Birth control methods are popularly used to avoid getting pregnant. You have a wide choice of such methods. The commonly known approaches to control birth are condoms, pills, IUDs, vasectomy, etc. The effectiveness of each of these methods though can vary. Some are available as over the counter (OTC) methods while others are either prescribed or may involve an intervention (often a minor procedure). Depo-provera is a shot available for women to control birth and avoid pregnancy. It is popularly called as a birth control injection or a contraceptive shot. It is highly recommended to understand its side effects before going for a shot.

Depo-provera is a fast acting approach to prevent pregnancy. It starts functioning immediately if you take a shot after your menstrual cycle. The shot contains an artificially-made version of the female sex hormone called progesterone. This manmade substance is called as medroxyprogesterone acetate. In its shortened form, this substance is known as DMPA. Each shot lasts for a few weeks; medical studies indicate that one shot can prevent pregnancy for as high as 3 months. The good news is – this substance has the approval of the food and drug administration (FDA) of the US. After a lapse of 13 or 14 weeks, a pregnancy test is done prior to giving the next shot of depo-provera.

Depo-provera is a highly effective shot which helps you to avoid becoming pregnant. It works by blocking the ovulation process. Ovulation is a process by which your body releases an egg from the ovary. Apart from this, DMPA plays a crucial role in thickening the mucus lining of your cervix; such a thickened cervical wall makes it easy to block sperm from gaining entry. Its effectiveness is rated at nearly 99%; but, to make it function at this level of efficacy you may need to take it as per a dosage plan. The usual dosage is one shot in three months. Its efficiency levels though may drop down to 94% in a real-time scenario; this translates into 6 out of 100 women may get pregnant after taking this shot. Thus, while compared with the other available means of birth control, depo-provera fares at almost the same level as birth control pills in preventing pregnancies.

It is extremely important to follow the schedule of shots. The chances of pregnancy may become high if you delay a shot by 15 days. So, if you are not keeping up with the schedule, you are advised to use other means of birth control during the interim period. Such practices can enhance your protection and can help avoid pregnancies.

Merits and demerits of depo-provera

The key advantage of depo-provera is its ability to protect you from pregnancies for a fairly long period of time; as mentioned, each shot is capable of offering protection for more than 3 months. So, if you get a shot every 3 months, it is an easy way to stay protected. Another merit is its ability to inhibit harsh or painful menstrual periods. Another important advantage is it is safe on women and is not known to trigger risks of cancers especially of the endometrial genre.

Among its demerits, you may need medical attention to take a shot. So, you may find it difficult to visit your doctor’s office regularly for taking a shot. Also, the shot is not a measure to protect you from sexually transmitted infections or diseases. You may hence need to use effective barriers (such as condoms, diaphragms, etc.) to stay away from likely risks of infections. In some women, discontinuation of depo-provera can trigger a few symptoms of withdrawal. Among the signs experienced, withdrawal signs such as excessive discharge of blood from vagina or signs resembling an attack of flu have been reported by some women. Last but not least, you may need a lot of time to plan your pregnancy. This is because you may need to wait for at least 10 to 11 months from the date of discontinuing the shots of depo-provera.

Needful precautions before taking a shot of depo-provera

Most women do not have hypersensitivities or allergies to shots of depo-provera. But, if you have inexplicable discharge of blood from vagina, cancers in your breast, problems associated with clotting of blood, hepatic dysfunction, etc., you may need to talk to your treating doctor about such medical conditions. Also, if you are diabetic and if your clinical history has mental health problems such as mood swings, depression, etc., it is not recommended to take this medicine.

Women with autoimmune conditions such as arthritis (especially, osteoarthritis) are also advised not to take this drug. If your family’s medical history has cardiac ailments such as myocardial infarction, strokes or prior incidents of heart attacks, you should take medical opinion and needful clearance before taking a shot of depo-provera.

Side effects of depo-provera

Common side-effects
You are likely to notice a few side effects. Common side effects or reactions include episodes of headache, decrease in libido (sexual urge), gain of body weight, drowsiness, being in a nervous state of mind, pain in lower abdomen, etc.

Side effects that are not common
Side effects that are not so very common include loss of hair, skin conditions such as acne, soreness of breasts, sleep disorders, flatulence, nausea, mood swings such as depression, etc. Some women have reported irregular menstrual periods as another uncommon sign. A few women have also experienced a complete absence of periods. Among all these side effects, erratic occurrence of periods is widely experienced.

Major side effects
This drug is not likely to trigger any major side effects. Acute or major side effects have only been reported very rarely; these may include excessive discharge of blood from vagina, acute spell of depression, discoloration of eyes or skin, severe headache, etc. If you experience any of these reactions or side effects, you are advised to talk to your treating doctor immediately. If you are a resident of the US, you are advised to call 911 on an emergency basis. If you are living in Canada, it is highly recommended to get in touch with a local poison control center near to your home or reach out to Health Canada.

Side effects of prolonged use of this drug

In general, shots of depo-provera are not given for more than 2 years. However, if you have limitations associated with using other methods of birth control, a prolonged use of this drug is suggested as an exception. But, it is very likely that after a prolonged use of this drug for 12 months or more, women may report discontinuation of their menstrual cycles. However, menstrual periods may start soon after the shots are stopped.

If you consume alcohol regularly and if bone related disorders such as osteoporosis, etc. are present in your clinical history, you are more likely to experience loss of density of bones. If such mineral loss in bones is left unattended, it may soon result in an acute spell of osteoporosis. However, such losses will discontinue soon after you stop taking shots of depo-provera. Though the loss of density of your bones may stop, your doctor may prescribe a few supplements of bone minerals such as calcium. Also, your dietician may advise you to consume foods having abundant amounts of vitamin D and calcium.

In general, women do get accustomed to shots of depo-provera in a matter of few weeks. Some women may get used to this treatment after a few shots of the drug. Many of the side effects are due to an excessive addition of the manmade progestin hormone into your body. It takes a few days or weeks for your system to get adjusted to these high-hormone shots. Hence, in the initial period of these shots, you may experience most of these reactions and side effects. However, by the 2nd or 3rd shot, your body adjusts itself to a surge of progestin and responds accordingly. This is the time when you are likely to witness a cessation of side effects. In case of persistence of the common reactions for a longer duration, you are advised to talk to your treating doctor and take needful remedies accordingly.

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