Depo Provera--the Birth Control Shot

February 2, 2011

Depo Provera is a birth control shot which contains a long-acting type of progesterone, known as Medroxyprogesterone Acetate. Progesterone is a hormone which is produced naturally in the ovaries, however the progesterone in Depo Provera is a synthetic type which contains no estrogen. The Depo Provera shot is injected into the upper arm, hip, upper thigh, buttocks or abdomen every three months as a form of pregnancy prevention. The hormones in Depo-Provera prevent ovulation-if a woman doesn't ovulate, she is unable to become pregnant because there is no egg to be fertilized. Depo Provera causes the cervical mucus to thicken, thus changing the uterine lining. When the cervical mucus is thicker, sperm have a much more difficult time entering or surviving in the uterus.

Effectiveness of Depo Provera

The Depo Provera shot is a very effective contraceptive. It is estimated that over the course of a year, less than 3 out of 100 couples who regularly get the shot every three months will experience an accidental pregnancy. If the woman waits longer than three months to receive the next shot, the chances for an unwanted pregnancy increase. Effectiveness of birth control shots is also dependent upon any health conditions the woman may be experiencing as well as any medications which could interfere with the shot. Of course whether or not this type of birth control works is also highly dependent on whether the woman remembers to use it correctly all the time and is never late getting a shot.

How is Depo Provera Administered?

The first shot of Depo Provera is usually given at the beginning of the woman's normal menstrual period; once the shot is given, backup birth control should be used for 24 hours then the shot should provide effective birth control for the next thirteen weeks. If the shot is not administered at the beginning of the normal menstrual period, then couples will need to use a backup method such as foam, spermicide or condoms for a week following the first injection. It is helpful to schedule your quarterly shot slightly earlier than necessary to give you a window of time should you be delayed in getting your shot. If you are more than a week late getting your shot, then you should use backup birth control for the next two weeks.

Health Risks of Depo Provera

If you are planning on becoming pregnant in the near future, are concerned about weight gain, have a history of depression, or have liver or gallbladder problems you should not take Depo Provera. If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding, or a known or suspected pregnancy, you should not have a Depo Provera shot, and should discuss these issues with your physician. A 2004 study associated Depo Provera with a loss of bone density, which increases the risk of osteoporosis. Depo Provera is not recommended for long term use, and is not recommended for younger women whose bones are still growing and developing. The effects of Depo Provera on breast cancer are still being studied.

Health Benefits of Depo Provera

It has been noted that women using the Depo Provera shot for birth control have a decreased risk of endometrial cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease and ovarian cancer. Women who use Depo Provera may also have less menstrual pain and cramping as well as fewer periods, therefore less chance of anemia.

Side Effects of Depo Provera

Nearly 70% of women who use Depo Provera gain weight-about half of those will gain more than five pounds after a year of use, while many more gain over ten pounds after one year of use. Heavy bleeding is fairly common, and irregular or no bleeding at all is also possible when using Depo Provera. Many women worry about the side effects of Depo Provera such as breast tenderness, back ache, bloating, mood changes, headaches and a decreased interest in sex. Additionally, hot flashes, hair loss and acne may be experienced during use of Depo Provera. After you have received the last shot of Depo Provera, you may still have to wait at least six months for the drug to leave the body entirely. Side effects of Depo Provera may last the entire six months, so be prepared.

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