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Depo Provera

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Updated July 17, 2009

Depo-Provera: Quarterly Contraception

What could be easier than a contraceptive that comes in the form of a shot that you only have to take every three months? The Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate injectable suspension, USP) Contraceptive Injection lasts for 13 weeks, and is highly effective at preventing pregnancy with a failure rate of less than 1%. There are no daily pills to remember, no IUD strings to check, diaphragms or cervical caps to worry about inserting into the proper position; all you have to do to achieve effective contraception is have the Depo-Provera injection on a regular schedule every 13 weeks.

Does it sound too good to be true... almost like the perfect contraceptive? Are there any risks with associated with the use of Depo-Provera? How does Depo-Provera prevent pregnancy? What about possible side effects? Are there any women who should not use Depo-Provera? What do other women say about Depo-Provera? These are all questions you should answer before making a decision about Depo-Provera, as well as other contraceptives.

How does Depo-Provera prevent pregnancy?

The Depo-Provera injection prevents pregnancy by preventing the ovarian egg cells from maturing and releasing from the ovary. If an egg does not mature and release from either ovary there is no egg to be fertilized by sperm and pregnancy cannot occur. The contraceptive shot also changes the condition of the lining of the uterus so that pregnancy is less likely to occur.

What are the benefits of Depo-Provera?

The Depo-Provera contraceptive injection is a long-lasting method of contraception that protects you from pregnancy for 3 months (13 weeks) without the bother of remembering a daily pill. It is a progestin only form of contraceptive that does not contain the estrogen found in many oral contraceptives. It is safe for nursing mothers when used as directed. Unlike the IUD, it cannot be expelled by the body leaving you, sometimes unknowingly, unprotected from pregnancy. The contraceptive protection of the Depo-Provera shot can be stopped at any time by simply not getting the next injection; most women who become pregnant do so within 12 to 18 months after their last injection.

Is privacy about contraception important to you? With the contraceptive injection there are no pill packs to keep up with; you don't have to worry about checking for IUD strings; you don't have to stop to insert a diaphragm or cervical cap before sexual intercourse; and unlike contraceptive implants which can sometimes be seen or felt, it cannot be seen or felt all reasons that make Depo-Provera probably the most private form of contraceptive available.

What are the risks of Depo-Provera?

The first year of Depo-Provera use is likely to cause some changes to your menstrual cycle including irregular or spotting bleeding, an increase or decrease in the amount of menstrual bleeding, or a complete absence of menstruation. Any continuous or excessive bleeding should be reported to your physician. Other risks associated with the Depo-Provera contraceptive injection include an increased risk of bone loss. Women who are under 35 and whose first exposure to Depo-Provera was within the last 4 years may have a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, similar to the risk seen with oral contraceptives.

What are the side effects of Depo-Provera?

The most common side effects of Depo-Provera include:
  • Irregular menstruation

  • Absence of menstruation (amennorhea)

  • Weight gain

  • Headaches

  • Anxiety

  • Stomach pain or cramps

  • Dizziness

  • Weakness or fatigue

  • Loss of libido

According to a local OB/GYN the most common side effect he sees in his practice is bloating, followed by irregular or spotting periods. About half of his patients find the side effects unacceptable and do not continue with Depo-Provera following the first injection; however the other half often continue Depo-Provera over 6,9, 12 months, and longer. When side effects such as bloating and irregular menstruation occur, he sometimes prescribes either one month of oral contraceptives or a hormone usually used for menopausal HRT which usually are effective at relieving the side effects. He said that women who continue the Depo-Provera injections for 2 or 3 series (6 or 9 months) usually cease experiencing side effects.

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