It seems like there are a million different types of birth control brands and options, which is wonderful and great news for ladies who are trying to prevent pregnancy. Whether it’s using a condom or diaphragm, taking a pill, using an IUD, or even a shot, you’ve got options. The Depo-Provera (AKA Depo) shot is becoming more and more popular for its "get it and forget it" vibe (unlike having to remember to take your pill at the same time every day), but what about eventually wanting to get pregnant? Does the Depo shot cause infertility?
If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably been doing some research on birth control methods and how they work, but in case you missed it (or need a CliffsNotes version), the Depo-Provera is the brand name for “medroxyprogesterone,” according to the Mayo Clinic. The Depo shot works by injecting progestin into your body, and you get it every three months to “refresh” it and start the cycle over again. The progestin in the shot is similar to the progesterone hormone that your ovaries produce during your cycle. The Mayo Clinic also noted that many doctors like to use this form of birth control — rather than other hormonal birth control methods — because the Depo shot carries lower risks of complications (such as heavy bleeding, severe lower abdominal pain, weight gain, depression, or allergic reactions) since it doesn’t have both estrogen and progestin.
So how does it work? According to Dr. G. Thomas Ruiz, OB-GYN at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, “Depo-Provera is a progesterone derivative that is mixed in an oil preparation. It is injected in the butt muscle where it releases slowly over the course of three months to prevent ovulation.” The American Pregnancy Association (APA) noted that the Depo shot works in three ways: It prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg to be fertilized, it thickens your cervical mucus — which keeps sperm from reaching your egg if it does release, and it changes the lining of your uterus to prevent implantation. You also have to time the injection by getting it within the first five days of your period.
As far as infertility goes, Ruiz says, the Depo shot "has a bit of a cumulative effect. The more shots a woman gets, the longer it takes for the medication to leave a woman's system. It can take six months to a year following treatment for a woman's period to come back. Fertility resumes with the resumption of periods,” he says in an email interview with Romper.
However, the Mayo Clinic reported that it could take up to 10 months or more before you begin ovulating again, so if you want to get pregnant within the next year or so, you should probably go with another birth control option.
If you’ve already had children and you think you’re done, can you use the Depo shot after pregnancy? Yep, you just have to wait a few weeks. Ruiz says, “The shot can be given six weeks after birth. We only recommend a woman stay on this contraception continuously for three years, because after three years, [the Depo shot] causes a loss of bone density."
Planning on getting pregnant in the near-ish future? You may want to consider a different birth control method. While it doesn’t necessarily cause infertility, it could make it take a lot longer to get pregnant and actually ovulate. And since conception only happens 25 percent of the time — and that’s if the stars align and everyone’s body parts and body fluids are working perfectly — you may not want to make it harder to conceive than it sometimes already is.
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