Depo-Provera: An injectable contraceptive

What is Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is a drug similar to progesterone, a hormone normally produced by the ovaries every month as part of the menstrual cycle. Depo-Provera is an injectable drug that prevents pregnancy with each injection up to three months.

How does it work?

Depo-Provera prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation (i.e., the release of an egg from the ovary). It is unlikely a pregnancy without releasing an egg. Depo-Provera is given as an injection into the buttocks or upper arm. The first shot should be administered within five days after the onset of menstrual period and should be repeated every three months.

Is it effective?

Depo-Provera is as effective as tubal ligation and is more effective at preventing pregnancy than several other methods including the pill, condoms and diaphragms. However, this does not protect against AIDS or against any other sexually transmitted disease.

Is the effect permanent?

No. The Depo-Provera only works about three months. The injection should be repeated every three months to prevent pregnancy. After a woman stops using Depo-Provera, ovarian function returns to normal after a short time.

Are there side effects?

Most women have changes in their menstrual periods while using Depo-Provera, including irregular bleeding or spotting,  or an increase or decrease in menstrual bleeding or no bleeding at all. After a year of use, about two of every three women have no bleeding at all. The absence of period is not harmful, and periods usually return to normal after you stop Depo-Provera. If there is an unusual, heavy or continuous bleeding, you should see your doctor. Other possible side effects include weight gain, headaches, nervousness, abdominal discomfort, dizziness and weakness or fatigue.

Can I use it if I am breastfeeding?

Depo-Provera can be used safely in women who are breastfeeding. The long-term studies in infants whose mothers used Depo-Provera while breastfeeding found no harmful effects.

Who should not use Depo-Provera?

Women with any of the following conditions should not use Depo-Provera: liver disease, history of blood clots (phlebitis) or stroke, vaginal bleeding of unknown origin, breast cancer,  suspected pregnancy or allergy to the medication in Depo-Provera.

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