Page header image


What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera is a contraceptive, often referred to as "depo." Depo-Provera consists of the hormone medroxyprogesterone which is similar to the body's natural hormone progesterone. High levels of this hormone in your body prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg for the next 3 months. If eggs are not released, you cannot get pregnant.

How is it used?

Depo-Provera is given by a shot. You need to get the shot every 12 weeks (4 times per year). The shot usually goes into the arm muscle and hurts less than a regular vaccine shot. Occasionally there is irregular bleeding after the first or second shot, but usually your periods stop after 6 to 9 months of starting Depo-Provera.

If you have already started having sex, then you should have a pelvic exam and a pregnancy test done before you start on this method of birth control. The first Depo shot should be given within the first 5 days of starting a period. This helps to make sure that you are not pregnant.

You should remember that although Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy, it does not prevent sexually transmitted infections. Condoms need to be used to decrease the chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection.

What are the benefits?

  • Depo-Provera is a very private method of birth control. No one can tell if you got a shot, and you do not have to worry about taking a pill everyday.
  • Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy 99% of the time.

What are the risks?

Side effects of taking Depo-Provera include weight gain (usually due to an increased appetite), irregular bleeding, and occasional headaches. It may take 6 to 18 months for your periods to return to normal after stopping the shot.

A long-term risk of taking Depo-Provera is osteoporosis. Bones may lose calcium if you take it for a long time.

When should I call my health care provider?

Call if:

  • you have heavy vaginal bleeding
  • you have an abnormal vaginal discharge
  • you have bleeding that lasts for more than 10 days
  • you have severe cramps or abdominal pain.

It is recommended that you talk with a doctor and your parents about birth control options.

Written by Eric Sigel, MD, The Children's Hospital, Denver, CO.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-05
Last reviewed: 2006-05-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
Page footer image