The Shot (Depo-Provera)

The Shot (Depo-Provera)

The bottle that the shot method uses

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps people from getting pregnant. Once taken, a person is covered for three full months without any extra steps. The shot is also called “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera. It contains progestin, a hormone that prevents ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.


    No pregnancy worries for three months

    For those who may have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the shot might be a good option as it only occurs once every three months. The shot can be administered via visit to a health care provider or DIY at home.

    Total privacy

    The shot is completely private. There's no tell-tale packaging and nothing to do before having sex.

    Yes, there are needles involved

    For those who are really scared of needles, then Depo is not the right option.

    It's a love/hate thing

    Depo is one of those methods that some people LOVE and some people HATE.

    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

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, for those with health insurance, chances are good that IUDs are available without out-of-pocket costs. Explore all insurance options at or at a state-based marketplace. For those without insurance or Medicaid, this method can be expensive up front. For those who wish to have fewer clinic visits—and save on transportation and exam fees—they may want to ask their health care provider about DIY depo.


    • 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 people earning less than $21,660 a year. Call 1-866-706-2400 or check out

    The shot doesn't require much investment outside of regular appointments with a health care provider. For the first appointment a provider will do an exam before the injection. However, on subsequent visits no exam is necessary. However, it's important that a provider knows when their patient's period is as that will determine how soon after the shot a person will be protected from unintended pregnancy. And if 

    Also, it's very important to get the shot on time every time. If more than two weeks pass when an injection shot should have been administered, it may be necessary to get a pregnancy test before the next shot. 

    Tips and tricks

    The shot can cause spotting for the first two or three cycles (or six to nine months). But for most it will improve with time. 

    Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.

    The Positive

    • Easy to use.
    • Doesn't interrupt the heat of the moment.
    • Super private—no one will know unless told.
    • You don't have to worry about remembering to take it every day.
    • Might make periods shorter, lighter —or completely stop periods.
    • Birth control is taken care of for 3 months at a time.
    • Can be used by people who can't take estrogen.
    • When taken on time it's very effective at preventing pregnancy.
    • Can be used while breastfeeding.

    The Negative

    Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many people, they're not a problem. Most folks adjust to the shot pretty quickly, but it could take a few months. For a very small number of people there are risks of serious side effects, however, so it's best to discuss those with a provider.

    The most common complaints:
    • Irregular bleeding, especially for the first six-12 months. This could mean longer, heavier periods, or spotting in between periods.
    • Change in appetite or weight gain. It's common for some folks to gain around five pounds in the first year, while others gain nothing.
    • Once injected there's no way to stop any negative side effects of Depo.
    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.
    Do you have questions about The Shot (Depo-Provera)? Visit for answers to many of the most popular questions about this method of birth control.