Depo Provera

"The Birth Control Shot"

Depo Provera. Photo © 2014 Dawn Stacey

Depo Provera:

DMPA, more commonly known as Depo Provera, is a reversible method of prescription birth control. Also known as the Depo Shot or the birth control shot, this contraceptive method is only available by injection. The "D" stands for depot -- the solution in which the hormone is suspended.

How Depo Provera Works:

Depo Provera slowly releases the progestin medroxyprogesterone acetate and protects against pregnancy for a period of 11 to 14 weeks.

Two Depo Provera Versions:

Currently, there are two different versions of Depo Provera. With the exception of the few differences noted below, both injections work the same way and provide the same level of pregnancy protection.

  • Depo Provera Injection: The original Depo Provera formula must be injected into a muscle and is injected into either the buttock or upper arm. You must have a shot 4 times a year (every 11 to 13 weeks) to maintain Depo Provera’s high effectiveness rate, and you are protected from pregnancy immediately after receiving each dose. This option contains 150 mg of medroxyprogesterone acetate.
  • Depo-subQ Provera 104 Injection: This is the newer version of the original Depo shot. Depo-subQ Provera 104 contains 31 percent less hormone than the original Depo shot (104 mg of medroxyprogesterone acetate). Because it has a lower dose of progestin, it may lead to fewer progestin-related side effects. The subQ stands for subcutaneous, which means this newer shot only has to be injected under the skin (not into a muscle), so it has a smaller needle and may cause less pain. Depo-subQ Provera 104 must be injected into the thigh or abdomen 4 times a year (every 12 to 14 weeks). It also provides immediate pregnancy protection.

    Depo Provera Pros/Cons:

    -->Depo Provera Advantages vs. Disadvantages

    • Many women report irregular bleeding (spotting) and/or prolonged bleeding while using Depo Provera.
    • It can take up to a year to regain your fertility after stopping Depo Provera use.

    Additional information to keep in mind regarding Depo Provera use:

    Who Can Use Depo Provera:

    This method can be a safe birth control option for most healthy women. It is important that you discuss your complete medical history with your doctor before receiving a Depo Provera injection.

    Depo Provera is not recommended for women who:

    • Have breast cancer.
    • Are taking medicine for Cushing's syndrome.
    • Have some of the following risk factors for osteoporosis: bone disease, excessive alcohol or smoking, a family history of osteoporosis, anorexia and/or use of steroid drugs.
    • Have unexplained bleeding from the vagina.
    • Adolescent girls -- since this is a critical period for bone mineralization.
    • Want to become pregnant within the next year.

    Costs Associated with Getting Depo Provera:

    Prices vary, but the typical cost for each injection can range between $30 to $75 (plus the expense of having a medical exam in order to obtain this contraceptive).

    The total cost for a full year of use may vary from $200 to $600, depending if additional office visits are required. You may also incur added costs if you are more than two weeks late for your next scheduled shot as your doctor may require a pregnancy test before your next injection.

    Medicaid may cover the cost for this contraceptive method. You should check with your private insurance company because Depo Provera should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for all non-grandfathered insurance plans.


    Depo Provera is 97% to 99.7% effective.

    This means that with perfect use, less than 1 out of every 100 women who use Depo Provera will become pregnant in one year. With typical use, 3 out of every 100 women who use Depo Provera will become pregnant.

    STD Protection:

    Depo Provera offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.


    Jain, J. (2005). “Contraception: Subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate for birth control and endometriosis pain”. OBG Management, Vol. 17, No 8.Accessed via private subscription.

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