Depo-Provera: An Injectable Contraceptive

Depo-Provera: An Injectable Contraceptive Family Doctor Logo

What is a contraceptive?

A contraceptive, (also called "birth control") is used to prevent pregnancy.

What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is an injectable contraceptive (a shot). It is given by your doctor as 1 shot in the buttock or upper arm. Each shot prevents pregnancy for up to 3 months. Depo-Provera is a progesterone, which is a hormone normally produced by the ovaries every month as part of the menstrual cycle.

How does it work?

One way that Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy is by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg by the ovaries). If your ovaries do not release an egg, you are unlikely to get pregnant. Depo-Provera also makes it difficult for an egg to be fertilized and makes it less likely that a fertilized egg will implant in the uterus.

Is it effective?

Depo-Provera is as effective at preventing pregnancy as tubal ligation (getting your tubes tied). It is more effective at preventing pregnancy than several other methods, including birth control pills, condoms, and diaphragms. Depo-Provera does not protect against HIV infection or any other sexually transmitted infections.

Is the effect permanent?

No. Depo-Provera only works for about 3 months at a time. To prevent pregnancy, you have to get the shot from your doctor every 3 months. A short time after a woman stops using Depo-Provera, her ovary function (releasing an egg) returns to normal. If you want to get pregnant after using Depo-Provera, it takes an average of 9 to 10 months to get pregnant after your last shot.

Does Depo-Provera have side effects?

Most women have some changes in their menstrual periods while using Depo-Provera. These changes may include:

About half of the women who use Depo-Provera have no menstrual bleeding at all after 1 year of use. This is not harmful. Menstrual bleeding usually returns to normal after you stop using Depo-Provera.

If you have unusually heavy or continuous bleeding when you are using Depo-Provera, you should see your family doctor. Other possible side effects of this medicine include weight gain, headaches, nervousness, abdominal discomfort, dizziness, and weakness or fatigue.

  • Bleeding or spotting that can happen at any time, not just during menstrual periods
  • An increase or decrease in menstrual bleeding
  • No menstrual bleeding at all

Can I use Depo-Provera if I am breastfeeding?

Women who are breastfeeding can safely use Depo-Provera. Long-term studies of babies whose mothers used Depo-Provera while breastfeeding found no bad effects.

Who should not use Depo-Provera?

Women who have any of the following should not use Depo-Provera: