The Depo shot is an injection called Depo-Provera and is given once every 3 months. It is considered to be a private, convenient, and safe form of birth control which doesn’t involve taking a daily pill or having an implant inserted into the uterus. Sometimes called DMPA, it contains progestin, which prevents ovulation. Because there is no egg in the tube, a pregnancy is prevented.
The primary benefit of the Depo shot, for most women, is that they can begin using it whenever they want. For women who get their first shot within the first week after their period, there is protection from a potential pregnancy immediately. Women who receive their first shot after that 7-day window will experience full protection within a week of obtaining the shot, but would need to use another form of birth control during that first week.
Like most forms of birth control, the primary disadvantage of the Depo shot is that it will not protect individuals from a sexually transmitted disease. It does create a thicker cervical mucus, which can prevent sperm from getting through, but it also requires other forms of protection to be used for a safe sexual experience.
Here are some additional pros and cons of the Depo shot to consider.
List of Pros for the Depo Shot
1. It is an effective way to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
When the Depo shot is given on time, it becomes an extremely effective method of birth control. Although condoms are recommended to protect against sexually transmitted diseases, the use of a condom further enhances the protection that can be received. According to the manufacturer, the Depo shot is 94% effective.
2. The Depo shot is very easy to get for most women.
Depo-Provera is usually available through a general practitioner. If not, there is usually a health center within 25 miles that can provide the shot. It can be injected by either a doctor or a nurse. That means, for many women, access to this form of birth control is fairly simple.
3. It is a convenient method of birth control.
Getting the Depo shot means there isn’t a birth control method that must be used during sex, so things can evolve naturally when becoming intimate with a partner. When used correctly, it protects against pregnancy every day without evidence of other birth control methods lying around. There isn’t a daily pill that needs to be taken and there are no worries about an implanted birth control device fusing to or penetrating the uterus.
4. The Depo shot can make women get their period less often while using it.
Most women experience lighter periods when they take the Depo shot. About half of all women who get the shot stop getting their periods altogether, though that is more likely to happen after 4 doses of DMPA than on the first does. Cramping can often be reduced or eliminated as well. There are additional health benefits as well, such as protection against certain types of cancer or the development of an ectopic pregnancy.
5. It is not a permanent birth control solution.
The Depo shot is designed to provide women with a temporary birth control solution. It is designed for women who want to have children later, but just not right now. Many women can become pregnant after stopping the Depo shot without an impact to their fertility levels.
6. The Depo shot can be a low-cost solution.
For women with health insurance coverage, the Depo shot is often a no-cost birth control solution. Although there may be office co-pays or transportation costs, the actual cost of the shot is usually fully covered. For women without insurance, there are subsidized reproductive health providers that can still offer a no- or low-cost Depo shot if that seems like it is the best form of birth control to use.
List of Cons for the Depo Shot
1. You must get the Depo shot every three months.
You are not allowed to self-administer the Depo shot. That means women must go to their medical provider to have the shot administered. That may be an easy ask for some women, but it can be harder for others. Women who live away from health centers or medical providers, or those who have complex schedules, may find that the inconvenience of scheduling four medical appointments per year overshadows the convenience of the shot.
2. The Depo shot only works when it is received on time throughout the year.
Like most forms of birth control, the Depo shot will only work properly if it is given according to a regular schedule. If the shot is not received in time, then there is an increased chance of a pregnancy occurring for women who stay sexually active. The one-week waiting schedule applies for women who are late in receiving their shot, just as it applies for women who are receiving their first Depo shot.
3. There can be uncomfortable side effects associated with the Depo shot.
Many women get the Depo shot and do not experience any bothersome side effects. For the women who do experience annoying side effects, it may take 60-90 days for them to go away. Some women continue to experience the side effects at all times. This may include headaches, weight gain, nausea, and tenderness in the breasts. Some women report bleeding more than normal and having more spotting between periods during the first year of taking the shot.
4. It can be difficult to become pregnant afterward.
Women who decide that they want to become pregnant after taking the shot may experience delays in doing so. Some women do become pregnant almost immediately after stopping the Depo shot, but it could take up to 10 months before a normal cycle restores itself.
5. There is a cost factor to consider.
Without insurance, the annual cost of taking the Depo shot could be as high as $400. That doesn’t include the cost of a visit to a doctor or health provider, which averages about $100 per visit. Any follow-up visits and transportation costs must be included as well. That means, for an uninsured woman who doesn’t qualify for lower costs and has low access to providers may pay upwards of $1,000 for this method of birth control.
The Depo shot is a fast, convenient, and safe way to reduce the risks of becoming pregnant. Although there are other forms of birth control that have a higher prevention percentage, this injection is typically more private and offers fewer risks.
Like any type of medical treatment, however, the pros and cons of the Depo shot should be considered with someone familiar with your personal health before a final decision is made.