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The Shot (Depo-Provera): Side Effects, Benefits and FAQs

Side Effects

The Positive

Positive “side effects?” You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.

  • Easy to use
  • Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Super private—no one will know unless you tell them
  • You don’t have to worry about remembering to take it every day
  • Might give you shorter, lighter periods—or no periods at all
  • Your birth control is taken care of for three months at a time
  • Can be used by women who can’t take estrogen
  • It’s very effective at preventing pregnancy—if you get the shots on time
  • You can use it while you’re breastfeeding

The Negative

Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they’re not a problem.* Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.

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 women to gain around five pounds in the first year, while other women gain nothing.)
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

There’s no way to stop the side effects of Depo—it’s not like you can go back in time and not get the shot. If you still feel uncomfortable after the course of at least two shots in a row, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.

*For a very small number of women, there are risks of serious side effects.


  • How effective is the shot at preventing pregnancy?

    As long as you get your shots on time, this method is very effective. With perfect use the shot is more than 99% effective; with typical use, the it’s closer to 94%.

    In other words:

    Of those women who use the shot exactly as directed, fewer than 1 in 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy during the first year of using this method.

    Of those women who do not use the shot exactly as directed, fewer than 6 in 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy during the first year of using this method.

  • How soon can I get pregnant after going off the shot?

    If you’re already on Depo and you’ve decided you want to get pregnant, you’re going to have to wait it out. About 12 weeks after your last injection, you’ll be ready to start trying. It may take some time, though. It can take up to 10 months after the last shot for fertility to come back completely.

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The Right Time Health Centers

Our partner health centers are focused on you. They provide access to all methods of birth control and free or low-cost birth control to those who need it.