Long-lasting, private, and good hormonal choice for those who can’t take estrogen.
The shot is just what it sounds like—an injection that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do. Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera, its brand name. The shot contains progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens your cervical mucous, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. Some women say they don’t want the shot because they’re afraid of needles. But what’s a little shot compared to a pregnancy?
Nothing to worry about for three months
If you’re the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the shot might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once every three months.
No one can tell when you’re on Depo. There’s no telltale packaging, and nothing you need to do before you have sex.
Yes, there are needles involved
If you’re really that scared of needles, then Depo is not for you. Just think, though, it’s a single shot, and then you’re done for three months. Weigh the options.
It’s a love/hate thing
Depo is one of those methods that some women LOVE and some women HATE.
Smokers over 35
The shot is a better option than other hormonal methods for smokers over 35 years old because it reduces the risk of complications like blood clots. If you’re younger than 35, why not quit smoking now and save yourself the trouble in the future?
The pregnancy question
It is possible to get pregnant as soon as 12 weeks following the last injection, though for some women it can take up to 10 months for fertility to return. The bottom line: don’t take any chances. If you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself.
This method may be free or low-cost for you.
This method will cost you about $25 a month—about the same as the pill. But unlike the pill, you’ll only have to go to the health center every three months. Bonus: Saves you a little transportation money.
- With Medicaid: Free
- With insurance: $0. Great news. Preventive health services like birth control are covered for no additional charge now.
- Without insurance: About $55 for the shot and your visit + $11 urine pregnancy test before initial injection at Title X/low-cost health centers; $120 + $19 urine pregnancy test before initial injection at other providers.
- Payment assistance: Pfizer/Wyeth offers free prescriptions (through a doctor or health center) to women earning less than $21,660 a year. Call 1-866-706-2400 or check out http://www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com/pages/Misc/Default.aspx. Also, check with your local family planning health centers and find out if they offer free or low-cost shots (many do).
To see how this translates over a year, here’s what it would cost to pay for Depo month-to-month at full price:
- Cost per month over one year at Title X/low-cost health center: $18 or $40 at other provider
* FYI: This info is based on a recent survey of Title X clinics in Colorado and birth control manufacturers. Your cost may vary. Some health centers accept private insurance; some don’t. If you don’t have private insurance, be sure to ask your doctor or health center about Title X (a federal family planning program), Medicaid, or other programs that could reduce the cost of your birth control.
There’s not really much you have to do
in order to use the shot—just make sure to keep regular appointments with your doctor, go to the health center, have an exam, and get an injection. Every three months, you’ll go in for another injection. Easy-breezy.
Make sure to discuss the timing of your period and the shot with your doctor, because that’ll help determine how soon after the shot you’ll be protected.
Also, it’s really important to get your shots on time. If you’re more than two weeks late for an injection, you may have to get a pregnancy test before the shot.
Tips and tricks
Take additional calcium! 1200mg + 800 units of Vitamin C.
Spotting improves with time. So give it a chance—two or three cycles. (That’s 6–9 months in Depo time.)
There are positive and negative things to say
about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
- Super private—no one will know unless you tell them
- You don’t have to worry about remembering to take it every day
- Might give you shorter, lighter periods—or no periods at all
- Your birth control is taken care of for 3 months at a time
- Can be used by women who can’t take estrogen
- It’s very effective at preventing pregnancy—if you get the shots on time
Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they’re not a problem. Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.
The most common complaints:
- Irregular bleeding, especially for the first 6-12 months (This could mean longer, heavier periods, or spotting in between periods.)
- Change in appetite or weight gain (It’s common for some women to gain around 5 pounds in the first year, while other women gain nothing.)
Less common side effects:
- A change in your sex drive
- Hair loss or more hair on your face or body
- Nervousness or dizziness
- Sore breasts
There’s no way to stop the side effects of Depo—it’s not like you can go back in time and not get the shot. If you still feel uncomfortable after the course of at least two shots in a row, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.
*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.
We’re here to get this method working better for you.
And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.
I can’t afford it.
Birth control can be expensive, especially with no insurance. But raising a baby costs even more.
If you’re on Medicaid or earn less than $21,660 a year, the shot might be free for you. If you have private insurance, the shot is probably covered and might cost you no more than your co-pay.
If those aren’t options for you, check out health centers in your area that may give you a discount or payment plan if you can’t afford the full price of the shot.
Another solution might be to ask your partner to help pay for the expense.
I lost my sex drive.
First, figure out if there’s other stuff going on in your life that could be causing you to lose your sex drive. Like, are you stressed? Or having relationship issues? You might want to try exercising more, therapy, or changing things up in the bedroom.
Still not working?
If you’ve looked at other things in your life that might cause the loss of sex drive and are still pretty sure it’s the shot, think about switching to the pill, the patch, or the ring (which have fewer hormones and are easier to stop if the problem persists) or an IUD (which has low or no hormones). You could also try non-hormonal methods such as the diaphragm, male condoms, or female condoms.
I want to get pregnant soon.
If you’re already on Depo and you’ve decided you want to get pregnant, you’re going to have to wait it out. There’s no way around it. But 12 weeks after your last injection, you’ll be ready to start trying. It may take some time, though. Sometimes it can take up to 10 months after the last shot for fertility to come back completely.
Still not working?
If you think you’d like to become pregnant sometime in the near future, you might want to choose one of the hormonal methods that allows a faster return to fertility, such as the pill, patch, ring, or IUD. You might also consider a non-hormonal method, like male condoms or female condoms.
I gained weight.
Some women do, in part because the shot can increase your appetite and make you eat more without realizing it. Diet and exercise are the obvious remedies here. (Doesn’t everyone always say that?)
I’m getting headaches.
Headaches are pretty uncommon with the shot, so you might want to look into other reasons for the aching. If the headaches are bad, definitely go see your doctor.
I feel moody.
Is there anything else going on in your life that could be causing you to feel moody? Look into that first.
Real Stories (English)
Anthony’s girlfriend heard about the shot from her sister, discussed it with Anthony, and decided to go for it. She works and goes to school, so remembering to take a pill every day at the same time can be tough. Now she only has to see her doctor every three months to get the shot. Plus it’s made her period super light. How does Anthony feel about the shot? He knows that birth control affects her body, so it’s her choice, and he supports any method that feels right to her.
Digestive system? Check. Immune system? Check. Birth control system? Check. Elektra loves that the shot is always there, working for her, just like the other systems in her body.
After experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in her early 20s, Kelly knew she needed better birth control. She started using the shot and has been covered ever since. After getting on the shot, Kelly realized she was getting hungrier and eating more than used to. Rather than abandoning her method, she started watching her diet and exercising more. She’s now lost most of what she gained. Kelly loves that the shot is so reliable and that there isn’t room for daily error. Once every three months, “you’re in and you’re out.” Easy as that.
Alyssa used to take the pill, but got tired of remembering to take it every day. So she decided to try the shot when her doctor recommended it—and hasn’t looked looked back since. She also won’t look when she’s getting the shot, because she hates needles. With a passion. But Alyssa finds taking birth control every 3 months is sooo much easier than taking it every day. So she just reminds herself that a little prick is not so bad compared to giving birth.