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THE SHOT /

The shot is just what it sounds like—a shot that keeps you from getting pregnant. Once you get it, your birth control is covered for three full months—there’s nothing else you have to do. Some people call the shot “Depo,” short for Depo-Provera. (Pronounced like Johnny Depp-oh.) The shot contains progestin, a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs. It also thickens your cervical mucous, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. Some women say they don't want the shot because they're afraid of needles. But what's a little prick compared to a pregnancy? view all methods »

Nothing to worry about for three months

If you're the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the shot might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once every three months. And we can help you with that.

Total privacy

No one can tell when you're on Depo. There's no tell-tale packaging, and nothing you need to do before you have sex.

Yes, there are needles involved

If you're really that scared of needles, then Depo is not for you. Just think, though. It's a single shot, and you're done for three months. Weigh the options.

It's a love/hate thing

Depo is one of those methods that some women LOVE and some women HATE. Check out the user videos for more on that.

Smokers over 35, beware

For those over 35 years old, smoking while using the shot increases the risk of certain side effects. If you’re younger than that, why not quit smoking now and save yourself the trouble in the future?

The pregnancy question

It is possible to get pregnant as soon as 12 weeks following the last injection, though for some women it can take around 9 months for fertility to return. The bottom line? Don't take any chances. If you're not ready for a baby, protect yourself.

Don't take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear women and men talk about their experiences with Depo. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost. BTW, if you have insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or if you're looking to get it, there are a few things you should do to get ready for 2015.

If you don’t have insurance or Medicaid, this method will cost you about $25 a month—about the same as the pill. But unlike the pill, you’ll only have to go to the clinic every three months. If you want to do even fewer clinic visits—and save on transportation and exam fees—you might want to ask your health care provider about DIY depo.)

Prices:

  • 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. BTW, the 2015 open enrollment period to get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace is going on right now! Explore your options for coverage.
  • Payment assistance: Pfizer/Wyeth offers free prescriptions (through a doctor or clinic) to women earning less than $21,660 a year. Call 1-866-706-2400 or check out www.pfizerhelpfulanswers.com.

There's not really much you have to do in order to use the shot—just make sure to keep regular appointments with your health care provider. You just go to the clinic, have an exam, and get an injection. Every three months, you'll go in for another injection. Easy-breezy.

Make sure to discuss the timing of your period and the shot with your provider, because that'll help determine how soon after the shot you'll be protected.

Also, it's really important to get your shots on time. If you're more than two weeks late for an injection, you may have to get a pregnancy test before the shot. We can set you up with handy reminders so you'll never forget an appointment.

Tips and tricks

Spotting improves with time. So give it a chance—two or three cycles. (That's 6-9 months in Depo time.)

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone's different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

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.

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.

  • 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 3 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 most common complaints:
  • Irregular bleeding, especially for the first 6-12 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 5 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.

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we've got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I'm spotting a lot—should I be concerned?

    Spotting, which can happen with a bunch of different methods, doesn’t make you lose that much blood, even though it might seem like it. We have a Provider Perspective article about it if you want to learn more.

    Still not working?

    You may have more luck on a pill with a slightly higher dose of estrogen, or one that provides estrogen during a different part of your cycle.

    Try a different method...

  • ...I can't afford it.

    Birth control can be expensive, especially with no insurance. But raising a baby costs even more.

    If you're on Medicaid or earn less than $21,660 a year, the shot might be free for you. If you have private insurance, the shot is probably covered and might cost you no more than your co-pay.

    If those aren't options for you, check out clinics in your area that may give you a discount or payment plan if you can’t afford the full price of the shot.

    Another solution might be to ask your partner to help pay for the expense.

  • ...I lost my sex drive.

    First, figure out if there's other stuff going on in your life that could be causing you to lose your sex drive. Like, are you stressed? Or having relationship issues? You might want to try exercising more, therapy, or changing things up in the bedroom.

    Still not working?

    If you've looked at other things in your life that might cause the loss of sex drive and are still pretty sure it's the shot, think about switching to the pill, the patch, or the ring (which have less hormone and are easier to stop if the problem persists) or an IUD (which has low or no hormones). You could also try non-hormonal methods such as the diaphragm, male condoms, or female condoms.

    Try a different method...

  • ...I want to get pregnant soon.

    If you're already on Depo and you've decided you want to get pregnant, you're going to have to wait it out. There's no way around it. But 12 weeks after your last injection, you'll be ready to start trying. It may take some time, though. Sometimes it can take up to 10 months after the last shot for fertility to come back completely.

    Still not working?

    If you think you'd like to become pregnant sometime in the near future, you might want to choose one of the hormonal methods that allows a faster return to fertility, such as the pill, patch, ring, or IUD. You might also consider a non-hormonal method, like male condoms or female condoms.

    Try a different method...

  • ...I'm getting headaches.

    Headaches are pretty uncommon with the shot, so you might want to look into other reasons for the aching. If the headaches are bad, definitely go see your doctor.

    Still not working?

    If you can't find another reason for the headaches and want to switch methods, consider the IUD, pill, patch, or ring.

    Try a different method...

  • ...I feel moody.

    Is there anything else going on your life that could be causing you to feel moody? Look into that first.

    Still not working?

    If moodiness is still an issue, think about using a shorter-acting, lower-dose method, such as the pill, patch, or ring. You could also try either type of IUD.

    Try a different method...

  • ...I heard that taking the pill is bad for the environment because of lady pee getting in the water.

    Any form of birth control is better than no birth control when it comes to the environment. But let’s look a little closer at the claim that hormones in birth control are getting into the environment through lady pee. The simple answer is: yes, it is. But—and this is a big but—it is small compared to other sources of estrogen.

    Current research finds that the contribution of EE2 (the primary active ingredient in the pill, the ring, the patch, and the shot) to the total amount of estrogen in of our waterways is small. Bigger—much bigger—sources of estrogen in the environment come from industrial and manufacturing processes; agricultural fertilizers and pesticides; the drugs we give livestock; and the waste and runoff produced by these sources.

    Simply removing hormones from contraceptives will not eliminate the environmental impacts of estrogenic compounds. It’s much better to buy organic (if you can!) and even better to tell Congress to do its job and regulate chemicals, than to forego birth control. From Mother Earth’s standpoint, any form of birth control is better than no birth control.

    For purists who don’t want to add any hormones to the environment or to their body, no matter how small, there are options for you. Natural latex condoms and the copper IUD are two frequently cited examples of ultra green contraceptives. But whatever your decision, decide on a method and don’t give up.

    Still not working?

    If you'd like to use a super effective method without any hormones, try the ParaGard IUD.

    Try a different method...

quick facts /

  • Long-lasting, private, and good hormonal choice for those who can't take estrogen.

  • The shot is super effective—as long as you get each shot on time.

  • Most common are irregular bleeding and increased appetite, leading to weight gain.

  • You have to go for a shot every 3 months.

  • You need to head to the doctor or clinic for each shot.

  • From $0-$120, but it all depends. Read more about costs.

Free birth control and appointment reminders.

effectiveness

Perfect use
Greater than99%
Typical use
94%
read more »