Depo-Provera is a hormonal contraceptive administered by intramuscular injection once every eleven to thirteen weeks. It is a form of progesterone, a female hormone which prevents ovulation. Depo-Provera works by changing the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus. Depo-Provera has also been used to treat pain caused by endometriosis, metastatic uterine cancer or kidney cancer.
Depo-Provera is a popular birth control because of its high rate of pregnancy prevention and the fact that it is more convenient than a daily pill, with injections required only every few months.
Depo-Provera is a commonly prescribed birth control method. However, Depo-Provera is also used in treating certain types of cancer, including cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Studies have shown that women taking Depo-Provera for more than five years increased their risk of osteoporosis by 50 percent.
Since its approval, Depo-Provera has been through a series of studies determining the drug’s side effects and effectiveness. In several studies, researchers found a link between significant bone loss and the long term use of the contraceptive. Some researchers believe that this bone loss is reversible in younger women, while others believe the damage can be permanent.
Bone loss is prevalent in older women, and it is common for post-menopausal women to experience bone fractures, but this injection may bring these symptoms to younger women as well. Research has shown that the longer Depo-Provera is utilized, the more calcium is lost in the skeletal system.
In 2004, the FDA issued a black box warning regarding the long term used of Depo-Provera and its strong causal relationship to significant loss of bone mass density, including development of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Serious side effects may include:
- Menstrual periods that are heavier or longer than normal
- Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance
- Chest pain, sudden cough, wheezing, rapid breathing, coughing up blood
- Pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs
- Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet
- Symptoms of depression (sleep problems, weakness, mood changes)
Less serious Depo-Provera side effects may include:
- Changes in your menstrual periods
- Weight gain
- Mild headache, drowsiness
- Mild stomach pain
- Hot flashes
- Joint pain
- Breast tenderness
- Feeling tired or irritable
- Decreased sex drive
- Skin changes or a hard lump where the injection was given