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What is Depo-Provera and how effective is it?

Depo-Provera, also known as “the Shot,” is a hormonal method of birth control that contains one hormone: progesterone. This hormone stops ovulation (the release of an egg) and also causes thickening of the cervical mucus.

Depo-Provera is ideal for girls who can’t take estrogen or have trouble remembering to take the Pill every day on time. It’s also a good choice for girls who take medicines that interfere with the effectiveness of the Pill, like antibiotics that are long-term. Depo-Provera users get an injection (shot) once every three months in their upper arm or upper buttocks/lower back. It’s more than 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancy as long the shot is administered on time.

The most common side effects are spotting and irregular bleeding, especially during the first few months of using the shot. Many girls eventually stop having periods; this is perfectly normal because the Shot also thins the lining of the uterus so there’s nothing to shed each month. Some girls also report headaches, mood changes and weight gain.

Depo-Provera does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so using a condom or other back up method is a good idea.

A prescription is needed to get the Shot, and the cost varies, depending on where you go. Usually, you’ll pay less at a family planning clinic, like Planned Parenthood, than you will at a private doctor’s office. Some insurance plans also cover Depo-Provera.

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