The contraceptive called Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate or in short Depo Provera is given as an injection every three months and contains Progestin which is similar to the hormone progesterone which is produced in our ovaries.

While Progesterone is a beneficial hormone, Progestin is exactly the opposite. Progesterone has a calming effect, protects bone density, nourishes hair, clears skin, helps with sleep, lightens periods and protects against cancer, while Progestin side effects can cause blood clots, problems with liver, headaches, bleedings, depression and much more.

Depo Provera typically suppresses ovulation, keeping your ovaries from releasing an egg. It also thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching the egg. Its efficacy is between 99% and 94% which means that between one and six women in every hundred who are using the contraceptive injection will become pregnant in a year.

In practice, it is more effective than the oral contraceptive pill because you only need to remember to have the injection every 12 weeks, instead of taking a pill every day.

Some women may not be advised to use the contraceptive injection. This includes women:

  • who could already be pregnant
  • who have any unusual or irregular vaginal bleeding
  • who have been treated for breast cancer
  • who have heart or liver disease
  • who are planning to become pregnant in the near future
  • who have had an allergic reaction to the contraceptive injection in the past

The most common side effects include weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, acne, brain fog, low libido, irregular or prolonged bleedings as well as mood swings. What is significant about this hormonal contraceptive is that the side effects continue after you stop using it and it creates withdrawal symptoms such as breast fullness because your body starts producing Prolactin for up to a year afterwards, vomiting and pregnancy signs without pregnancy. Another issue related to this specific drug is that it can compromise bone density and it also has a warning on the box (“black box”) about this one.

The contraceptive injection is given as an injection into the buttocks, or sometimes into the muscle of the upper arm. It is usually given during the first five days of the menstrual cycle (the first day of bleeding with your period being day one). When you have the injection during the first five days, it prevents pregnancy straight away.

All women using the contraceptive injection will have a change to their vaginal bleeding pattern. Bleeding often becomes irregular and can sometimes last longer than before. Some women have continual light bleeding for some weeks or find that their bleeding stops altogether.

Some studies have shown that there can be a loss of bone density (bone thinning) with extended use of the contraceptive injection. No doctor checks whether you are prone to bone density before prescribing it. The contraceptive injection is not usually recommended as a first-line method for young women under 18 years or women approaching menopause. Women should not use the injection after 50 years of age.

When you stop using the contraceptive injection, your periods will take some time to return to their regular cycle. It usually takes about eight months, although it may take more than one year.

Some women may also gain weight, get headaches, experience mood swings or acne while they are using the contraceptive injection.

Women who want to become pregnant in the next 12 to 18 months are advised to use another method of contraception which is more quickly reversible. The number of contraceptive injections does not seem to affect how long it takes to become pregnant.

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