Easy-to-read medicine information about Depo-Provera injection – what is it, how is it given and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Contraceptive injection (prevents pregnancy)
  • Progesterone
  • Long-acting, reversible contraception
  • Depo-Provera®
  • Depo injection
  • The injection
  • DP

What is Depo-Provera injection?

Depo-Provera injection is a form of contraception for women, to prevent pregnancy. It contains only one hormone, called medroxyprogesterone. It does not contain oestrogen. 

  • Depo-Provera is given as an injection, every 12 weeks (every 3 months).
  • It is referred to as a long-acting form of contraception, which means that once you have had the injection, you don't have to remember about it every day or every time you have sex until the next injection is due.
  • It works by stopping a woman from producing a monthly egg and changes the lining of the womb so it is less likely to accept a fertilised egg.
  • Its effect is reversible which means that your natural fertility returns to normal after you stop using it. This usually takes about 6 months, but can take up to one year.

How well does it work?

Depo-Provera is one of the more reliable forms of contraception.

  • It is about 97% effective, which means that about 3 out of every 100 women who use Depo-Provera will get pregnant each year.
  • If you have your injections on time, every 12 weeks, Depo-Provera is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

How is Depo-Provera injection given?

Depo-Provera injection will be given to you by your doctor or nurse.

  • The first injection will usually be given during the first 5 days after the beginning of a normal menstrual period and when given in this way, you will be protected from pregnancy straight away.
  • If you have recently given birth, your doctor will advise you on the best time to have the injection.
  • Depo-Provera is usually given as a single injection into the muscle in your buttock. It can sometimes be given into the upper arm.
  • It is given every 12 weeks. If you are more than 5 days late for your next Depo-Provera injection, you may be at risk of getting pregnant. If this happens, your doctor will want to be sure that you are not pregnant before giving you another injection. You also may need to use an additional form of contraception such as a condom for 14 days until this next injection takes effect.

Who should not use Depo-Provera injection?

Depo-Provera is not recommended for women who have had breast cancer or for women who are planning a pregnancy in the next few months. Your doctor will be able to recommend alternative forms of contraception.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines Depo-Provera injection can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Breast discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Skin changes such as acne
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if troublesome
  • Irritation or pain at the injection site
  • This usually settles after a few days
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if this is ongoing or gets worse
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle such as spotting, longer periods, shorter periods, or no periods.
  • Speak to your doctor or nurse if you are concerned
  • Changes in weight either putting on weight or losing weight
  • Speak to your doctor or nurse if you are concerned

Learn more

The following links provide more information about Depo-Provera:

Depo-Provera injection NZ Family Planning
Depo-Provera Consumer Medicine Information

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft. Health Navigator NZ Last reviewed: 01 Aug 2015