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Side Effects of the Birth Control Shot

Side Effects of the Birth Control Shot

Most women of childbearing age are opting for birth control shots to prevent pregnancy. Though it is highly effective, there are various side effects of this method that most women are not aware of. Hence, this article attempts to enlighten you about the possible side effects of the same.
Kanika Khara
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Birth control shot or Depo-Provera is a long-term, effective method for birth control opted by many women to avoid pregnancy. It is a progestin injection that can give 97 to 99% protection against pregnancy for nearly 11 to 14 weeks. This method is quite useful for those women who do not want to conceive and usually forget, or are not comfortable using other birth control options like pills, condoms, etc.
Depo-Provera is a prescribed birth control method that requires a clinical appointment every three months. Hence, for one year protection, four shots are given every three months in the entire year. The first shot is usually given during or a few days after menstruation, which becomes effective after 24 hours till the next 13 weeks. But since all medications or treatment options have their pros and cons, Depo-Provera also has some side effects associated with it.
How does It Work
Depo-Provera or Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA) is a hormonal injection that contains high level of synthetic progesterone and no estrogen. The injection is usually given in the arm, hip, upper thigh, or abdomen of the woman. It works by preventing ovulation (release of an egg by the ovaries during monthly cycle) and also thickens the cervical mucus and uterine lining, which makes it difficult for the sperm to enter or survive in the uterus and fertilize the egg.
However, the effectiveness of birth control shot depends on lot of things, like, the health condition, intake of other medications, and most importantly proper completion of the course of the treatment without missing or delaying even a single shot. This is because, if you are late for your next shot (by a week or so) and meanwhile had unprotected sex, there are chances of conception.
Hence it is necessary to receive all the four shots well in time and in case you miss any of the shots, use a backup birth control method for the next two weeks, conduct a pregnancy test, and then go for the next shot.
Side Effects
Despite its effectiveness, there are a few adverse effects of the birth control shot that one should be aware of before trying this method. The major side effect of Depo Provera is that there is an irreversible loss of bone density, which may increase the risk of osteoporosis in women. Also, about 70% women using this method of birth control, have noticed increase in their weight by 5 to 10 pounds.
Irregular, heavy, or no menstrual periods is another side effect, which occurs due to prolonged use of injections. However, the woman may start having her normal menstruation once she stops the treatment.
Apart from these ill effects, as the body undergoes hormonal changes, the woman may notice some other side effects, like:
  • Heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding
  • No protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV/AIDS
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne
  • Severe depression
  • Hair loss
  • Low sex drive
  • Infertility
The birth control shot is a useful prevention method for those women, who experience the adverse effects of birth control pills like vomiting, blood clots, abdominal pain, etc. However, a woman can stop using Depo Provera any time when she wants to conceive, but it usually takes a period of 6 to 10 months to regain complete fertility.
Also, the side effects subside on their own without causing any severe harm, but they may take over 6 months after the last shot of Depo Provera to vanish completely. Drinking lots of water and juices, eating organic vegetables and fruits, and exercising regularly can help you regain fertility rapidly and also combat the side effects.