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Depo-Provera is a convenient long-term contraceptive. Are you considering the birth control shot? Here's what you need to know before approaching your healthcare provider.

Are you looking for a reliable and long-term but reversible birth control method? Depo-Provera, the birth control shot, is among the most effective contraceptives out there. You can effectively prevent pregnancy by getting an injection once every three months. Is Depo-Provera the right contraceptive choice for you? Let's take a look!

What Is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera, also called the "birth control shot" or "injectable birth control pill", is an injection that releases the artificial hormone progestin into the body. Each shot is supposed to last three months, meaning women who would like to use Depo-Provera in the longer term will need three-monthly injections to continue preventing pregnancy. Depo-Provera can be administered to the arm or rear.

As with all progestin-based forms of contraception, Depo-Provera's mechanism of action is multi-fold. It prevents ovulation (the release of eggs), thickens cervical mucus, thereby creating an environment that is hostile to sperm, and alters your uterine lining in a way that makes implantation near impossible. Depo-Provera makes it incredibly harm for sperm to survive or even enter the uterus, in other words, though the fact that it prevents ovulation is enough to prevent pregnancy all in itself.

Depo-Provera is 97 to 99.7 percent effective, making it a very reliable birth control option.

It's usually given during your period or within a few days of the end of your menstruation. Once administered under these circumstances, the shot becomes effective within 24 hours and remains active for at least 13 weeks.

The Benefits And Risks Of Depo-Provera

Depo-Provera has many advantages: it's effective within 24 hours, does not require constant attentiondoesn't have estrogen and may reduce the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. It does not interrupt your intimacy either. In addition, Depo-Provera is not detectable by anyone else. For women with abusive partners or those opposed to birth control, this makes Depo-Provera an excellent choice. After using it for a year or more, Depo-Provera is also very likely to lighten periods or make them stop altogether. This is a distinct advantage to many women, but particularly for those women who struggle with heavy or painful menstruation.

On the flip side, some users experience irregular bleeding, including bleeding between periods, while they are on Depo-Provera.

Weight gain is a common side effect many women really don't want to deal with. Long-term use of Depo-Provera and similar hormonal contraceptive methods are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. You will need regular shots if you choose Depo-Provera, and some women prefer alternatives such as the Nexplanon implant or intrauterine devices, which are effective for multiple years at a time. 

As with all hormonal birth control methods, Depo-Provera protects against pregnancy but not against sexually transmitted diseases. This is so obvious it barely deserves a mention, but it's also tremendously important. Women who have any chance of being exposed to STDs should strongly consider using condoms, as a stand-alone contraceptive or in addition to hormonal contraceptives such as Depo-Provera.

The risk of a delayed return to fertility is another very common and real concern that women who think they may want to get pregnant over the next few years will need to take into account. More about delayed fertility after Depo-Provera on the next page.
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  • By James Gathany [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons