When it comes to birth control, women have many options. Depo-Provera, commonly known as Depo, is one of the top choices. It is the preferred method because it is both convenient and simple. With Depo, there is no need to worry about taking a pill every day! So what exactly is Depo-Provera? And can you get pregnant on Depo shot? So, read our post below and make an informed decision before opting for this birth control method.
What Is Depo-Provera?
The Depo shot is a method of birth control which contains a progesterone-like hormone called depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) (1). The shot is injected into the arms or buttocks and can only be administered by a doctor. The shots are effective for 12 to 14 weeks, but it is recommended for women to get a shot every 12 weeks to ensure that they get maximum protection (2).
Most women can use the Depo shot. However, women with these problems should avoid using the Depo shot:
- Breast cancer
- Liver disease
- Blood clots
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
Women with osteoporosis should also be careful about using the method of contraception as it can contribute to bone loss. For teens, it may be best to choose another form of birth control.
[ Read : Birth Control Shot ]
How Does It Work?
Depo-Provera works through DMPA, which helps regulate the woman’s ovaries similar to how progesterone, the natural hormone, works (3).The shot prevents pregnancy in one of the following ways:
- First, the Depo shot prevents ovulation, that is, it prevents mature eggs from being released from the ovaries.
- Second, the Depo shot thickens the cervical mucus that acts as a barrier so that the sperm from reaching the egg.
- Third, the Depo shot prevents implantation by changing the lining of the uterus.
Depo Shot And Pregnancy – How Is It Used?
Depo-Provera is a prescription contraceptive, and the injection is obtained from a doctor every 11 to 13 weeks. As mentioned earlier, the doctor will administer the shot in the upper arm or buttocks and the initial shot is given within five days of menstruation. Follow up shots are administered every 11 to 13 weeks (4).
[ Read : Birth Control Patch ]
How Effective Is Depo-Provera?
When it used correctly and consistently, the Depo shot has a failure rate of 1 percent, meaning that 99 times out of a hundred, it is quite effective (5). Only 3 in 1,000 women will likely become pregnant on the Depo shot. More often than not, it is the women who had already conceived before they took the shot. It is important to keep in mind that there are potential risks, such as premature birth if the shots are continued after pregnancy. Therefore, women are advised to look out for any signs of pregnancy when they use this birth control method.
Finally, there is no method of birth control that is guaranteed to be 100% effective, so there chances of pregnancy on depo shot.
Side Effects Of Depo-Provera:
Depo-Provera is a highly effective contraceptive , but there can be some side effects including:
- Dizziness and nausea
- Weight gain
- Irregular or no periods
- Loss of bone density
- Breast tenderness
- Increased breakthrough bleeding and light spotting
- Changes in appetite
- Either excessive growth of hair or hair loss
[ Read : Reasons Of Irregular Periods ]
Of all these possible side effects, the most common is changes in the menstrual cycle (6). Many women experience irregular bleeding or spotting. After a year passes, roughly half the women who are on the Depo shot will stop getting their periods altogether. The good news is that your menstrual cycle should return to normal once you stop taking the shots. Another common side effect is weight gain. During the first year of taking Depo-Provera shots, women gain five pounds on average.
Other reported side effects include backaches, leg cramps, acne, bloating and loss of sex drive. Needless to say, you should not take Depo shots if you think that you are pregnant. Also, make sure that you consult your doctor before taking the shot if you are breastfeeding.
Long-term use of the Depo shot may result in loss of bone mineral density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis (7). This risk only increases if you have taken the shot for longer than two years, especially if this condition runs in your family, you drink a lot or smoke or have other risk factors for osteoporosis.
[ Read : Birth Control Methods For Men And Women ]
When Should I Call My Doctor?
You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Intense abdominal pain
- Heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding
- Yellowing of eyes or skin
- New lumps in your breast
- Severe depression
If you want to take Depo shots, you should consult your doctor if you experience any of the following medical concerns:
- High risk for heart disease
- High blood pressure
- History of liver disease
- History of blood clotting conditions
What Will Happen If I Miss A Shot?
To make sure that effective contraceptive coverage is provided, the Depo-Provera shot needs to be administered every 12 weeks. You keep in mind to schedule your next appointment with your doctor after 12 weeks. If you are more than five days late for your Depo shot, you will not have protection against pregnancy and will have to use another form of birth control (8). A pregnancy test will also need to be taken before you can get the next shot.
How To Get Pregnant On Depo Shot?
If you are taking Depo shots, you should keep in mind that you are highly unlikely to get pregnant unless you stop the shots. If you are planning to get pregnant shortly, it does not make sense to continue getting the shots.
Naturally, if you plan to get pregnant, the first thing you need to do is stop getting Depo shots. Secondly, it is important for you to understand that DMPA, the synthetic progesterone in Depo-Provera, can remain in the body for up to 2 years (9).
There are many women who can conceive within 3 to 4 months of stopping Depo shots. For others, it can take as long as two years to get pregnant. The longer you are on the shot, the longer it may take for your body to return to its normal cycle.
If you have recently taken a Depo shot and have decided that you want to get pregnant, you should miss your next shot. Unfortunately, there are no steps that you can take to conceive in the meantime. The hormones need to leave your system, and your body cycle has to return to normal before you can conceive. The depo shot prevents ovulation, which means that pregnancy is impossible if this contraceptive is working as intended. There is a very small chance that you could get pregnant, but there is a risk that it could be an ectopic pregnancy (10).
One question that umpteen women ask is: is it possible to get pregnant on the Depo shot? The answer is yes, but you should keep in mind that it is highly unlikely. Depo-Provera is an extremely effective method of birth control because it is a rather strong medication (11).There is a 1 in a 100 chance that you could conceive, but the odds are against you. For couples who do not want children, this is great news. However, if you decide that you want to get pregnant, you will have to stop getting the Depo shots and wait for the effects to subside. You should keep in mind that it may take at least a year for your fertility to be restored.
[ Read : Getting Pregnant After Mirena Removal ]
Signs Of Pregnancy On Depo Provera:
As mentioned, there is only a 1 in a 100 chance of getting pregnant when you use Depo-Provera. If you do, you will experience symptoms that are similar to the ones that other pregnant women who are not on the depo shot do. These include:
1. Missed Period:
According to the American Pregnancy Association, this is the most common sign of pregnancy, and for many women, a missed period is their first indication that they may be pregnant (12). However, if you are on Depo-Provera, you may not have regular menstruation so you may not notice a missed period as a sign of pregnancy.
[ Read : Pregnancy Symptoms After A Missed Period ]
You can begin to feel fatigued or more tired than usual as early as a week after conceiving. There are many different causes of fatigue during pregnancy. Progesterone increase can make you feel sleepy. Other common symptoms of pregnancy are anemia and depression, both of which often increase fatigue. Plus your body is working hard to develop and support your fetus.
Although it is known as “morning sickness”, this symptom of pregnancy, which typically appears 2 to 8 weeks after conceiving, can hit you any time of the day (13). Nausea in pregnancy is associated with a woman’s sensitivity to estrogen circulating in the body. Less nausea is reported by pregnant women after the first trimester. However, it can last throughout the entire pregnancy in some women. Your nausea may be eased when you eat small, nutritious meals throughout the day. Another alternative you have is to get a prescription for your doctor for nausea-relieving medication.
[ Read: Symptoms Of Pregnancy ]
4. Swollen or Tender Breasts:
Some women begin to experience tenderness, swelling and general soreness in their breasts as early as one week after conception. This occurs due to the rapidly swelling milk glands and increasing estrogen levels. Wear a comfortable, supportive bra to ease the discomfort effectively.
When you are pregnant, hormone levels in your body can increase suddenly, and it may cause headaches more frequently than normal. If you experience headaches, you should talk to your doctor about which over-the-counter medications are safe for you to take at different stages of pregnancy.
6. Frequent Urination:
You may find yourself going to the bathroom more frequently than usual 6 to 8 weeks after conception (14).This is also associated with the increase in production of hormones and various changes occurring in your abdomen to allow for the growth of your uterus.
[ Read : Frequent Urination During Pregnancy ]
7. Food Cravings:
Many women have cravings for certain foods during their pregnancy. Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet and taking a prenatal vitamin may help in curbing your food cravings. Whenever you have a craving for unhealthy food, try to find a healthy alternative to substitute it; for instance, if you have a craving for French fries, get roasted potato wedges instead. This way, you satisfy your craving and eat something healthy at the same time.
[ Read : Food Cravings During Pregnancy ]
If you are using Depo-Provera and experiencing these symptoms, you may be thinking that you are pregnant. In such a case, you should visit your doctor immediately.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of The Depo Shot?
As with other methods of birth control, Depo-Provera comes with both pros and cons. Here is a look at some of each.
The pros of the depo shot include:
- It is highly effective when it is used correctly, i.e. long-term protection with one shot every three months.
- There is no need to remember to take a pill every day.
- It costs less than birth control pills.
- There is no inhibition of sexual spontaneity.
- It causes light periods, and it is possible that you will not get periods after a year of taking the shots.
- It helps in preventing uterine fibroids and may protect you against endometrial and ovarian cancers.
- It does not contain estrogen, which may increase the risk of heart problems (15).
[ Read : Birth Control Pills During Pregnancy ]
The cons include:
- It does not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
- If you plan to get pregnant, you need to stop taking the shots several months ahead of time.
- It may cause your fertility to be delayed after you stop taking the shots.
- It requires visits to the doctor and a prescription.
- It causes irregular menstruation, which may include heavier or prolonged bleeding (16).
- The shots may be painful.
A Word Of Caution:
- It is important to you and your doctor to discuss the pros and cons of the depo shot before you take it. The shot cannot be reversed once it has been administered and its effects, including the side effects, last for at least three months.
- You should be counseled by your doctor before using Depo-Provera about the delay in conception once you stop taking the shots. Some women may not be able to get pregnant for up to a year, sometimes longer, after getting their last shot.
- This birth control method usually disrupts the menstrual cycle. It may cause heavy or prolonged bleeding, spotting or irregular bleeding, or stop menstrual bleeding altogether. If you experience heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, you should inform your doctor.
- Women have a tendency to gain weight when they take Depo shots. On average, women gain 5 to 8 pounds over the first 1 or 2 years of using Depo-Provera (17). You should ask your doctor for more information, especially if you are concerned about unwanted weight gain.
- Depo shots decrease estrogen levels. Over time, this can result in loss of bone mineral density and this, in turn, increases the risk of osteoporosis. This is, in particular, important for teenagers and young women as their bones may not be fully developed yet. It is unknown if their peak bone mass will be lowered by the shot and increase the risk of osteoporosis fractures when they get older. Studies are being conducted to determine this. Therefore, adolescents should only use Depo shots, after all, other methods of birth control have been discussed and are considered to be unsafe or unsuitable (18). Women of all ages should re-evaluate all the benefits and risks if they want to continue using this contraceptive for more than two years. You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist to know more about Depo-Provera.
- It is important for you to be aware that it appears that there is a small increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who use hormonal contraceptives compared to women who do not. However, you should weigh this risk against the benefits of taking Depo shots, which you can discuss with your doctor.
- Since Depo shots do not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases, it may be a good idea to use condoms as well.
- As mentioned, you should consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms:
- Severe headaches or migraines
- Severe abdominal pain
- Stabbing pain in your legs
- Disturbance in your vision
- Pain while breathing or coughing
- Itching of your whole body, significant blood pressure increase, yellowing of your eyes or skin (jaundice)
- Symptoms of pregnancy.
- Depo shots may influence the results of some laboratory tests such as thyroid or liver function tests. If you undergo blood tests, you should make sure that the person taking your blood sample knows that you are taking Depo shots.
- Avoid Depo-Provera if you are among:
- Women who know or suspect that they are pregnant.
- Women who are planning to conceive in the next year.
- Women with breast cancer.
- Women who suffer from abnormal vaginal bleeding, the cause of which has not been diagnosed yet.
- Women who suffer from a serious disease of the arteries, such as the one that has caused a heart attack or stroke.
- Women with acute porphyrias, a hereditary blood disorder.
- Women with liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, or any other serious liver disease.
Pregnancy And Breastfeeding:
While, some medicines may be safe to use, providing the benefits to the mother and not endangering the unborn baby, some medicines need to be avoided when you are pregnant or while you are nursing your little one. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you should consult your doctor before taking any medicine.
- Depo shots are used to prevent pregnancy and should not be given to pregnant women (19). Your doctor should give you a pregnancy test before administering the first shot. You will also need to take a test if you are late for a Depo shot for more than five days. You should ask your doctor for medical advice.
- As mentioned earlier, you should not take Depo shots if you plan to get pregnant in the next year. Most women start to ovulate 5 to 6 months after their last shot, but you may not be able to get pregnant until 12 to 15 months after your last shot, maybe even longer.
- Depo-Provera passes into breast milk in small amounts (20). However, there have been no reports of any adverse effects on nursing infants when this birth control method is used by breastfeeding mothers. There also have been no reports of any long-term effects on behavior or development through puberty. Depo shots are widely considered safe to use in breastfeeding mothers. If you are breastfeeding, you should not be given your first shot until at least 6 weeks after you give birth.
Remember that you should inform your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are or have recently used before you are given a Depo shot. Such medicines include non-prescription or OTC medications and herbal medicines. Likewise, make sure that you check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication while you are using Depo-Provera so that they can check if the combination is safe for you.
Depo shots are an extremely powerful and effective method of birth control. It is important that you make sure that you have all the necessary information before you decide to use this contraceptive, especially if you plan to get pregnant shortly. If you do plan to get pregnant soon, you should choose another form of birth control, and the good news is that you have many great options.
- 10 Things You Should Know When You Are Trying To Get Pregnant
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- How To Get Pregnant With Twins?
- BBT (Basal Body Temperature) Chart – Everything You Need To Know
- 15 Best Sex Positions To Help You Get Pregnant