Types of Birth Control Shots

Options, effectiveness, and risks

Birth control shots are a type of hormonal contraception. They provide pregnancy protection that lasts 30 days to 12 weeks with a single injection, depending on the drug used. This is a notable benefit over oral contraceptives that require you to remember to take a pill every day.

There are several different birth control shots used around the world, but only medroxyprogesterone acetate shots like Depo-Provera and Depo-SubQ Provera 104 are approved for use in the United States. Each birth control shot differs in terms of the hormones used and how long they offer protection.

This article goes over both Depo shots, as well as the other birth control shots used internationally. It details their efficacy rates, how often you need to get another shot, and potential side effects.

Birth control shots are not a safe option for everyone. Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider about whether they are appropriate for you. Be sure to share your complete medical history.

Depo-Provera Shots

Depo-Provera (also known as DMPA or a Depo shot) is the brand name for medroxyprogesterone acetate. It belongs to a group of drugs called progestins, which are synthetic versions of the hormone progesterone.

Progestins work by keeping progesterone levels stable, which prevents the triggering of the different phases of the menstrual cycle. When this happens, ovulation will not occur.

Depo-Provera is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken as directed, but its real-world efficacy is around 94%.

In addition to preventing pregnancy, Depo-Provera is approved to treat endometriosis and abnormal uterine bleeding.

Each Depo-Provera injection lasts for around 12 weeks, so you'll need another shot every three months.

There are two versions currently available in the U.S.:

  • Depo-Provera: The standard formulation given by an injection into a large muscle of the shoulder or buttocks
  • Depo-SubQ Provera 104: A newer formulation given by injection under the skin of the abdomen or thigh

Medroxyprogesterone acetate is also sold under other brand names, including Curretab, Cycrin, Farlutal, Gestapuran, Perlutex, and Veramix.

Depo-Provera shots carry a serious warning (black box warning) telling consumers about the risk of significant and often irreversible bone mineral loss with long-term use.

Depo-Provera shots are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and should not be used in people with known or suspected breast malignancy.


Noristerat is the brand name for norethisterone enanthate, also known as norethindrone enanthate. It is another progestin-only injectable contraceptive and was introduced shortly before Depo-Provera in 1957.

Norethisterone enanthate is also sold under the brand names Doryxas, Norigest, Nur-Isterate, Syngestal, and Unidepo.

Noristerat is included on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. While it is not available in the United States, Noristerat is widely used in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Africa, and parts of Europe.

Noristerat is considered safe and has similar efficacy and side effects as Depo-Provera shots. Noristerat is also given by injection into the muscle of the shoulder or buttocks.

Noristrat only provides pregnancy protection for about eight weeks. This means that you need to have a shot every two months, making it less convenient than other injectables.

However, a possible benefit of the shorter protection period is that people who use Noristrat are able to return to fertility faster once they stop treatment, often within three months.

Combined Injectable Contraceptives

Combined injectable contraceptives (CICs) have both progestin and a synthetic form of estrogen called estradiol in them. These are the same hormones that are used in combination birth control pills, the birth control patch, and the NuvaRing.

CICs are not approved in the United States. They are mainly available in Africa, Asia, and Latin America under different brand names, including:

  • Cyclofem
  • Feminena
  • Lunella
  • Lunelle (This was the first and only CIC approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000, but it was voluntarily recalled and discontinued three years later because there were concerns about its effectiveness. Since then, no CIC has been submitted for approval in the United States.)
  • Mesigyna
  • Novafem

CICs are given every 28 to 30 days into the buttock or shoulder.

These shots are said to be 99% effective. However, research has shown that because they only provide protection for 30 days and are, therefore, less convenient, people often miss a shot. This lowers effectiveness.

CICs also contain less progestin than Depo-Provera or Noristerat, so people are more likely to have monthly cycles with this type of birth control.


If you’d prefer to have a birth control option that’s not a daily pill, you might consider having birth control shots instead. You have a few options for birth control injections, and your provider can help you decide which one is right for you based on your contraception and other health needs, as well as your preferences.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. MedlinePlus. Medroxyprogesterone.

  3. Food and Drug Administration. Depo-Provera CI (medroxyprogesterone acetate) injectable suspension, for intramuscular use.

  4. World Health Organization. 22.1.2 Injectable hormonal contraceptives. In: World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines (21st Edition).

  5. Dean J, Kramer KJ, Akbary F, et al. Norethindrone is superior to combined oral contraceptive pills in short-term delay of menses and onset of breakthrough bleeding: a randomized trial. BMC Womens Health. 2019;19(1):70. doi:10.1186/s12905-019-0766-6

  6. American Pregnancy Association. Lunelle monthly injections.

  7. Jamali B, Kiapoor A, Firoozbakht M, Kazeminavaei F, Taghlili F. Comparing the satisfaction and efficacy of Cyclofem and contraceptive pills among females in Northern Iran: A randomized controlled trial study. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2014;5(4):152-7. doi:10.4103/2231-4040.143025

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.