Depo-Provera: Quarterly Injection

 Woman getting her Depo Provera. quarterly injection

What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera is an injection containing the synthetic hormone progestin which is called depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). Depo-Provera is a hormonal method of contraception obtained by prescription.

How does Depo-Provera work?

Depo-Provera works through the synthetic hormone (DMPA) which helps regulate a woman’s ovaries similar to the way the natural hormone progesterone works.

Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy in one of three ways:

  • First, it prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, which is also known as ovulation.
  • Second, it thickens the cervical mucus which acts as a barrier preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
  • Third, it changes the lining of the uterus preventing implantation. Ethical Consideration.

How do you use Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera is a prescription and the injection is obtained from your healthcare provider every 11 to 13 weeks. The healthcare provider will inject the synthetic hormone in the upper arm or in the buttocks. The initial injection is given within the first five days of your menstrual bleeding. Follow up injections are repeated every 11 to 13 weeks.

How effective is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera has a failure rate of less than 1% when it is used correctly and consistently. When used correctly only 3 in 1,000 women will get pregnant. You should take a pregnancy test if you are experiencing any pregnancy symptoms.

What are the side effects or health risks of Depo-Provera?

Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect. For some there may be increased light spotting and breakthrough bleeding, whereas others may experience longer and heavier bleeding. For most women, after a year of use periods usually become fewer and lighter or may stop altogether.

Depo-Provera has side effects similar to those experienced by users of oral or other hormonal types of contraception which include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Moderate weight gain
  • Change of appetite

Other reported side effects include: acne, anxiety, backaches, bloating, depression, leg cramps, hair loss or excessive hair growth, or loss of sex drive. You should not use the injections if you think you are pregnant; consult your physician about using Depo-Provera while breastfeeding.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding
  • Intense pain in the abdominal area
  • Major depression
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Any new lumps in your breast

Women who wish to use Depo-Provera should seek additional consultations with their physician if they are experiencing any of the following medical concerns:

Is Depo-Provera reversible?

Yes. However it may take several months before your cycle returns to normal. Ovulation usually returns within 3 to 6 months for most women; however it is possible that you may not have your cycle for 12 to 18 months after discontinuing the injections. Pregnancy is possible when you stop using the birth control injections, but it may be delayed. This method of birth control is not recommended for someone who wants to get pregnant quickly after discontinuing use.

How much does Depo-Provera cost?

There are two fees associated with the use of the birth control injections:

  • the doctor’s visit
  • the quarterly injections

Office visits to obtain your prescription and the birth control injections range from $50 to $200; follow up visits for additional injections are usually between $20 to $40. The cost for your quarterly injection ranges between $30 and $75.

What about Depo-Provera and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s)?

Depo-Provera does NOT provide protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions About Depo-Provera:

When does it start to work?

If the injection is given between the first and last day of your menstrual flow, the protection against pregnancy begins immediately.

What if I miss an injection?

If you miss an injection you will need to use another form of birth control until you get your next injection.

What are the pros and cons for Depo-Provera?

The Pros of Depo-Provera include:

  • Highly effective when used correctly
  • You do not have to remember to take a pill each day
  • Does not inhibit sexual spontaneity
  • Lighter periods and possibly no period after a year
  • Prevents uterine fibroids and has a possible protective effect against endometrial and ovarian cancers
  • Does not contain estrogen which may increase the risk of heart problems

The Cons of Depo-Provera include:

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases
  • May experience a longer delay in fertility after ceasing the injections
  • Requires a prescription and office visits
  • Irregular bleeding which may include prolonged or heavier menstrual flow
  • Injections may be painful
Last Updated: 07/2003