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How Effective Is Depo-Provera for Birth Control?

Depo-Provera is a contraceptive method for women. It’s made of a hormone similar to progesterone.

It's a shot that a doctor gives you in the arm or buttocks. Each shot works for up to 12 to 14 weeks, but you must get the injection once every 12 weeks to get its full protection.

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How Soon Does It Work?

Depo-Provera starts to work as birth control immediately after the first shot, if you get it within the first 5 days of your menstrual period.

How Effective Is It?

It’s 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.  

Can Any Woman Use Depo-Provera?

It’s OK for most women. But it’s not recommended for those who have:

It should be used with caution in teens, and by women with osteoporosis because of its relation to bone loss.

What Are the Side Effects?

They can include:

Change in the menstrual cycle is the most common side effect. You may have irregular bleeding or spotting. After a year of use, about 50% of women will stop getting their periods. Their periods usually return when they no longer get the shots.

Long-term use of Depo-Provera may lead to loss of bone mineral density, which makes osteoporosis more likely. This risk is greater if you've taken the shot for longer than 2 years, especially if osteoporosis runs in your family, you drink a lot, you smoke, or you have other risk factors for the condition.  

Can I Get Pregnant After I Stop Using Depo-Provera?

You can become pregnant as soon as 3 to 4 months after your last shot. But it takes some women up to a year or 2 to conceive after they stop using this type of birth control. This time frame seems unrelated to how long you used the shot.

What Are the Advantages of Depo-Provera?

  • You don't have to remember to take it every day or use it before sex.
  • It provides long-term protection as long as you get the shot every 3 months.
  • It's highly effective.
  • It's less expensive than birth control pills.

What Are the Disadvantages?

  • Regular doctor visits for the shots can be inconvenient.
  • You need to stop taking Depo-Provera several months ahead of time if you plan to become pregnant.
  • It can cause irregular menstrual periods or other side effects.
  • It does not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. (Use a condom for “safer” sex.)

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on August 12, 2014

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