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    How Safe Is Your Birth Control?

    The Shot

    Depo-Provera is an injection you get once every 3 months to prevent a pregnancy. It contains the hormone progestin, but no estrogen.

    The main risk linked to this method is a possible loss of bone density while you're using it. That leads to weaker bones. The FDA has required Depo-Provera to include a warning on the label about this being a potentially irreversible problem, especially for teenagers and young women.

    But the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reviewed the data, and its 2014 report found that any effect on bone density reverses after you stop using the shot.


    An intrauterine device (IUD) is one of the most effective forms of birth control. But you shouldn’t use one if you have an STD, had a recent pelvic infection, you're pregnant, or have had cancer of the cervix or uterus.

    There are four different brands of IUDs in the U.S.

    Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla contain progestin. They're considered safe unless you have liver disease, breast cancer, or a high risk for that type of cancer. Some women who use them have headaches, breast tenderness, and other symptoms of PMS.

    The copper IUD Paragard has no hormones. But you can’t use it if you have an allergy to copper or if you have Wilson's disease, a condition that causes your body hold too much of that element.

    Rare but serious side effects from IUDs include:

    • Infections from bacteria getting into the uterus when the device is inserted, or later on
    • Punctures in the wall of the uterus
    • Ovarian cysts
    • Ectopic pregnancy


    This contains only progestin, and it has few risks -- mainly the possibility of an infection in the skin where it’s implanted. Some women have irregular bleeding for up to a year after it's inserted.

    Barrier Methods (Condom, Diaphragm, Female Condom)

    Male and female condoms are the only methods of birth control that can prevent STDs.

    The risk with using a barrier method like a condom or diaphragm is that it won’t work. Some people don't always use them correctly, so their effectiveness rate is about 85%, compared with 99% for methods such as the IUD and implant, and 92% for the pill.

    There are many things to think about when deciding which type of birth control is right for you. Talk to your doctor about your health history and lifestyle so you can make a good decision.

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    Reviewed on December 14, 2015

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