The birth control shot is an injectable dose of progesterone that works to prevent pregnancy for 12 weeks at a time. By brand name, this shot is called Depo-Provera. While birth control shots are fairly good at preventing pregnancy, upward of 97 percent, there are always risks related to hormonal types of birth control. These side effects of birth control shots should be assessed before deciding to begin or continue a birth control shot regimen.
The greatest risk of using birth control shots is osteoporosis. However, this is certainly not your grandma’s osteoporosis. The birth control shot rapidly depletes a woman’s bone density at any age. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration placed a black box label on Depo-Provera contraception shots stating that women should not use birth control shots for more than two years at a time, or she can face a high risk of osteoporosis. The process of bone density loss appears to snowball and get worse over time, but is not considered a high risk within the first two years of use.
While considered rare, some women become notably depressed while on birth control shots. This can be lasting and may require treatment. What is less rare, however, are the mood swings experienced in the first week after the injection is made. Mothers often compare these mood swings to pregnancy. From crying one second to angry the next, a woman who recently received a contraceptive shot may be a force to reckon with. Fortunately, this period is short-lived and frequently diminishes after several treatments.
According to the Feminist Women’s Health Center, 70 percent of all women using birth control shots will gain at least some weight. Half of the women who gain weight gain more than five pounds each year that they are on the Depo-Provera shot. This can total 10 pounds in two years. Considering that each 10 pounds of weight will raise you a whole pant size, this is reason enough for some women to avoid birth control shots.
Any type of change to a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal while on Depo-Provera. Some women stop having their period while they are on the shot, while others have much heavier and longer periods than normal. Most women also experience a change in the number of days in their cycle. While 28 days is average for all women, some women will begin to go longer in between periods, while others will go less time than normal.
Common Side Effects
Aside from these major side effects of birth control shots, there are also several minor side effects that should pass within a couple of days after receiving the injection. These include headache, injection site irritation, nausea, bloating and dizziness. Additionally, some considerably minor side effects may persist until the progesterone is out of your system. This can include loss of scalp hair, decreased libido, leg cramps and increased body hair growth.