health articles

Contraceptive Injection

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice with consultations readily available online, on the phone, or in person. The family planning doctors provide comprehensive contraceptive care free of charge on the NHS.

What is a contraceptive injection?

Contraceptive injections are injections of progestogen, a synthetic version of the natural female hormone progesterone. It is a long-acting reversible form of contraception that is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

There are three main types of contraceptive injections available:

  • Depo-Provera: The doctor injects Depo-Provera in your buttock or arm every 13 weeks.
  • Sayana Press: The doctor injects Sayana Press under the skin on your abdomen or in the front of your thigh. A repeat injection is needed every 13 weeks.
  • Noristerat: The doctor injects Noristerat into the muscle in your buttock every eight weeks. The solution is thick so that the injection can be more uncomfortable. The doctors at Virtually Healthcare usually choose one of the other types of contraceptive injection.

How do contraceptive injections work?

The progestogen from the contraceptive injection is gradually absorbed into your bloodstream. The hormone acts in three different ways to protect against pregnancy: It prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg, thickens the mucous in the cervix so that it’s more challenging for sperm cells to reach your egg, and thins the lining of the womb so that it is difficult for a fertilised egg to implant. 1

Contraceptive care at Virtually Healthcare

The experienced family planning GPs at Virtually Healthcare provide a full and free contraceptive service. They will consider your lifestyle, personal preferences, and any pregnancy plans before recommending contraceptive options. These could include the contraceptive injection and other hormonal methods, including the pill, mini-pill, contraceptive implants or patches. They may also take you through the pros and cons of barrier methods such as condoms and caps or intrauterine systems like the Mirena device.

The Virtually Healthcare difference

Virtually Healthcare is a state-of-the-art GP practice, providing convenient healthcare in the privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit in with modern lives. You can access consultations easily with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as highly-skilled GPs, the team includes experienced family planning and sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients have found it difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments, with same-day consultations available if you contact us before 3 pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

At Virtually Healthcare, we focus on you. Our clinicians take a holistic approach to care. Whether you want an easy, convenient way to get contraception or a discreet testing service for STIs, our dedicated team can provide expert advice and treatment.

What are the pros and cons of the contraceptive injection?

Every contraceptive method has advantages and disadvantages. Your doctor will take you through the risks and benefits so that you can make an informed choice. For contraceptive injections, these include:

The advantages

  • The most commonly used injections last for 13 weeks.
    Injections are very effective, providing 99% protection from pregnancy.
  • The injection works continuously so that sex can be spontaneous and uninterrupted by the use of barrier devices.
  • You don’t need to remember to take tablets.
  • Injections can make your periods lighter and less painful.
  • There is no visible implant or patch.
  • Unlike the pill, the injection remains effective if you are sick or have diarrhoea.
  • It is safe to use contraceptive injections when breastfeeding.
  • The injection isn’t affected by medications.

The disadvantages

  • The injection doesn’t protect against STIs; you will need to use a condom or other barrier method for infection protection.
  • You will need regular injections to maintain protection.
  • It can take up to a year for your fertility to return following contraceptive injections.
    You may develop spots or acne.
  • You may experience side effects such as mood swings, headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness. These are usually worse when you have your first injection and usually settle after the first few months.
  • Progestogen can affect your periods. You may have irregular spotting, particularly over the first month or two. The bleeding usually settles over time; most women have very light periods or no periods at all.
  • Rarely you may develop an allergy to the injection.
    Uncommonly you may notice bruising, infection or swelling of the injection site.

Do contraceptive injections cause weight gain?

Some women notice weight gain when using Sayana Press or Depo Provera4, your doctor can advise on ways of maintaining a healthy weight.

Hot topics in contraceptive care

Can contraceptive injections affect my bones?

One of Virtually Healthcare’s family planning specialists reports on the common concerns they see in their consultations.

There is some evidence that long-term use of contraceptive injections may weaken bones and cause osteoporosis. The progestogen can affect your oestrogen levels and potentially lead to bone thinning. It may be sensible to choose a different method of contraception if you are at risk of osteoporosis; these include:

  • Low BMI.
  • Smoking.
  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Steroid medication.
  • Family history of osteoporosis.
  • Chronic medical conditions affecting the thyroid and bowels.

Your doctor can advise on the relative risks and explain ways to keep your bones healthy. Regular weight-bearing exercise, a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D, reducing alcohol, and stopping smoking can all help prevent osteoporosis.5

Who shouldn’t use contraceptive injections?

If you’re healthy, a non-smoker, and have no reasons to prevent injection use, you can use the contraceptive injection until you are 50. It may not be safe to use the injection if:

  • You may be pregnant or want a baby within the next year.
  • You have a history of cardiovascular disease or stroke.
  • You have severe liver disease.
  • You have breast cancer.
  • You have a history of thrombosis or blood clots.
  • You have irregular bleeding or unexplained bleeding between periods.
  • You do not want irregular periods.
  • You have risk factors for osteoporosis.

How quickly does the injection prevent pregnancy?

You can have an implant fitted at any time in your menstrual cycle if it’s certain that you’re not pregnant.

  • If the implant is inserted on one of the first five days following the start of your period, the device will prevent pregnancy immediately.
  • If the implant is inserted later in your cycle, you should use additional protection such as condoms for the first seven days.

Does the injection hurt?

The injection is usually quick and relatively pain-free. Noristerat injections are a little thicker, so the injection may be more uncomfortable. However, the family planning doctors at Virtually Healthcare usually choose one of the other types of contraceptive injection.

Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.