Birth Control

Depo-SubQ Provera: How does the birth control shot work?

2 min read

What is it? How does it work?
The shot contains progestin, which is a hormone that prevents your ovaries from releasing eggs each month and thickens your cervical mucus. It comes in a pre-filled syringe that can be self injected at home (no need to visit the doctor or clinic). To be effective, the shot needs to be self administered every 3 months.

How to use it?
Inject the shot every 12 weeks under the skin of your belly or thigh. The best time to start SubQ Depo is on the first day of your period, or up to 5 days later. If that’s not convenient, you can start at any time as long as you are sure you’re not pregnant. You’ll need to use another form of birth control, such as condoms, for the first 7 days after the first shot. You can store the pre-filled syringe at room temperature.

The shot will come with directions for use but here is a step by step guide:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Remove the syringe from the package and shake it for about one minute to make sure the medication is well mixed. Hold the needle pointing up and tap the syringe to shake any air bubbles to the top. Push the syringe until all the air bubbles are out.
  3. Pick the injection site: either upper thigh or belly (avoid bony areas and the belly button area) and wipe the skin with an alcohol pad (wait for the area to dry).
  4. Without twisting, take the cap off the needle and hold the syringe in your dominant hand.
  5. Grab the skin around the injection site with your other hand. Insert the small needle all the way into this skin at about a 45-degree angle.
  6. Press the syringe all the way in, and then keep the needle in place while you count to 5.
  7. Remove the needle from your skin, place the safety shield cap over the used needle and safely dispose of the syringe.
  8. Apply pressure to the spot.

To safely dispose of the used needle, put it in a laundry detergent bottle (or other thick plastic container that can be sealed) and place it in the trash (do not recycle). Here is a reference guide that can help you understand your state’s requirements for safe needle disposal (you can also find safe drop off locations near you).  

How effective is it?
The shot is very effective: it prevents pregnancy 94% of the time with typical use. With perfect use, it is 99% effective

What are the side effects?
The most common side effects experienced with the shot are weight gain and irregular bleeding. However, there is a low risk of side effects given the low dose of hormones in the self administered shot.

Does it protect me against sexually transmitted infections?
The shot does not provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Looking for more personalized info? Message a doctor through Twentyeight to get medical advice based on your needs and lifestyle.

With the participation of
Dr. Alejandra Moscoso

Explore more topics.