The Shot

syringe being inserted into the upper arm

What is the shot?

The shot (DepoProvera®) is an injection of a hormone that prevents pregnancy. The hormone is DMPA, or depot medroxyprogesterone acetate. The shot is injected every 10-15 weeks.

How does it work?

The hormone progestin:

  • Is slowly released and protects against pregnancy for about 3 months
  • Makes the cervical mucus thicker which helps keep sperm from traveling into the uterus 
  • Prevents ovulation (stops the ovaries from releasing eggs)
  • Changes the lining of the uterus, which helps prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus

How effective is it?

6 out of 100 users will get pregnant each year.

What are the benefits?

  • It is a safe, highly effective and reversible birth control option.
  • You only need to get the shot about 4 times a year.
  • You do not have to think about birth control every day or every time you have sex.
  • It may make periods lighter, shorter, or periods may even stop after a few shots.
  • The shot can reduce the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and cancer of the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).

What are the downsides?

  • It does not provide protection from sexually transmitted infections (STI). External condoms or internal condoms can be used to prevent STI.
  • You must visit your health care provider every 10-15 weeks.
  • Users can get pregnant after they stop using the shot, but it may take up to 12 months after the last shot to become pregnant.
  • Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect, especially in the first 3 months.
  • Less common side effects include changes in appetite, weight gain, breast tenderness, nausea, change in sex drive, depression, nervousness and dizziness.
  • It may lead to temporary bone thinning when used over a prolonged period of time. Protect your bones by exercising regularly and getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Bone density returns to normal after stopping the shot. 
  • Talk to your health care provider about medical conditions such as history of or current breast cancer, anorexia or any eating disorder, and steroid use.

Where can I get it and what are the costs?

The shot is available at UHS. Video visits are available for contraception counseling and prescription of this method. Schedule by calling 734-764-8320 or see How to Get Health Care. See also Cost, Insurance and Payment.

Important tips

  • You will need a prescription for this method. You also need to remember to visit the clinic every three months for a shot.
  • The shot is usually given in a muscle of the upper arm or buttocks.
  • It takes 7 days for DepoProvera to begin working. During this time, you should use a back-up method of birth control. 
  • If after 2 or 3 months of use, you still experience some of the common side effects, talk to your health care provider.
  • The shot may be a good choice for those who cannot take estrogen or are breastfeeding.
  • For costs, see Costs, Insurance and Payment.

Personal experiences

Depo has been great for relief of pain from endometriosis. No more period, but I do spot for a few days before the next shot is due. The only side effect I have noticed is minor weight gain and my sex drive has decreased a bit. I am okay with that because at least the pain is gone.  I am glad I tried it, I am very satisfied with it.

Where can I get more information?

Talk to your health care provider. You can also get reliable information from Planned Parenthood.