The Depoprovera Shot

Straight to the Facts: Depo

  • Less than 1% failure rate if used as directed

    • 6% failure rate with typical use

  • Injection you get at the doctor's office every 12 weeks

  • Works by preventing ovulation and making it hard for sperm to reach your eggs


  • Most women have few side effects

  • Can help with heavy or painful periods and PMS

  • Smoking getting the Depo shot can increase the risk of stroke

The Depoprovera shot is an injectable birth control. It contains the hormone progestin and works by stopping ovulation and thickening the mucus on your cervix. If you don't ovulate, you will not produce an egg and cannot get pregnant. Thicker mucus also prevents sperm from reaching your egg if you produce one. The Depo shot is one injection which lasts for 3 months. At the end of three months, you must go back to your doctor and get another shot within a specific time frame. You cannot do this at the pharmacy.


In order for the shot to work well for you, you must go to your doctor every three months for a new injection. If you miss your appointment or if you reschedule your appointment outside the time frame, you may get pregnant.

How effective is the shot?


The birth control shot is one of the most effective methods of birth control available. It works best when you get the birth control shot regularly, every 12 weeks. Less than 1% of women will get pregnant each year if they always use the depo shot as directed. However, about 6% will get pregnant each year if they don't always use the birth control shot as directed meaning that they do not make their appointments, miss appointments, or make their appointment too late.


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The Depo shot will not protect you from STIs. To prevent STIs, use a barrier method like a condom every time you have sex.

If you get a birth control shot within the first seven days after the start of your period, you are protected from pregnancy immediately. If you get the shot within five days of a miscarriage or an abortion, or within three weeks of giving birth, you are protected from pregnancy immediately. Otherwise, you need to use some form of backup birth control like a condom for the first week after getting the shot.


You will need to go to your health care provider every 12 weeks for a shot to be protected against pregnancy.  If you are two or more weeks late getting your shot, your health care provider may ask you to take a pregnancy test or may advise you to use emergency contraception if you had vaginal intercourse in the previous 120 hours (five days).


While using the shot, certain medicines and supplements may make it less effective. These include:

  •  Rifampin - antibiotic (other antibiotics do not make the pill less effective)

  •  Griseofulvin - antifungal (other antifungals do not make the pill less effective)

  •  Certain HIV medications

  •  Certain anti-seizure medications

  •  St. John's Wort

Ask your health care provider for advice and use a backup method of birth control like condoms until your doctor says otherwise.

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What about side effects?


While many women use the shot with no side effects, some women experience side effect for the first two or three months after starting the shot. If your side effects do not go away or get worse, talk to your doctor. You may need a different form of birth control. Side effects can include changes to your period including longer periods, spotting between your periods, or not having a period at all. If you stop using the shot, these effects should go away and your period will go back to what it was in a few months. Other side effects can include nausea, weight gain, headaches, breast tenderness and depression. When you decide that you want to start a family and stop using the shot, it may take up to 10 months to get your fertility back.

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