What is it?

The birth control shot is an injection of Depo-Provera, a form of the hormone progesterone. You need this shot every 3 months.

How well does it prevent pregnancy?

An effective method of birth control, but not as reliable as the implant, hormonal IUD, copper IUD, or sterilization for men or women.

About 4 out of every 100 women using Depo-Provera get pregnant in a year of use.


Most women using this method don’t release an egg from the ovaries each month (ovulate). Progesterone also thickens the mucus in your cervix. This stops sperm from entering the uterus. The lining of the uterus also becomes thinner.


There are two types of shots available. Depo-Provera is given in a doctor’s office. Or you can give yourself the Depo-SubQ Provera 104 shot at home.


  • Effective birth control.
  • Safe if you can’t use birth control with estrogen because you:
    • Are a smoker over 35
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Have had a blood clot
    • Have had serious side effects from estrogen
  • Safe if you recently had a baby or are breastfeeding.
  • May be safe for some — but not all — women who:
    • Have an increased risk of blood clots or stroke
    • Have coronary artery disease
    • Have lupus
  • Sex can be spontaneous. No need to think about birth control for 3 months.
  • It’s private.


  • You have to return to the doctor’s office every 3 months for another shot. Or you could learn to give yourself the shots.
  • Best to choose another method if you’re afraid of needles.
  • No-go with some health issues and medicines:
    • Breast cancer
    • Certain seizure medicines
  • For the first few months, you may have spotting or bleeding at unexpected times. Even if you have normal periods, you may bleed less. About half of the women using this method stop having periods after one year. About 80 out of 100 stop within five years.
  • Many women gain weight. The average is about 5 pounds in the first year and 16 pounds within five years.
  • Not immediately reversible. After you stop using Depo-Provera, you won’t be able to get pregnant quickly. Many women don’t ovulate again for at least 6 months.


Side effects may include:

  • Acne
  • Headache
  • Mood changes, such as feeling more emotional or depressed
  • Weight gain
  • No periods (amenorrhea)


  • Can reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, and anemia.
  • Not having period
  • May improve:
    • Endometriosis
    • Irregular periods after the first six months
Consider keeping emergency birth control (“morning-after pill”) at home to use as backup. It works best to prevent pregnancy if taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex or birth control mishaps, but may work if taken up to 5 days afterward. Brands include Plan B, ella, and others.
Use with condom to avoid getting or spreading sexually transmitted diseases or infections, including HIV.
Lasts 3 months

Depo-Provera can cause bone loss after 2 years of use. This can mostly be reversed. Avoiding smoking, doing regular weight-bearing exercise, and getting enough calcium in your diet or taking calcium pills will help.

Many women using the birth control shot stop having periods after six moths. Call your doctor if you are not having periods and think you might be pregnant. Signs of pregnancy include breast tenderness and nausea ("morning sickness").