to 13 weeks (that’s about every 3 months, or 4 times a year).

You can set reminders for yourself or use an app to prompt you to make a follow-up appointment.

You can also use a barrier method to lessen your overall risk for getting pregnant or contracting STIs.

Depo-Provera is simple, stress-free, and effective. Anyone may benefit from using it to prevent pregnancy as long as they renew their dose every 13 weeks.

If you’re considering continuing use after 2 years, consult your doctor. They may advise appropriately on the risks of prolonged use and alternative birth control options that may just be as convenient and effective.