Birth Control Shots – Depo-Provera

Patient Education Materials

Contraception (Birth Control)

Birth Control Shots — Depo-Provera

Are birth control shots right for me?

You might want to consider having birth control shots if:

  • you are looking for a long-term method
  • you want a method that is not permanent
  • you can’t commit to taking a birth control pill at the same time every day
  • you do not want to have to think about birth control every day or every time you have sex
  • you don’t want to get pregnant for at least a year


Depo-Provera is a type of birth control shot that contains man-made progesterone (pro-JESS-ter-ohn) called medroxyprogesterone acetate. It is given once every 3 months in the arm or buttocks, or in the fat layer under the skin.

When do I start the shot?

The shot can be given during the first 5 days of your period. If you have just given birth, you can have the shot right after delivery, before leaving the hospital. This drug can be used by women who want to breast-feed.

How well does the shot work?

With typical use (if it is not used according to directions every time) the shot works 97% of the time. This means that 3 women out of 100 who use the shot for birth control may become pregnant in 1 year. If you use the shot exactly as directed (correct and consistent use), less than 1 woman out of 100 may become pregnant in 1 year.

How does the shot work?

The medication sends a signal to the glands in your body not to make certain hormones. Without these hormones, the ovary does not allow the egg to mature. Also, the cervical mucus gets thicker. This helps to keep sperm from getting to the uterus and ovaries. The medication also keeps the lining of the uterus from getting thick. Without this thickness, a pregnancy cannot continue.

How does the shot affect my period?

You may have irregular or more frequent bleeding during the time between the first, second, and third shot. After the third shot, many women will stop having bleeding, or will have very light bleeding. This is normal and will not cause any health problems.

What are side effects of the shot?

Weight gain can be a problem with Depo-Provera; the amount of weight gained depends on the person. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help keep weight gain to a minimum over time.

What are other side effects of the shot?
  • breast tenderness
  • mood changes
  • temporary bone loss with long-term use; however, Depo-Provera has not been associated with fractures and the bone loss is reversible (i.e., the bone that is lost is regained) after stopping use of the shot. You can help protect your bones by exercising regularly and getting enough calcium in your diet

How soon after stopping the shot can I get pregnant?

This is a reversible long-term birth control method. Normal menstrual cycles usually return in 6 to 10 months. Most women who want to get pregnant will become pregnant within 11/2 years of stopping the shot. You may get pregnant right away if you miss or stop the shot.

Does the shot protect against STDs?

No. Only the use of a latex condom can provide some protection from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

Use condoms the right way

To protect against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), use condoms the right way.

Except for not having sex (abstinence), latex condoms give the best protection from many STDs including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Condoms are helpful only if used the right way. Use a latex condom every time you have sex. Always put the condom on before the penis touches or enters the vagina. If you or your partner has an allergy to latex, you should use a plastic (polyurethane) condom.

Important steps for using condoms the right way:

  1. Check the expiration date.
  2. Check the condition of the package.
  3. Open the package carefully.
  4. Hold the condom by the last 1/2 inch at the tip, and squeeze out the air.
  5. If the penis is uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin.
  6. Place the condom on the tip of the penis.
  7. Unroll the condom to the base of the penis. Smooth out any extra air.
  8. If you want or need to use lubricant on the condom, only use water-based lubricants like K-Y Jelly or Surgilube. Do not use oil-based lubricants. They can weaken condoms and cause them to break. Do not use petroleum jelly, cooking or vegetable oil, mineral or baby oil, massage oil, butter, margarine, oil-based creams, or lotions.
  9. Immediately after ejaculation, hold the condom firmly by the rim at the base of the penis, and pull the penis and condom out of the vagina together, while the penis is still erect.
  10. Look carefully at the condom to see if there is a hole in it. If you are not sure, fill the condom with water to see if it leaks.
  11. Discard the condom. Wrap it in tissue, and throw it away.  Do not flush it down the toilet.
  12. Never re-use a condom.