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The contraceptive injection

Contraception injections (sometimes called contraceptive shots or injectables) are very effective at preventing pregnancy. They normally last for 8-13 weeks, so you don’t have to remember to take anything during this time to prevent pregnancy. 

Contraceptive injections do not protect against HIV or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To do this you need to use condoms as well. 

Although injections normally only prevent pregnancy for up to 13 weeks, for some people it can take up to a year for their fertility to return to normal when they stop having the injections. So, if you want a baby soon, this might not be the best birth control method for you. 

What is the contraceptive injection?

It is a shot that contains the hormone progestogen, which prevents pregnancy for between 8-13 weeks.  

Depending on the type of injection, it will go in your bottom, arm, stomach or thigh.

Can anyone get a contraceptive injection?

The injection only works on females. But this does not mean that getting one is only the female’s responsibility. Contraception is the responsibility of both partners. It is important for men to support their partner to use the contraceptive method that is right for them – it is also a way to show you care.  

Where can I get a contraceptive injection?

From a healthcare professional, either at a sexual health clinic or your local health facility. You might also be able to get it from a community-based programme. For example, some youth-clubs work with youth-friendly nurses to provide sexual health services. 

How does the contraceptive injection work?

It releases a hormone into your body that stops an egg being released (known as ovulation), and this prevents pregnancy.  

You can have a contraceptive shot as long as you're not pregnant. 

If you have the injection during the first five days of your menstrual cycle, you'll be immediately protected from pregnancy. If you have it after that, you should use condoms for seven days. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the injection?

Advantages include:  

  • you will not have to think about birth control for 8-13 weeks 

  • you are in control of whether you get pregnant or not 

  • you can use contraceptive injections any time after giving birth if you are not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, the injection can normally be used six weeks after giving birth. 

Disadvantages include: 

  • you need to remember to have another injection after the time ends, or switch to another type of contraceptive, or you can get pregnant 

  • it doesn’t protect you or your partner from STIs, including HIV – only condoms prevent pregnancy and STIs 

  • it can affect your periods – they may become more irregular or heavier, and this can carry on for a few months even after you stop the injections. But the injection can also make your periods shorter, lighter or stop them altogether. 

  • you might get side effects, such as tender breasts, mood changes and weight gain, but not everyone will. These can continue for as long as the injection lasts and possibly after  

  • some medication can make contraceptive shots less effective. This includes some HIV treatment. Check with your doctor about having the contraceptive injection if you're taking any other drugs.  

How often do I need to get the contraceptive injection?

Every 8-13 weeks, depending on the type of injection. 

What if forget to get my injection when I’m meant to?

You might consider taking emergency contraception. You should also use condoms if you continue having sex, at least until you get a new injection or swap to a different birth control method. 

Do I still need to use condoms if I have a contraceptive injection?

Condoms are the only type of contraceptive that protect you and your partner from HIV and STIs, so it is important to use them even if you have an injection. 

Will having the contraceptive injection harm my chances of getting pregnant later on?

If you are happy to wait for at least a year to have a baby then the injection is fine to use – once you stop using it, it shouldn’t take longer than a year for your fertility to return to normal. 

Let's talk about the contraceptive injection!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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Will the contraceptive injection unbalance my hormones and make me ‘crazy’?

The injection contains hormones, but these are similar to the hormones the body produces naturally. Some people do experience mood swings but not everyone will.  

Will the contraceptive injection make me put on weight?

Some injectables can cause some people to gain weight, but not everyone will. Eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise will help you stay a healthy weight. 

Will the injection make my hair fallout?

A small amount of people experience hair loss as a side effect of having a contraceptive injection, but this is not normally noticeable, and most people won’t experience this side effect at all.  

If you have an injection and experience side effects that you are worried about, talk to your healthcare professional as there are plenty of other birth control methods you can try. 

What advice can I give to someone about the contraceptive injection?

The best thing you can do is to give them clear and accurate information. You should also: 

  • Respect their decisions: this means their decision to have sex and the type of birth control they choose.  

  • Be open: be prepared to discuss any type of contraception. And let them know they can ask anything they want; you won’t judge them. 

  • Respect their privacy: they might feel embarrassed about discussing things to do with sex. If they are, you could give them details of a friendly healthcare professional, a helpline or factual online resources, like this website.  

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  • Last updated: 21 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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