All you need to know about contraceptive injection
If taking a birth control pill every day is not your cup of tea, you can try the contraceptive injection which is very popular among many users for its convenience. All you need to do is go to a healthcare provider every two or three months – depending on the type of injection you choose, get the shot and sit back and relax.
The contraceptive injection is the third most prevalent form of reversible contraceptive method in the world. According to the United Nations estimates, around 74 million women currently use injectable steroids for contraception. It is also one of the most popular methods in Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Western Africa including Burkina Faso.
Like most contraceptive methods, contraceptive injection has its fair share of lovers and haters. There are people who cannot stop talking about how great it is to not have to worry about birth control every time they have sex. And there are many who don’t have very nice things to say for the makers of this shot.
If you are considering using the contraceptive injection, it is important to understand what it is and how it works; and most importantly how your body may respond to it. Continue reading this blog and you will learn so much about this contraceptive method.
What is contraceptive injection?
- Prevents ovulation, which is when the female ovaries release an egg.
- Modifies the cervical mucus (fluid or gel-like discharge from the tissues which connect the vagina and uterus), making it thicker and less abundant and therefore unsuitable for the passage of sperm.
- Thins the uterine lining, which makes it hard for a fertilized egg to implant, or attach, to the uterus.
There are mainly three types of contraceptive injections available in the market:
- Every three months: Depo-Provera, also known as DMPA or a Depo shot
- Every two months: Noristerat, also known as NET-EN
- Monthly: Combined Injectable Contraceptives, also known as CICs
How to use contraceptive injection?
This is probably the best part of using contraceptive injection: getting a shot just three or four times a year. All you need to do is visit a healthcare provider on time. Its effectiveness highly depends on its timely administration.
The injection is given in the arm or the buttock, and it can be administered at any time during the menstrual cycle as long as it is confirmed that you are not pregnant. It is advised to not have unprotected sexual intercourse during the first seven days of getting the first injection. If that’s unavoidable, use a condom.
For Depo-Provera, you should get it every three months. There’s a possibility to get it two-three weeks earlier or four weeks late; this is a safe period and you will be protected from unintended pregnancies but use a second method of protection such as condoms or emergency contraceptives to be completely safe. There is another injection called the Sayana Press, which is a newer version of Depo-Provera and they are similar in many ways. The main difference between the two injections is that you inject Sayana Press yourself, whereas a trained medical professional administers Depo-Provera to you.
As for Noristerat, the injection must be administered every two months. You always have the possibility to get it two weeks earlier or two weeks late. You will be protected but as recommended for Depo-Provera, use a back-up method.
Advantages of contraceptive injection
Getting it and forgetting it is not the only reason why so many people love the contraceptive injection. It offers many benefits which in the end of the day improves your health and enhances your sexual life. For example, it is 97-99% effective, very easy to use, reversible and discreet. You don’t need to do anything every day nor do you have to interrupt the sexy mood to use it.
It is also immediately effective if you take the first injection within the first five days of your normal menstrual period. No wonder why some people keep using it over and over again.
Aside from these benefits, the contraceptive injection could also result in shorter menstrual periods with less or no bleeding at all; imagine the relief, which becomes even sweeter when it also limits the menstrual cramps and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Further, you can use the injection while you are breastfeeding.
The contraceptive injection is a good alternative if you cannot use the methods which have the estrogen hormones, such as the combined contraceptive pill, contraceptive patch and contraceptive vaginal ring.
Disadvantages of contraceptive injection
However, it is not always sunshine and rainbows as the contraceptive injection can also have some adverse side effects. For example, your periods may change in ways you might not like; the flow can become irregular, heavier, shorter, lighter or stop altogether. This may persist for several months even after you stop taking the injections.
Same is the case for any other side effects. Since the injection works for 8 to 13 weeks, the hormones stay in the body. They continue to have side effects for this time period and also for some time after that.
Further, like most contraceptives, the injections do not protect you against sexually-transmitted infections, so you also need to use condoms.
Many users also complain having gained weight, while others experience side effects such as spots on the skin, hair loss, decreased libido, mood swings, headaches, nausea, dizziness and chest pain.
Who can use contraceptive injection?
Though this method works well for many women, it may not be suitable for women with breast or endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer. If you are one of them, discuss with your doctor to make the right decision.
Other conditions that clash with this method of contraceptives are obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, uterine fibroids, hepatitis (or a recent history of hepatitis), liver disease, arterial and venous thrombo-embolic disease and heavy periods and/or unexplained bleeding between periods.
Since progestogens in the injection reduce the normal level of estrogen in the body and thus cause a decrease in bone mineral density, the injection could also lead to the risk of osteoporosis. This type of contraception is therefore not recommended for adolescents and young adults (during the period of bone building) and women with risk factors for osteoporosis.
Contraceptive methods play a very important role in our lives. They help us plan our lives and enjoy our sexuality to the fullest. The contraceptive injection, like all other methods of contraception, has advantages and disadvantages. You should consider these factors when choosing it as a method. Research thoroughly and also discuss with your healthcare worker when making the decision.
About the author: Sirina Sompingda Ouedraogo is a feminist, life enthusiast and lover. She is a medical student based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and is passionate about sexual and reproductive health.
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