The birth control shot is an effective type of contraceptive injection that prevents pregnancy by releasing the hormone progesterone into a woman’s bloodstream). Although it is considered one of the most convenient methods of birth control, it does come with some side effects.
Here is a closer look at what you need to know about the birth control shot and the effects it can have on your body.
What Is the Birth Control Shot?
The Depo-Provera™ birth control shot is a type of birth control that is administered in the form of an injection once every 12 weeks. It boasts an efficacy rate of up to 99.7 percent. It is a popular choice among women who are unable to use estrogen-based contraceptive methods because it only contains the hormone progestin.
What Are the Side Effects of the Depo-Provera™ Birth Control Shot?
Here is a look at some of the more common side effects of this birth control shot.
A Loss of Bone Density
One concern associated with long-term use of the Depo-Provera™ shot is the potential loss of bone density. The Food and Drug Administration notes that when the shot is used regularly for more than two years, women are more vulnerable to experiencing bone thinning and broken bones. For this reason, the use of this shot should be limited to no longer than two years.
Many doctors recommend that women who receive this shot take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help mitigate its effects on bone density. When bone loss does occur as a result of the shot, it is considered permanent. Depo-Provera™ carries a black box warning indicating this risk.
Another potential side effect of the Depo-Provera™ birth control shot is weight gain. Research shows that two-thirds of women reported gaining five pounds during their first year using the shot.
By their second year, the figure had climbed to eight pounds, while those who continued taking the pill gained an average of 16.5 pounds by year six. This equates to approximately three pounds per year. Although not all women will experience this side effect, it is an important consideration for those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Irregular Menstrual Bleeding
One of the most commonly reported side effects of the birth control shot is changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Irregular spotting and bleeding can occur for more than a year in some women, but there is no way of predicting who will experience this particular side effect and to what degree.
For women who find this side effect particularly frustrating, switching to a different method of contraception is the only viable solution. However, some women can enjoy short-term relief while their body gets used to the shot with supplements such as Lysteda and Ponstel.
Like some other methods of birth control, such as intrauterine devices, birth control shots can cause menstruation to cease altogether in some women after they have received a few injections; others may experience much later periods.
For many women, this is considered a benefit of the shot rather than an unpleasant side effect. Indeed, some women start using this method of contraception in hopes of putting an end to their period.
According to clinical studies, more than a third of women who use Depo-Provera™ will stop getting their period after six months of treatment. After a year, this number climbs to 55 percent, while 68 percent of women will stop getting periods by the second year.
Some women experience changes to their mood, including experiencing anxiety and depression. Almost 11 percent of women using the shot reported nervousness in clinical trials, while 1.5 percent reported experiencing depression.
However, the evidence showing that the shot caused these effects is considered inconsistent. Nevertheless, women with a history of depression should be monitored while using the shot and stop using it if they experience symptoms of depression.
Depo-Provera™ is considered an effective and long-lasting birth control method, but it is important to note that unlike some other methods of birth control, it may take some time for women to begin ovulating normally again after they discontinue use.
Women who would like to get pregnant after using this shot should expect to wait at least nine months before successfully conceiving. Research shows that 68 percent of women got pregnant within their first year of stopping Depo-Provera™; this number reached 93 percent 18 months after stopping the shot.
In clinical trials, 11.2 percent of women using Depo-Provera™ reported experiencing discomfort or pain in their abdominal area. It is important to keep in mind that severe abdominal pain can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which may occur while using the shot.
Therefore, women who experience this side effect should immediately seek emergency care. Although it is rare, an ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening.
Reach Out to the Raleigh Women’s Health-care Team
To discuss the advantages and drawbacks of various methods of birth control and find one that suits your needs, schedule an appointment with the women’s health-care team at Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness today.