For information on combination birth control pills, see
Birth control pills, patch, or ring.
birth control methods, including pills (called
"mini-pills"), implants, and shots, prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg
(ovulation), thicken mucus at the cervix so sperm cannot enter the uterus, and
in rare cases, prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
come in a monthly pack. To be effective, the pills must be taken at the same time each day. If you take a pill more than 3 hours late:
The progestin-only implant releases hormones that prevent pregnancy for 3 years. The actual implant is a
thin rod about the size of a matchstick. This is inserted under the skin on the
inside of the upper arm.
The birth control shot, such as Depo-Provera, is effective
for 12 to 13 weeks.
Progestin-only mini-pills, implants,
and shots are good choices for women who:
Shots and implants are highly
effective methods of birth control.
Progestin-only mini-pills are
very effective, but combination hormone pills are even more effective. Also,
the mini-pill has to be taken at the same time every day to work
This method is highly effective,
unless you fail to get a shot after 3 months.2
This method is very effective,
but you must take the mini-pill at the same time every day.2
This method is extremely effective and
lasts for 3 years.2
Some combinations of medicine may affect the birth control hormones in
your body, making them too strong or too weak. This may increase your chance of
becoming pregnant. Or a new medicine may be less likely to work because you
have birth control hormones in your body. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist
to make sure that the medicines you take are not causing problems when you are
using hormonal birth control.
Most side effects of the progestin-only
birth control methods go away after the first few months of use. Side effects
Less common progestin side effects include
depression and darkening of the skin on the upper lip,
under the eyes, or on the forehead (chloasma).
Bone thinning. Use of the shot for 2 or more years can cause bone loss,
which may not be fully reversible after stopping the medicine.3
For teens, bone loss from the shot is a
concern. Teens are normally building bone mass as they grow. This is why it is
very important for teens to get enough calcium and vitamin D when using
the shot. A small study among teens showed that bone loss from the shot
was reversed after the teens stopped getting the shots.4 Talk to your doctor about your risk if you have been using
the shot for longer than 2 years.
Breast-feeding women can use the mini-pill or shot without worrying about
effects on their milk supply or the baby. But using progestin-only birth
control after having
gestational diabetes appears to make it more likely
that you will develop
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects.
(Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Progestin-only mini-pills may not
be as effective if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Use another method of
birth control for 7 days after vomiting or diarrhea, even if you have not
missed any pills.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Raymond EG (2007). Progestin-only pills. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 181–191. New York: Ardent Media.
Trussell J (2007). Choosing a contraceptive:
Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds.,
Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 19–47. New
York: Ardent Media.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). Depo-Provera contraceptive injection (medroxyprogesterone acetate injectable suspension). Safety Alerts for Human Medical Products. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm154784.htm.
Scholes D, et al. (2005). Change in bone mineral
density among adolescent women using and discontinuing depot
medroxyprogesterone acetate contraception. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 159(2): 139–144.
May 3, 2012
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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