One of your contraception choices is the birth control shot. Some have never heard of contraceptive injections, so you might have many questions after hearing about this birth control method.
What is a birth control shot?
A shot can be a very practical method of birth control. You do not have to worry about daily pills or intrauterine devices. You apply a shot and don’t need to apply the next injection until 1, 2, or 3 months later. Sounds practical, right? Indeed it is.
Unlike the contraception pill, which contains a small dose of hormones on a daily basis, the birth control injection contains a large dose of progestin at one time. As a result, side effects of this type of contraceptive tend to be more pronounced.
Like any other contraceptive method, you must take some precautions and learn how to use this method.
All injections have three basic functions, just like a contraceptive pill: prevent ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovary), thicken the cervical mucus, and prevent implantation of an egg.
How many types of birth control injections are there?
There are three types of birth control shots:
- Injections that contain a mixture of synthetic progestin and estrogen. These injections prevent pregnancy for only one month. Here you have some types: Lunelle, Mesigyna and Cyclofem. According to the American Pregnancy Association, Lunelle is no longer available in the United States. This medication was recalled due to a concern with the effectiveness. However you may find it in any other country. But remember, no matter what country you are in, your doctor is who should tell you the type of injection most appropriate for you.
- Injections that contain a synthetic progestin called norethisterone. These injections prevent pregnancy for two months.
- Injections that contain only synthetic progestin. These injections prevent pregnancy for three months. Included in these types of shots are: Depo-Provera and Depo-subQ Provera.
How effective is the birth control shot?
It is quite effective; in fact this contraceptive is considered one of the most effective methods of birth control after the abstinence method and male sterilization.
The effectiveness of these injections is around 97 to 99.5%.
Is there anything I should worry about contraceptive injections?
Any injection has a major disadvantage in that many people are afraid of shots. I hope you are not.
This contraception injection is applied either in the arm, leg or buttocks, and it has to be applied by your doctor.
Personally I have never used this method of contraception. I’m one of those women who are afraid of injections, and according to the side effects of this birth control method, I do not think it’s something for me. I am also fearful of complications or risks to my health. But, each head is a world, and every woman has their own preferences and customs.
You have to decide together with your doctor if this method is appropriate for you.
Besides the more pronounced risk of side effects, another aspect you should take into account before considering the birth control shot is: you may not become pregnant immediately after discontinuing the shot. Your body must be decontaminated of the large doses of progestin. There are even women who have to wait a year after ending their shots before they can become pregnant again.
Experts say that the type of injection containing norethisterone, used for protection from pregnancy for 2 months, may be more quickly reversible, which means that you can get pregnant after discontinuing the shot.
Does the injection have side effects?
One of the most common side effects of the birth control shot is that you may stop menstruating during the first year of use. This happens in 30% to 50% of women. The remaining 50% may have irregular periods.
Depo-Provera contraceptive injection may cause you to lose stored calcium in your bones. The longer you use Depo-Provera contraceptive injection the more calcium you are likely to lose.
Among the most common side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in libido
- Rash or skin discoloration
- Breast tenderness
- Hair loss
You should not use the injections if you think you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your baby may have serious birth defects, and can even die.
Your doctor should consider your medical history in order to prescribe the birth control shot. There are potential risks in your health if you:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a history of blood clots
- Have a history of heart attack or stroke
- Are allergic to hormones
- Have diabetes
- Have liver disease
- Have breast or uterine cancer
Your gynecologist or doctor must prescribe the type of injection most appropriate for you.
Do not attempt to apply the injection yourself. Let your doctor, nurse, or specialist apply the shot.
Everything has its price, nothing is free. Consider that the easier method of birth control shots may have the more risks and complications possibilities, making it a tradeoff option.
If you want to become pregnant in the short term, the birth control shot may not be the most convenient method for you. But if you would like a hormonal birth control you could instead consider the smaller dose daily birth control pills.
If you suspect that you are pregnant or have symptoms of pregnancy, immediately stop the birth control shot, because the effects are quite dangerous for your baby.