Remembering to take a pill everyday can be a challenge but also the commitment to get an IUD or implant can feel daunting. Luckily, there is a happy medium, the birth control shot. The shot (aka Depo-Provera, the Depo shot, or DMPA), is given about every 3 months and is effective at preventing pregnancy. With perfect use, it is more than 99% effective. The real-life effectiveness is closer to 94% since shots are not always on time.
The shot contains the hormone progestin. Progestin works to prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation, as well as increasing the cervical mucus. These two things combined make it very hard for sperm to reach an egg.
A major benefit to the shot is the privacy of it. There are no signs that a woman is on the shot and no one needs to know. Many women also like the shot because it makes their periods lighter or non-existent. Especially in the first 3 to 6 months women may experience an increase in spotting between periods or right before they need to get their next shot.
The shot may cause bone thinning, especially the longer it is used. Luckily, the thinning is usually reversible once a woman stops getting the shot. Regular exercise, increased calcium intake, and not smoking can all help prevent bone thinning. Women who are considering the shot and are at risk for osteoporosis should talk with their provider about the issue of bone loss.
A prescription is needed to get started on this form of birth control. Since a provider must administer the shot, a woman will need to have a visit about 4 times a year. This may be hard to fit into a busy schedule, but if planned in advance, the shot can be an easy and effective birth control method. Most insurance plans cover the shot at little to no cost. If insurance is not an option, many clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, offer financial assistance or provide the service at a low cost.
Although getting a shot may not the most comfortable experience in the world, it is definitely easier than pregnancy!
Erica Freese, MPH, Intern