Depo Provera – so much more than a pain in the rear

Depo Provera is an injectable contraceptive that you get every 3 months.  It’s progesterone only and very effective (about a 4% chance of pregnancy with typical use).  So what else do you need to know?  Read on to find out!

How Does Depo Work?

In a couple ways.  1. It prevents you from ovulating.  No egg means no baby.  And 2.  It thickens your cervical mucus which makes it harder for sperm to even get into your uterus and certainly less likely to get to the prize egg. 

What’s it like to get the injection?

Depo is injected intramuscularly which means it’s mostly given in your beautiful behind.  In most offices or clinics it’s administered by a nurse.  Like any injection it feels like a poke followed by a burn with just a bit of residual muscle soreness.  Most patients don’t complain of soreness after the first day or so, but if this does occur you can take ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory.

Because depo has to be administered by a health care professional, it does mean a trip to your doctor’s office once every 3 months.  Though you aren’t required to have an exam.  Just stop in for a quick injection and you’re on your way!

I’ve heard it causes weight gain, is that really true?

For some women this is true.  Depo has been shown in some cases to increase appetite.  And if you’re taking in more calories without increasing your exercise, you will gain weight.

Any other side effects?

The main side effect to know about depo is that it can alter your period.  For most women this looks like spotting that is a bit unpredictable at first, but after 1 or 2 injections, the bleeding gets better and better.  For about 50 to 60% of women, their period goes away all together.  This is great for women who have painful or heavy periods.  It’s one of the treatment options we use for this actually! But if you are someone who likes having a monthly period, this may not be the best method for you.

BONE LOSS – you may have heard that depo can have a negative impact on bone health and this unfortunately is true.  The good news is that this effect is not long-lasting.  After stopping depo there is a return to normal bone density after about 2 years.  However, due to this side effect, it’s generally recommended that you avoid using depo for longer than 5 years.

How does it impact my long-term fertility?

THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT.  Depo has been shown to decrease your fertility for up to 1 year after you stop getting the injections.  For women who know they don’t want to have kids anytime soon, this isn’t a big deal.  Or for women who know they are done having kids, also not a big deal.

But, if you’re considering this as an option between kids, or if you’re in your early to mid 30s and thinking kids might be in your near future, it’s probably best to consider another option.

In summary…

  • Depo is very effective birth control that you get every 3 months via intramuscular injection
  • It often causes spotting initially and can eventually make your period go away all together
  • There is some association with decreased bone density while using it, though again, this is reversible
  • It can decrease fertility for up to a year after the injection so if you’re thinking of kids in the near future, it’s probably not the best option.

More questions about depo??  I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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