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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Injectable Birth Control

Injectable contraceptives are hormone therapies given by injection into a muscle in the upper arm or buttocks. Fertility returns after the injections are discontinued. Similar to birth-control pills, injectable birth control prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus.

Lunella contains both estrogen and progestin 25 milligrams of medroxyprogesterone acetate and five milligrams of estradiol cypionate. It is given monthly (every four weeks) and is highly effective in preventing pregnancy.

Depo-Provera contains the progestin hormone medroxyprogesterone acetate. It is given every 12 weeks (three months). The first injection is typically given during the week of menstruation (it can also be given immediately after childbirth or during breast-feeding). The effects of this injectable birth control are long-acting, so women who don't want to get pregnant for at least a year are better candidates for this specific product.

Progesterone injections should not be skipped or delayed because ovulation and fertility can quickly begin again, without your knowledge. A missed shot increases the risk of pregnancy unless abstinence or another reliable back-up method of birth control is used.

Estrogen and progesterone injections are also sensitive to delayed or missed doses. As with progesterone injections, if no back-up method of birth control is used, pregnancy must be ruled out before the injections are resumed.

With appropriate use, Depo-Provera is over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.

These drugs are very effective in preventing pregnancy.

Advantages

  • Injectable birth control is as effective as sterilization yet is still reversible.
  • With Lunelle the estrogen balances the progestin, so that there are fewer problems with irregular bleeding than with Depo-Provera.
  • Depo-Provera is especially useful for women with seizure disorders, because it can be used with seizure medications.
  • Depo-Provera also decreases the risk of uterine cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Disadvantages

  • Injectable birth control needs to be given by a nurse or doctor and requires an office visit. The injection is given directly into a large muscle, usually the buttocks or the meaty portion of the upper arm.
  • Potential side effects of Depo-Provera may include weight gain, bloating, headaches, depression, hair loss, decreased sex drive and irregular vaginal bleeding during the first year. After the first year, menstrual periods tend to become lighter or nonexistent, which pose no health hazard, but makes some women uneasy. A significant number of women discontinue Depo-Provera due to these side effects.
  • With long-term use (greater than two year) Depo-Provera may increase the risk for osteoporosis, so it should not be used in women with risk factors for this disease.
  • Fertility may take six to 18 months to return after you discontinue use of Depo-Provera.
  • Depo-Provera does not protect against HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Last updated October 1, 2010




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