Also called

  • Birth control, Family planning

Summary

  • Hormonal contraception for women is available in several  forms, one of which is the slow-release injection. 
  • Different methods of contraception may suit you at different times in your life.
  • Condoms provide the best available protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

Hormonal contraception is available in several forms, one of which is the slow release injection. Other types of hormonal contraception include the contraceptive implant, the hormonal IUD, oral tablets (the combined pill and the mini pill) and the vaginal ring.

Contraceptive injections are very effective if used the right way. When choosing the method of contraception that best suits you, it can help to talk to a doctor or nurse about your options. 

What is the contraceptive injection?

The contraceptive injection (also called Depo), is an injection of the hormone progestogen. Progestogen is similar to the hormone produced by the ovaries. It is sold as Depo-Provera® or Depo-Ralovera® in Australia.

How effective is the contraceptive injection?

Each injection is more than 99 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy and lasts for 12 to 14 weeks. If you have a late injection it might only be 94 per cent  effective.

How do I use the contraceptive injection?

A doctor or nurse will inject Depo into the muscle tissue in your arm or bottom every 12 to 14 weeks.

How does the contraceptive injection work?

The contraceptive injection works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It also thickens the fluid around the cervix (opening to the uterus or womb). This helps to prevent the sperm from entering. 

When it is first injected, or after a break, it can take up to seven days to start working to prevent pregnancy. 

Where can I get the contraceptive injection?

Your doctor will write you a script. You can get Depo from your pharmacy, but you will need to return to the clinic to have it injected. It will be cheaper if you have a healthcare card.

What is good about the contraceptive injection?

Advantages of the contraceptive injection are:

  • it is very effective
  • most users have no vaginal bleeding at all or very light bleeding
  • periods may be less painful 
  • it lasts for 12 to 14 weeks
  • it can be used while breast feeding
  • no medications stop it from working 
  • it is another choice if you have difficulty taking the hormone oestrogen. ‘The pill’ (also known as the combined pill) and the vaginal ring contain oestrogen and progestogen. Depo only contains progestogen.

Are there any side effects from using the contraceptive injection?

Side effects of using the contraceptive injection may include:

  • Your vaginal bleeding pattern (period) will change. It might be more often or irregular (at odd times). Around 50 to 60 per cent of women will have no bleeding at all (this is not harmful to the body). Episodes of prolonged or frequent bleeding may get better with time. Some medications can help with this bleeding – speak to your doctor or nurse.
  • Around 20 per cent of users will gain weight.
  • There is a small drop in your bone density (your bones become thinner). This is not thought to be harmful, as your bone density returns once you stop the injections.

Other possible side effects for a small number of users can include: 

  • headaches
  • bloating
  • changes to your skin
  • sore or tender breasts 
  • mood changes. 

These side effects often settle with time.

Can the contraceptive injection cause any serious health problems?

There are no known serious health risks from having the contraceptive injection. 

Is the contraceptive injection suitable for me?

The contraceptive injection might not be a good option if you:

  • have plans to become pregnant in the near future
  • have been treated for breast cancer
  • have severe liver disease
  • have a number of risk factors for heart disease (such as  smoking or diabetes)
  • have previously had a heart attack or a stroke.

What stops the contraceptive injection from working?

The injection might not work if you are late having your injection. To prevent this happening, it may be helpful to write down the date or enter a reminder in your phone for when your next injection is due.

What if I’m late having the contraceptive injection?

Once it is more than 14 weeks since your last injection, use condoms until you can have your next injection. Keep using condoms for another seven days.

What happens if I get pregnant while I’m using the contraceptive injection?

The injection is not known to harm a pregnancy. It is safe to continue the pregnancy (and stop having the injections) or to have an abortion.

Can I use the contraceptive injection after I’ve had a baby?

Depo can be given straight after you give birth, whether or not you’re breastfeeding, but other types of contraception might be a better choice until the baby is six weeks old. Talk to your doctor about which contraceptive choice is most suitable for you at this time.

Read more about Contraception after giving birth.

What if I’m using the contraceptive injection and I want to become pregnant?

The effects of the injection can take some months to wear off. It might take a while to become pregnant.

What else should I know about the contraceptive injection?

The contraceptive injection does not protect you from sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Condoms provide the best available protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

The contraceptive injection is one of many types of contraception. Read about other contraceptive options.

Where to get help 

  • 1800 my options (Tel. 1800 696 784) can provide information on the phone about a range of private and public sexual and reproductive health clinics and services, including information about contraception
  • Your GP (doctor)
  • Pharmacist
  • Many community health services and some public hospitals will have a family planning clinic, a sexual health clinic or a women’s health clinic providing contraception
  • Family Planning Victoria – comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for people of all ages Tel. 1800 013 952 or (03) 9257 0100 
References
  • Contraception: an Australian clinical practice handbook, 2016, Family Planning New South Wales, Family Planning Victoria, and True Relationships and Reproductive Health.

More information

Sexual health

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Sexual health basics

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Contraception

Health conditions and sexual issues

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Family Planning Victoria

Last updated: August 2019

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