Contraceptive Injection

The contraceptive injection is a small dose of hormone injected into the upper arm muscle.
Contraceptive Injection
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Street names Depo, deepa, the shot, the needle
Medical names Depo Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA), Depo Provera® (brand), Depo Ralovera® (brand).
Effectiveness 94% ?
It lasts 12 weeks
Fertility Ovulation generally returns 3 months after the injection
Who can use it? People with a vagina and uterus of any age from menarche to menopause
Hormones Contains progestogen hormone
Visibility Discreet but requires three monthly appointments
STIs No protection ?
Side effects Uterine bleeding, headaches, breast tenderness, mood changes, acne. Allow 6 months to adjust to hormones
Cost Between $7 and $40 for a 12 week dose depending if you have a Health Care card or Medicare card. Additional costs for appointment
Where to get it Visit a reproductive and sexual health clinic or your local doctor. You may need to visit a pharmacy to pick up a prescription

How does it work?

The injection of hormones prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs (ova). It also changes the mucus of the cervix making it harder for any sperm to enter the uterus. This prevents pregnancy.

The liquid contains 0.15mg of progestogen hormone called Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate. The name is often shortened to Depo. One injection contains enough hormones to work as a contraceptive for 12 weeks.

You will still need to consider the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every time you have sex.

What’s it like to use?

The needle is small. It is injected into the arm muscle, which hurts. The pain does not last long.

No one would know you have the contraception injection. This can be a good method for people who need their contraceptive method to be highly confidential.

Menstrual periods will stop and instead you will experience a uterine bleeding period. It will feel similar to menstrual period but the flow is usually lighter and bleeding patterns can be irregular.

What if I forget about it?

To be effective you need to remember the correct date for the next injection, and you need to book the appointment in advance. This method is only 94% effective because people often forget or delay the appointment.

Delaying the appointment may cause uterine bleeding or spotting. You may start ovulating beyond 12 weeks of the initial injection so consider alternative contraceptive methods.

Who can use it?

People with a vagina and uterus of any age, from menarche to menopause.

The contraceptive injection is suitable for people who have never experienced pregnancy, and for use as contraception after pregnancy.

If you experience polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or if you are close to menopause, progestogen only contraceptives may be less suitable. Consider non-hormonal contraceptive methods or hormonal methods that also contain oestrogen.

It may not be suitable for people with liver disease and should be discussed with your medical practitioner.

Due to minor effects on bone mineral density, it may be less suitable for people experiencing disordered eating (eg. anorexia) or who have existing conditions affecting skeletal health (eg. osteoporosis).

The contraceptive implant is suitable for people who may have a family history of breast cancer. It is not suitable for people who have experienced breast cancer within the past 5 years.

Side effects

During the first 6 months your body may take time to adjust to the hormones.

The most commonly reported side effect is changes to uterine bleeding patterns. The most common effect is amenorrhoea (no uterine bleeding at all) which usually occurs after 12 months. During the first 6 months there can be irregular uterine bleeding or spotting.

A less common side effect is a slight loss in bone mineral density. This would only be noticeable if you have existing bone mineral density issues. If your bone density is high when you start the injections, after stopping the injections bone density will increase to previous levels. A doctor would assess your risk of bone density loss.

Side effects can also include headaches, breast tenderness, mood changes or acne. Body weight can change alongside hormonal changes, though effects are minimal. Slight weight gain is more possible if you are overweight prior to using the contraceptive injection. Learn more about your reproductive organs and sexual health and hormonal contraceptives.

If at any point you feel that this contraceptive method is making you feel uncomfortable or unwell, get advice from a doctor or medical professional. If it is an emergency, call an ambulance on 000.

How and where to get it

At most reproductive and sexual health clinics you can have a health assessment and be given a contraceptive injection all on the same day.

The injection price will be between $7 and $40 depending on whether you have a Health Care Card. There may also be consultation fees. You can ask for a quote when you book an appointment.

What if you change your mind

You can stop using the contraceptive injection any time. Remember that it will take 12 weeks from the initial injection for your ovulation to return. In some rare cases it may take longer (up to 18 months). If you decide to stop using the contraceptive injection, visit a reproductive and sexual health clinic to discuss your contraceptive options.