The Shot (Depo-Provera)

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do. Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera. (Pronounced like Johnny Depp-oh.) The shot contains progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens your cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. Worth considering even if you're afraid of needles... Because what's a little prick compared to a pregnancy?

No (pregnancy) worries for three months

If you're the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the shot might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once every three months. And we can help you with that. You can visit a health care provider to get your shot or DIY at home.

Total privacy

No one can tell when you're on Depo. There's no tell-tale packaging and nothing you need to do before you have sex.

Yes, there are needles involved

If you're really that scared of needles, then Depo is not for you. Just think, though. It's a single shot, and you're done for three months. Weigh the options.

It's a love/hate thing

Depo is one of those methods that some people LOVE and some people HATE. You can watch videos of folks who use it for more on that.

The pregnancy question

It is possible to get pregnant as soon as 12 weeks following the last injection, though for some users it can take around 9 months for fertility to return. The bottom line? Don't take any chances. If you're not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another method.

Don't take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with Depo. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost. BTW, the open enrollment period for 2017 goes till January 31, 2017! Explore your insurance options at HealthCare.gov.

If you don’t have insurance or Medicaid, this method will cost you about $25 a month—about the same as the pill. But unlike the pill, you’ll only have to go to the clinic every three months. If you want to do even fewer clinic visits—and save on transportation and exam fees—you might want to ask your health care provider about DIY depo.

Prices:

  • With insurance: Free under most plans
  • With Medicaid: Free
  • Without insurance: The full price of a three-month shot can range from $50 - $120. Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the shot at reduced cost.
  • Payment assistance: Pfizer/Wyeth offers free prescriptions (through a doctor or clinic) to women earning less than $21,660 a year. Call 1-866-706-2400 or check out www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com.

There's not really much you have to do in order to use the shot—just make sure to keep regular appointments with your health care provider. You just go to the clinic, have an exam, and get an injection. Every three months, you'll go in for another injection. Easy-breezy.

Make sure to discuss the timing of your period and the shot with your provider, because that'll help determine how soon after the shot you'll be protected.

Also, it's really important to get your shots on time. If you're more than two weeks late for an injection, you may have to get a pregnancy test before the shot. Download our reminders app to help you remember to always get your shot on time.

Tips and tricks

Spotting improves with time. So give it a chance—two or three cycles. (That's 6-9 months in Depo time.)

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone's different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.

  • Easy to use
  • Doesn't interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Super private—no one will know unless you tell them
  • You don't have to worry about remembering to take it every day
  • Might give you shorter, lighter periods—or no periods at all
  • Your birth control is taken care of for 3 months at a time
  • Can be used by women who can't take estrogen
  • It's very effective at preventing pregnancy—if you get the shots on time
  • You can use it while you're breastfeeding

The Negative

Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they're not a problem. Remember, you're introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.

The most common complaints:
  • Irregular bleeding, especially for the first 6-12 months (This could mean longer, heavier periods, or spotting in between periods.)
  • Change in appetite or weight gain (It's common for some women to gain around 5 pounds in the first year, while other women gain nothing.)
Less common side effects:
  • A change in your sex drive
  • Depression
  • Hair loss or more hair on your face or body
  • Nervousness or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sore breasts

There's no way to stop the side effects of Depo—it's not like you can go back in time and not get the shot. If you still feel uncomfortable after the course of at least two shots in a row, switch methods and stay protected. You're worth it.

*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.