The contraceptive injection contains the hormone progestogen and offers medium term prevention of pregnancy.

Injection: an overview

The contraceptive injection contains the hormone progestogen and offers medium term prevention of pregnancy. It is a Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) but you need to get it renewed every thirteen weeks.

It is the fifth most popular method of contraception in the UK.

You can book an appointment for contraception for axess here.

Lasts for
8, 12 or 13 weeks
Period cycle**

*for typical use (effectiveness for perfect use 99%)

**lighter over time (70% of people won't bleed at all by the end of the first year of use)

How to use it

Why it works

There are three types of injection available in the UK:

A doctor, nurse or clinician will inject you, either in the muscle of your bottom, upper arm or hip (Depo Provera or Noristerat), or into the skin of the thigh or abdomen (Sayana Press).

There is an injection called Noristerat, which lasts eight weeks, but this is not available at axess clinics.

Once you’ve had the injection, you don't have to think about contraception for the specified period, though you should make a note of when it will wear off.

The injection prevents pregnancy by:

  • Preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation)
  • Thickening the mucus in the neck of the womb, so it is harder for sperm to penetrate the womb and reach an egg
  • Thinning the lining of the womb, so there is less chance of a fertilised egg implanting into the womb.

Frequently asked questions

Does the injection protect me from STIs?

The contraceptive injection does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should use a condom as well if you think you are at risk of an STI.

Is the injection suitable for me?

Most women can use the contraceptive injection, but your clinician will ask about your family and medical history to determine whether or not it is the best method for you.

The injection is not suitable for women who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Want to become pregnant in the next year
  • Want regular periods
  • Have bleeding in-between periods, or after sex
  • Are at risk of osteoporosis.
What are the side effects of taking the injection?

There are some common and rare side effects to using an injection.

Common short-term side effects include:

  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Loss of libido.

Common long-term side effects include:

  • Periods may become irregular or longer, or stop altogether. By the end of the first year of injection use, 70% of people will have no bleeding at all.

Rare short-term side effects include:

  • Allergic reaction to the injection site is possible but rare
  • The risk of a small infection at the injection site is rare

Rare long-term side effects include:

  • Using Depo Provera affects your natural oestrogen levels, which can cause thinning of the bones if used for an extended time
  • Irregular bleeding may continue for some months after you stop the injections
Why does the injection affect my periods?

The hormone in the injection prevents you ovulating and going through a normal menstrual cycle.

How quickly will the injection start to work?

If you have the injection during the first five days of your period, you will be immediately protected against becoming pregnant.

If you have the injection on any other day of your cycle, you will not be protected against pregnancy for up to seven days. You should use condoms or another method of contraception during this time.

What happens if I get the injection late?

If you think your next injection is late, use condoms until you know that your injection is definitely protecting you again.

If you have had unprotected sex and are worried, you may need to use emergency contraception.

Once you have your new injection, if it has been more than 14 weeks since your last, it will be seven days before your new injection will protect you from pregnancy. It will be necessary to either not have sex or use condoms during this time.

What is the difference between each type of contraceptive injection?

The most commonly used injection available in the UK is the 12-week injection (Depo Provera). This is given by a healthcare professional into the muscle of the buttock or arm.

The eight or 13 week injections are just as effective, but require a different amount of frequent visits to a healthcare provider.

The Sayana Press is the same medication as Depo Provera and is licensed for 13 weeks (can last up to 14 weeks). This injection is given into the fat layer of skin in the abdomen or upper thigh, and can be given by a health professional, or you can be taught how to give it to yourself. If you are happy giving yourself an injection, you can be given up to a 12 month supply to give yourself at home.

Noristerat is the injection which is licensed for eight weeks. It is also injected into the muscle of the buttock or arm by a healthcare professional. Noristerat is not available at axess sexual health.

What if I have the injection and then do not find it suitable?

Once it is inserted, you cannot remove the injection. However, its effects will wear off after eight to 13 weeks, depending on the type used.

Return to your normal fertility can take up to twelve months after your last injection.

Will the contraceptive injection affect my future fertility?

It can take up to one year for your fertility and periods to return to normal after the injections wears off, so it may not be suitable if you want to have a baby in the near future.

Irregular bleeding may also continue for some months after you stop the injections.

Does getting the contraceptive injection hurt?

Depo Provera is an injection into the muscle. This is similar to getting any other intra-muscle injection or vaccination, such as pre-travel vaccinations or the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sayana Press is a smaller injection into a fat layer. This is similar to other self-given injections, such as insulin and anti-clotting medications.

I am approaching menopause, can I have the injection?

People over the age of 50 should consider alternative methods of contraception.

Anyone approaching menopause should discuss their risk of osteoporosis with their health care provider.

Will the injection cause any long-term effects on my health?

Some research has shown all contraceptive injections are associated with a small loss in bone mineral density, which then returns to normal within a few years of stopping the injection.

Can I have the injection after having a baby?

Yes, injectable contraception can be used after having a baby.

You cannot get pregnant in the first 21 days after having a baby. Contraceptive injections can be given at any time after giving birth.

Can I have the injection while breastfeeding?

Yes, injectable contraception can be used safely while you are breastfeeding. It can be given at any time and will not affect your milk supply.

I’ve had a serious health condition. Can I use the contraceptive injection?

The injection may not be suitable if you have or have had any of the following:

  • Liver disease
  • Risk factors for osteoporosis
  • Breast cancer
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • If you are under 18 or over 50 years
  • Multiple risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight and/or high Cholesterol.

Speak to your health professional about whether it is suitable for you.