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The contraceptive injection contains a hormone called a progestogen.   There are 3 different contraceptive injections available in the UK:

  • Depo-Provera (drug name: Medroxyprogesterone acetate) which is given as an injection into the buttock every 12-13 weeks.  This is the form of injectable contraception that is most commonly used.  We use Depo-Provera in Unity.
  • Sayana Press (drug name: Medroxyprogesterone acetate) which is available as an injection that you can give yourself every 13 weeks.  This is available in Unity.
  • Noristerat (drug name: Norethisterone enantate) which is given as an injection into the buttock every 8 weeks. This is not commonly used.

Depo Provera and Sayana Press will protect you from pregnancy for 13 weeks. They are over 99% effective as a method of contraception. They are one of the LARCs.  A LARC is a Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive method.  All LARCs are very effective because you do not have to remember them every day.

  • How does the contraceptive injection work?

    It works in three ways:

    • Stopping ovulation.  Ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg each month.
    • Thickening the mucus that comes from your cervix to prevent sperm from entering.
    • Making the lining of your womb thinner.
  • How is the injection given?

    Depo-Provera is given into a muscle, usually your bottom. This injection is given by a healthcare professional in clinic every 12-13 weeks.

    Sayana Press is given into the fat layer, usually on your tummy or the front of your thighs. You can be taught to give this to yourself at home. Advice on how to do this, including a video, is available. This weblink also allows you to set up a text reminder for when your next injection is due. You will also be supplied with a box to safely throw away the needles.

  • What are the advantages of the contraceptive injection?
    • You don’t have to think about contraception for as long as the injection lasts.
    • You can use it if you are breast feeding.
    • It is not affected by other medications.
    • It may help with heavy, painful periods and premenstrual symptoms.
    • It is a good method if you are not able to use estrogens, like those in the combined hormonal contraceptive pill.
  • What are the disadvantages of the contraceptive injection?
    • Your periods may change.  Many women don’t have any periods when using contraceptive injections.  Some women may have irregular but light periods.  Other women may have heavy or longer periods.
    • Irregular bleeding may continue for some months after you stop the contraceptive injection.
    • Some women put on weight.
    • The contraceptive injection cannot be removed from your body.  If you do have any side effects they may continue whilst the contraceptive injection is active and for some time afterward.
    • There can be a delay of up to one year before the return of your periods and fertility after stopping the contraceptive injection.
    • Some women experience side effects such as spotty skin, hair loss, decreased libido, mood swings and headaches.
  • Are there any risks with the contraceptive injection?
    • The contraceptive injection may reduce the density of your bones.  For the majority of women this is not a problem but if you have risk factors for brittle bones or osteoporosis you may wish to avoid this method. If you are worried about this then please discuss with the doctor or nurse you see about contraception. For information about risk factors for osteoporosis please visit the National Osteoporosis Society website.
    • Some research suggests there may be a slightly higher risk of breast cancer with all hormonal methods of contraception.
    • There is a small chance you will be allergic.
    • There is a small risk of infection at the injection site.
    • There is an increase in injection site reactions for Sayana Press compared to Depo-Provera. This can involve bruising, dimpling or sometimes some scarring. The doctor or nurse prescribing Sayana Press will discuss this with you further at your contraception consultation.
  • How often do I need to have the contraceptive injection?

    You should have your Depo-Provera or Sayana Press injection every 13 weeks.

    You can have it slightly early if you are experiencing bleeding which is causing you a problem or you are going on holiday.

    You can start the contraceptive injection:

    • At any time in your cycle as long as you are certain that you are not pregnant – the method will take 7 days before it is effective.
    • During the first 5 days of your period – then the method will be effective immediately.
  • Where can I get the contraceptive injection from?

    You can get  Depo-Provera or the Sayana Press injection from your GP or one of the Unity Sexual Health clinics.

  • What happens if I miss my contraceptive injection?

    If you miss your Depo-Provera injection and and it is over 14 weeks since your last injection you should:

    • Abstain from any sexual contact or use condoms every time you have sex.
    • Make an appointment to see your GP or Unity Sexual health as soon as possible.

    If you forget to take your Sayana Press injection and it is over 14 weeks since your last injection you should:

    • Abstain from any sexual contact or use condoms every time you have sex.
    • Make an appointment to see your GP or Unity Sexual health as soon as possible.

    If you have any unprotected sexual contact after your Depo-Provera or Sayana Press has run out then you may need emergency contraception.   If you think that you might need emergency contraception then it is important that you get advice as quickly as possible.  There are time limits on when you can take emergency contraception.


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