1 What is a Depo-Provera (Contraceptive Injection)?

A common brand name for medroxyprogesterone, Depo-Provera is a contraceptive injection for women which contain the hormone progestin.

Depo-Provera is given as an injection once every three months. It typically suppresses ovulation, keeping our ovaries from releasing an egg.

Depo-Provera also thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg. Lower dosage of medroxyprogesterone may also be available.

This version is known as Depo-SubQ Provera 104. While Depo-Provera is injected deep into the muscles, Depo-SubQ Provera 104 is injected just below the skin.

These two forms of contraception have similar risks and benefits. In order to use them, you will need to visit your doctor or other health care provider.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

Your health care provider might recommend the Depo-Provera method of contraception for the following reasons:

  • You do not want to take a birth control pill every day.
  • You want or need to avoid using estrogen.
  • You have certain health problems, such as seizures, anemia, sickle cell disease, endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

Depo-Provera may carry the following benefits:

  • It does not require daily attention.
  • Eliminates the need to interrupt sex for contraception.
  • Decreases menstrual cramps and pain.  
  • Lessens menstrual blood flow, and in some cases, stops menstruation.
  • Decreases the risk of endometrial cancer.

Depo-Provera is not appropriate for everyone.

Your health care provider may discourage the use of this method of contraception in the following cases:

You must also make sure you tell your healthcare provider if you have diabetes or a history of heart disease or stroke.

3 Potential Risks

Depo-Provera (contraceptive injection) is accompanied by various potential risks.

It is estimated that in a year of typical use 3 out of 100 women will end up getting pregnant. But the risk is much lower for women who return for their injections every 12 weeks.

Depo SubQ Provera 104 was highly effective in initial studies. However, it is a newer medication, so current research may not reflect pregnancy rates in typical use.

The other things to consider about Depo-Provera are:

You may have a delay in your return to fertility. After stopping the injections, you may have to wait for a period of ten months or more before ovulation can begin.

If you are planning on getting pregnant in the next year or so, Depo-Provera might not be the appropriate contraception for you. Depo-Provera cannot protect you against sexually transmitted infections.

In fact, some studies have shown that hormonal contraceptives, such as Depo-Provera may increase a woman's risk of chlamydia and HIV.

It is not yet understood if this is as a result of hormonal or behavioral related to the use of reliable contraception. Using condoms will reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections.

If you have concerns about HIV, it is crucial to talk to your doctor. There is a potential loss of bone mineral density.

Research has suggested that Depo-Provera and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 may lead to a loss of bone mineral density.

This loss may b especially concerning in teenagers who have not yet reached their peak in bone mass. And it is not yet clarified is this loss in bone mass is reversible.

Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration added strong warnings in the injection packaging cautioning that Depo-Provera and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 should not be used for longer than two years.

The warning on these products also states that using them might increase a woman's risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture later in life.

It is a good idea for a woman who has other risk factors for osteoporosis, such as family history of bone loss and certain disorders, to discuss the risks and benefits of this form of contraception with her doctor and learn about other contraceptive methods.

The other side effects of Depo-Provera may include the following:

Consult your health are a provider as soon as possible if you experience the following:

  • Depression.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Heavy bleeding or concerns about your patterns of bleeding.
  • Severe lower abdominal pain.
  • Pus, prolonged pain, redness, itching or bleeding at the site of injection.
  • A serious allergic reaction.
  • Other symptoms that concern you.  

A lot of experts believe that progestin-only contraceptive methods, such as Depo-Provera, carry a lower risk of these types of complications compared to other contraceptive methods that contain both estrogen and progestin.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

In order to prepare for the Depo-Provera (contraceptive injection), you will need to make a request for a prescription from your health care provider. He or she will likely do a review of your medical history and check your blood pressure.

Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medications you are taking, including any nonprescription and herbal supplements.

If you are giving yourself Depo-Provera injections at home, ask your health care provider if that is a good option.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your Depo-Provera (contraceptive injection).

In order to use Depo-Provera:

Make sure you consult your health care provider about a starting date. To ensure you are not injected while pregnant, your health care provider will likely do your first injection within five days of the start of your period.

If you have given birth and you are not breastfeeding, your first injection will be given to you within five days of giving birth.

If you are breastfeeding, your first injection will be given to you six weeks after giving birth. You can start Depo-Provera at other times, but you may have to first take a pregnancy test.

Prepare for your injection. Your health care provider will clean the injection site with an alcohol pad. Do not massage the injection site after the injection.

Depending on when your start dates, your health care provider may recommend that you put in place a backup method of contraception for seven days after your first injection.

Backup birth control is not necessary after subsequent injections as long as they are given on schedule.

Schedule your next injection. Depo-Provera injections must be given every 12 weeks. If you wait for a period longer than 13 weeks, you may need to take a pregnancy test before your next injection to verify that you are not pregnant.