Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Coming off Depo-Provera can be a woman’s worst nightmare

April 4th, 2012 by Laura Wershler

Need proof that women are sometimes desperate for information and support when it comes to quitting hormonal contraception? You need look no further than the 100 plus comments in reply to an old blog posting at Our Bodies OurselvesQuestions About Side Effects of Stopping Contraceptive Injections.  The comment stream – a litany of woes concerning women’s discontinuation of Depo-Provera – has been active since Nov. 2, 2009.

On March 29, 2012, Rachel, author of the post, wrote a follow-up piece in which she laments: “Although a quick internet search finds many women complaining of or asking about post-Depo symptoms, there isn’t much published scientific evidence on the topic.” Beyond research about bone density and length of time to return to fertility, little is known about the withdrawal symptoms women have been commenting about.

Depo-Provera is the 4-times-a-year birth control injection that carries an FDA “black box” warning that long-term use is associated with significant bone mineral density loss.  Never a fan, I made a case against this contraceptive in a paper for Canadian Woman Studies, published in 2005. The comments on the OBOS post indicate that many women took Depo-Provera without full knowledge of the potential for serious side effects while taking it, or of what to expect while coming off the drug.

Considering that Depo-Provera completely suppresses normal reproductive endocrine function, it is not surprising that many women experience extreme or confusing symptoms once stopping it. Take Lissa’s comment for example, posted on February 21, 2011:

Omg I thought I was tripping. I have been on depo for a year and stopped in jan. My breasts constantly hurt, I put on weight, have hot flashes, and sleeping problems. I pray everyday my cycle returns and stops playing with me. I only spot lightly.

Two and a half years after publication, the original article continues to garner monthly comments. I’ve read most of them and have yet to see one that offers concrete advice or a referral to resources that provide information and support to women looking for both. One such resource is Coming Off The Pill, the Patch, the Shot and Other Hormonal Contraceptives, a comprehensive, clinical-based guide to assist women transition back to menstruation and fertility, written by Megan Lalonde and Geraldine Matus.

Lalonde, a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner, and Certified Professional Midwife, helps women establish healthy, ovulatory cycles after using hormonal contraception. She says that women who’ve used Depo-Provera generally experience the most obvious symptoms and have the hardest time returning to fertility.  She finds that every client’s experience is different and will be affected by the status of their cycles before taking the drug, and their overall health. “It can take time to regain normal menstrual cycles, from a few months to 18 months, in my experience,” says Lalonde. “Some women have minimal symptoms while their own cycles resume, while others might have significant symptoms, including mood changes, unusual spotting and breast tenderness.”

The comments to the Our Bodies Ourselves blog post demonstrate that many women are not finding the acknowledgement and support they need to understand and manage the post-Depo transition. Some are disheartening to read, like this comment by Judy from April 12, 2011, and this recent one posted by Melani on March 21, 2012.

In my last re: Cycling post, I asked for input on the Coming Off the Pill Mind Map I created. I’ll be making a few revisions thanks to the thoughtful feedback readers have provided. I had assumed that this guide would be applicable to all methods of hormonal birth control but, after reading these women’s comments about their Depo-Provera experiences, it appears this contraceptive may require its own branch on the mind map.


597 Responses to “Coming off Depo-Provera can be a woman’s worst nightmare”

  1. Katelynne says:

    Hi. I started depo provera when I was 16. Was on it for two years and then stopped. I never gained weight on it but when I stopped taking it I gained 50-60 lbs. My last shot was june or july of 2013. Since then I have had a total of 3 periods. I went to an OBGYN for severe breast pain and she told me it was my body getting rid of depo. She put my on the pill to help out but it has only made things worse. I had been on my period for almost two weeks when I went to the OBGYN but the entire time it was spotting only. Started the pill that Sunday. I am still on my period. Going on 4 weeks now. My cramping is really bad that Midol doesn’t even relieve the pain. My bleeding has been pretty heavy this last week or so. Should I stop taking the pill and let the depo work its way out of me naturally or will it benefit me to tough out the pain and bleeding and keep taking the pill?

  2. Tjie says:

    Have been on Depo for 26 years straight, am now 47, I was so thrilled with it there was no coming off until this year, living & working in a remote place in an African country, there was no shot available and no chance of it either. It’s been nearly two months and I’m practically off my rocker. My breasts are tender and swollen (one noticeably more than the other), I’m on the verge of tears permanently, irritable, constantly exhausted…. I can only put this down to side-effects of coming off the Depo. I started googling the side effects out of frustration – so glad to have found this site. But will this nightmare ever stop? Help!!!

  3. leah says:

    I got on depo in january . My next appoinment was in april , but I missed it . During those 3 months & even now I still dont have a period . Ive had sex twice in june & I bled slighty after not . Not like a period though , it was brownish . Sometimes I have pregnancy like syptoms but I dont know .. could it be just my period trying to come back ?

  4. Darlene says:

    I was on depo for 1 year, July 2012 – July 2013. I normally just took the pill, but thought it would be nice to not have to remember it.
    The hubs and I decided we wanted to start trying and after July 2013 i no longer received the shot. I got my period back in November. It was very irregular. the cycle length only became longer. I had a period in Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, and then it stopped. This was disheartening as i thought i was pregnant. I was not. So now it has been 6 months.
    I am grateful i found this site, as other blogs don’t really have anyone going through the same frustrations. I don’t get why my periods stopped again.
    Has this happened to anyone else?

  5. amber says:

    I’m on the depo shot and it makes me feel not myself I’m moody and i feel bllloated and i will never take it again and when u come off the shot u will feel like ur going to puke headaches etc.

  6. Cassie Aalderink says:

    Hi I recently posted and have figured out how to control the terrible feeling of coming off the depo eating magnesium like green veggies or nuts helps lower the extra estrogen in your body and taking a tumeric pill huggers your progeston levels the reason why people gain weight is because your hormones are not balanced ive noticed it helps a ton with the sickness and the sore breasts and im back to my normal weight haven’t got my period yetbut it has helped with all the other bologna hope this helps

  7. Heather says:

    I took my first shot in April of this year. My fiancé and I decided to try for a baby so I didn’t go back for the one in July. The past 3-4 weeks I’ve had swollen/sore breasts. Sometimes to the point of crying. No period. I took a pregnancy test a few days ago and it was negative. Is this normal after only getting one shot? Thanks.

  8. kaylie says:

    Hi I was on depo for 2 years missed my last shot 5th june this yr and I have had four bleeds since stopping still not sure if there periods or if im ovulating help x

  9. shay says:

    I been off depo since Dec 2013 I wasn’t bleeding at first maybe just a little spotting here and there. Nows it 7 months later nd I’ve been bleeding for 2 months straight!!.and I don’t know what to do but its frustrating, and anoyying!

  10. Naijwa says:

    I need new breasts. Seriously! They hurt so badly I don’t even wanna take the stairs anywhere. I took the shot in late May for the first time. I hated it! My urine began to smell, I bled for three+ weeks, I was moody, and cramping. I decided not to get another shot and now I’ve gained weight, I’m crazy bloated, nauseous, emotional, and the breast pain is unbearable. Ugh! Never again.

  11. Sarah says:

    I started Drop after the birth of my 1st child, when I was 20. I had no bad side effects. Actually, the best was not having a cycle start until a few days before I was due for my shot. At age 25, I missed 1 shot & immediately became pregnant. Resumed the shot after I gave birth. I’m 36 now & stopped getting it cuz I was informed about the side effects to my bones etc & was told from another OBGYN that it’s not recommended for that long of use. Since stopping Drop my breasts are tender & swollen, I have cramps & before I never did, & my periods are so heavy & lasting almost 2 wks with severe cramping that I’m thinking of getting back on the shot.

  12. Samantha says:

    Hi, I began my first shot for Depo in February of 2014 and I did not go back for my second shot in May because of my terrible side effects. I bled three straight months from February till May and often had horrible cramps. It’s now August and after only one shot of the Depo I’ve been continuously bleeding for 6 months straight. It’s become such a hassle , also recieving rashes for wearing pads day in and day out. Can anyone help with any information as to when this can completely wear off my body?

    • Amanda Ajdari says:

      I got 2 shots starting last August. It has taken my body 9 months to stop bleeding. I finally feel like my body is getting back to normal. I bled so bad I got anemic. I don’t know if that’s the case for you but if you are anemic I recommend taking an iron pill everyday. Hope this helps and good luck!

  13. Emily says:

    Started depo when I was 13 years old. I was on depo for 5 years. I was always a size 9 in jeans. I went up to a size 17. I always felt like my bladder hurt. I finally quit my depo, started losing so much weight 10 lbs in a week and a half. I ended up losing 73lbs altogether. I didn’t do anything to purposely lose it. Been feeling sick for 2 years now, nauseated to the point my life is hardly enjoyable. My periods are still off (20 days late) PPH told me I could be on depo for as long as i wanted. FDA website says no more than 2 years. Please, I strongly advise against depo.

    • brittany 22yrs says:

      sweetie you need to get off the depo.. i was on the depo for that long possibly a little longer. Its true about how the depo shot can cause bone problems becuase two weeks after i got off the shot i fell and shattered my foot. Ive never had problems like that cuz ive fallin plenty of times and it was never that bad you should try the nexplanon its alot better for you and doesnt affect your bones

  14. Bre says:

    I was put on the depo shot when I got my period, I only had my period for 2 months then was put on the shot, I was 15. Just got off of it January 6th of this year. Still no period, not even spotting. Sharp pains in my pelvic region, tenderness of my boobs, I have had intercourse and after I bled but not like a period bleeding, more like a dark brown reddish color. I’m afraid I’m infertile..

  15. tracy says:

    I am ninteen i started depo when i was eighteen ive been off it for almost six months now i havent had a period at all but i do bleed sometimes not alot but enuff to notice and some times its a brownish color my boobs hurt all the time i have horrible pains in my lower stomach alot i just dont know what to do

  16. Serena says:

    When I first got the depo shot, the first two doses I’ve had my period non stop, when I got the third dose I stopped getting my period all together (which is what I wanted), after a few more doses I had a blood clot scare so I got off the shot, I have now had my period for three months straight, the period cramps are different now to, they feel like really bad shooting pains, I get them in my pelvic area and the spot where I got the shot.

  17. Leela says:

    I really wish my doctor would have talked to me about this before I went on Depo. In fact, I was not even told that it could take up to two years after going off Depo to become pregnant until i went in for my second shot. I decided to go off of it last month and my boobs hurt so bad that I am not comfortably wearing a bra but being that I have to when I go out and go to work, I am in constant pain and severely uncomfortable. I thought my period would return a few months after going off but it has not. Even though I have had symptoms like cramps, mood swings and sore breast. I was planing on getting pregnant in the next couple years, I hope that this didn’t ruin that dream from happening. Any words of encouragement from someone who has returned back to normal? and was able to get pregnant?

  18. Chantel says:

    Hey ladies, I was on depo for 8 years only side effect I had was weight gain. It worked really well with my body for the most part. I decided to get off depo in February of 2014 and try a IUD called skyla. About two months after stopping depo and immediately getting on skyla my face started breaking out extremely bad. I went to a dermatologist and she put me a hormonial medication I took for 2 months and it only made it worse. I was wondering if any of you ladies have experienced acne during or even after being on depo?

    • Andie says:

      Yes since coming off the injection I have had bad acne around my chin/jaw area. I googled it and it says the cause is hormonal imbalance.
      Well I didn’t have hormonal imbalance before the injection so it has to be that. It’s been a 1 and a half years since I stopped the injection.

  19. Bidget says:

    I was on the depo shot for 2 years. Never had a period while on it but spotted twice after I got off in Jan. I have been off for 8 months and now I recently started bleeding. Its not heavy but the cramps are bad. I sometimes feel bloated, tired, and my breasts stay sore. I lost weight then gained weight and I feel as if I’m pregnant but I am not due to I have taken plenty of tests. I suggest you not to get on depo, it is a nightmare!

  20. Katrina says:

    Hi, depo user for 2yrs also. As that’s how long they suggest you to use it. Without the side effect of bone loss, I wish I could use it forever. I had no adverse effects while using it, only a slight gain in weight. But was manageable when determined to loose the weight. So overall, it worked pretty well for me. But now I’m off it for about 4mos, it’s been uneasy as I dont want to get pregnant yet. Terrible mood swings, unsatiable appetite, and no period only severe cramping & slight brownish spotting. My ob, who administered the drug, doesnt know a thing about my symptoms. Shouldn’t they know all the ins & outs of this drug?

  21. Noel says:

    I have been on depo provera for 11 years. This week I was due for my next shot but am going to stop. I always felt a little strange in the few days prior to being due for an injection. Now that it has been a few days past that, I feel even more ‘off’. I’ve barely slept in three days, am extremely emotional and easily confused, getting hot flashes and dizzy spells, and am quite concerned about how long people have mentioned it takes for the drug to leave your system. If I’ve only just started coming off of it this week and I feel this terrible, it is quite possible the next year to year and a half will suck. I’m hoping the severity of these symptoms have something to do with the lack of sleep but I lay there and just can’t seem to close my eyes. I’m sure I’ll get there. Here’s to hoping I do get to sleep and maybe even wake up 20 pounds lighter when my hormone levels are normal!

  22. Naijwa Lewis says:

    Abdominal pain kicking in now. Been feeling it for the past week. It hurts so badly! Feels like really bad menstrual cramps but without bleeding. I regret the day I ever got on this shot. The side effects aren’t worth it. Ladies please do your research before you take anything.

  23. Ashley says:

    Hi, I was on the depo for only 6 months and never got a period and thought it was great then around 4 1/2 months I started getting really bad migraines the happens about 3 times a week then about 2 weeks later I was getting the migraines about 2 times a day!! I went to my primary and had severely tests done because the migraines were so bad I couldn’t function enough to Take care of my kids and work. All my test results came back normal so then my doctor started looking in to more things and found out it’s very rare but the depo was what giving me the migraines and sure enough it was!!! I was suppose to get my next shot last month in the 15 but I didn’t and about 2 weeks later my migraines started to become less mild and be more like a headache!! But as soon as that happened my breast became so tender I cried trying to put my bra on! About a week after that I started spotting And have become tierd and emotional/irritable. About a week and a half later my period became very heavy to the point I’m using pads and tampons and changing them about every 45mins. I started craving hamburgers really bad and just thought it was a craving due to my period but my doctor ran more blood test and found out I had become severely anemic and put me in the hospital for a few days and sent me home with a prescription high dosage of iron. As of right now I still have a very heavy period and am still emotional/ irritable And tierd and tender breast!!

  24. meryl says:

    Hi guys why after ceasing depo use i never have my cycle until now. Actually i starting using depo from december2013 then stop June2014 due to my hoghblood pressure…is this normal?

  25. .. says:

    Hey i went on the depo last October got my second jab in January and didn’t go back for my 3rd in April. I have bleed once for half a week and had nothing since, but am getting all the signs of been pregnant but took a test and came back negative. It is now august and i just wont to know when it will all stop and go back to normal?

  26. Cat says:

    I’m having the same thing happen to me. Let me know if you have any answers to why it’s happening this way.

  27. Lindsey says:

    I started getting the shot in March of this year, I missed my last due shot a few days ago.. I’ve had a migraine for two days in a row now. I am miserable! I feel so sick. The whole time i was on the shot I felt unhappy and had constant mood swings.. Hoping this sickness will go away soon

  28. Taylor says:

    Hello, my symptoms have been a little bit different from anyone elses. I started depo Sept. Of 2011 and just got off this August of 2014. My cramps have been orgasm related, I would wake up in the middle of the night with an orgasm (for no reason) then severe bleeding and cramping right after to the point I thought I was going to throw up or pass out. I get severe cramps before sex, during, but mostly after sex to the point that I don’t want to proceed anymore. Just recently I had an orgasm then got severe cramps and bled violently. I knew this couldn’t be normal so I had to get off.

  29. morgan says:

    Ok so before I ever got on the depo shot , my periods were normal and cramps werent to bad. After being on and off the depo for 3 years , I either have spoting or no period at all cramps make me wanna cry and my boobs are tender , but wen I asked these questions at plan parenthood , didnt nobody say nada about the side effects afterwards , they said everthing will go back to normal after 3 months, and thats not true. Help me figure out if we all were just test dumies for this depo shot!!!!!??

  30. Rachel says:

    I was given depo provera to treat endometriosis. I was given a monthly shot (i.e) once in 28 days. I took 3 such shots. I took the last shot on June 10, 2014. But still now I did not get my periods. I get cramps, heartburns, bright red spotting, occasional vomitting, depression etc etc…

    When I enquired another doctor she said Depo Provera will be commonly given once in three months. No clue of what is happening :(

  31. candice says:

    Hi ladies,I am 24 years old was due for my last shot in may 6th did not return due to headaches and very bad mood swings..did get a brownish discharge after a week..then it all began severe anxiety depression insomia IBS,heartburn…mood swings nausea vomitting..pain in breast especially left breast..what I would like to know is if anyone has noticed more pain on the side the injection was given..for shot was given on the left hip..bad hip pain back and shoulder and breast pain mostly on the left…please let me know if I’m the only one..thanks oh and yes I am still patiently awaiting a period..

  32. Cassandra Doyle says:

    Ok, so i recieved the depo shot 6 years ago, i recently got off of the shot last year in August. I am starting to get worried because i have not recieved my period. I have been given medicine to bring back my period twice now, and NOTHING. I am starting to get concered….. can any body give me some sort of relief?

  33. mirriam says:

    hallooo ladies, if you are of the child bearing age and wishes to bear a child, please dont use depo. it has rendered many infertile almost 50% of the ladies taking 3 or more shots. I prefer IUCD.

  34. Kellie says:

    I’m a 4I yr old, non smoker, started Depo July 2013 after having a Mirena removed due to bloating and acne. Proceeded to have 3 shots over the ensuing year. Last shot March 2014, after each shot I gained 2 kgs with the last one causing a gain of 6 kgs within 2 weeks. The site of shot remains tender still post 5 months and have just regained period finally after 5 months of misery. Mood swings, hot & cold sweats, breast tenderness, cystic acne, bloating, extreme lethargy, heartburn and a Pulmonary Embolius (clot to the lung) which my Physician is confident was a direct result of this hormone. Bleeding has been on par with post birth, heavy and extremely clotty and still going strong after 2 weeks. Positives: drop of 4 kgs in a week, breast tenderness gone, skin has cleared and don’t feel like I’m going to murder someone on a daily basis. Would not recommend this drug to anyone, it’s dangerous…

  35. Andie says:

    I started having the contraceptive injection and the first 6 months were fine so went for my third jab that year then went on holiday.
    Oh my goodness I started with hot sweats, kept getting really bloated and extremely moody and irritable.
    I was a size 8/10 before the injection and whilst on it ended up a size 14. I honestly didn’t realise that I was eating any more I just was always hungry.
    The mood swings were unbearable though. I had horrible fatigue and felt depressed all the time, like not wanting to go out or do anything. Also very tearful all the time.
    I went to the Doctor and told her all my symptoms, she said I would have to wait for it to leave my system.
    It took about 6 months for me to get a period again.
    Even now a year on my periods aren’t the same.
    My breasts ache and are swollen/really sensitive for about 2 weeks before I actually come on my period.
    My mood swings have calmed down and feel like I am getting back to myself in that way though. I am still bloated a lot and keep getting spots around my chin/jaw area.
    I looked this up and it said cause: hormonal imbalance.
    I didn’t have this before the injection has caused that too.
    My boyfriend and I split up during all this (I honestly think its because of the injection putting us under so much stress)I also lost my job because I couldn’t work properly through being so stressed and emotional.
    I have dieted and got back to a size 10/12 so happier and feel back in control but going through all this has been hell.
    I would never recommend it to anyone.
    A friend of mine had anti-depressants and therapy whilst on this and I told her its probably the contraception. She swapped to something else and feels a totally different person now.
    Definitely not healthy for us.

  36. madison says:

    I waa on the depo shot from june of 2012 until July of 2014. I have not had a period or anything & its almost september
    I am however having blood in my stool & lower stomach tightness. Could this be a result of the depo shot ?

  37. barb says:

    I went on depo after having a baby age 40 was on it for a year had weight gain and break thru spottin While on the shot but otherwise felt great. Loved not having a period and loved not having to remeber to take a pill but not sure its worth it since going off the shot i had no period or spotting for a whole yr it was better than being on the shot! But decided to go on vaca to the beach so of course this is when my period would return since starting had heavy bleeding for few days then it stopped a day then started heavy for bout a week then stoppe

  38. barb says:

    For two weeks then returned heavy been another week Ive had an acne break out during this time and severe lower back pain i have to pee constantly and am having joint pain in my hips and knees ive been tired alot too just hoping i can start loosin weight soon feel like a beached whale never been this heavy this long in my life

  39. kiwi says:

    I posted a comment the other week on here with the same problem most of use are having. I found having no junk food, eating meat and salads and doing alot of exercise and no drugs or alcohol should help bring back ur cycle.. It worked for me.. I was a hard core stoner ate alot of junk food and recently i have quit it all and started lossing alot of weight and got my cycle back.. Hope it works for those of u who try it, let me know.. My last jab was in jab this year i had only had 2 jabs altogether..

  40. Hanna says:

    Hello! I was due for my last depo shot june 16, 2014. I did not get it. I’ve had one period since then on august 7th. It lasted two days and was kind of light. I’ve had unprotected sex. I’ve been worried about the possibility of pregnancy because my breasts hurt very bad, mainly my nipples. The deposit shot gave me night mares and mood swings when on it. I had periods two months apart that lasted 3 weeks at a time. Right now since being off the shot my breast hurt really bad and have been hurting for the past 5 days. These comments are definitely helpful because I’m realizing the breast and nipple pain is more likely from coming off depo provera rather than pregnancy. All though I’m afraid of not being able to get pregnant anymore because I was on the shot. Pain advice for my breasts would be very helpful if anyone has any suggestions.


  41. Amberly says:

    *****DEPO AFTER BABY*****
    I had my first injection in May ’14 a few days after my delivery. I was excited to not have to worry about a pill with all the newborn stress. I was DEAD wrong. Since the shot… and from the shot… I have not quit bleeding, I am ALWAYS hungry, soooo drained, dizzy, acne in places I have never had before, very short fused, and I have actually gained weight since leaving the hospital!!!! Mind you this is my third child… so I know I am not just tired from having a baby. She sleeps through the night. I get plenty of rest and I am a stay at home mom. Also, when trying to exercise I tire with in a few minutes and am dizzy. All of this is not normal for me! Never again! Now I am trying to use Ortho tri cyclen to get at least my bleeding back in line!! Thanks!
    -Amber, 29
    Mother of three!

  42. Andrea says:

    I’m 24yrs old, and I have been on the Depo shot for about a year now. For the first half of the year I was fine. Within the past 6 months I have not only gained approx 10lbs, I feel constantly bloated, I’m ALWAYS hungry, and I’ve been moody and irritable. I highly recommend that NO ONE goes on this shot it’s not worth it! There are so many other options. I’m getting married in a year and I hope that I can shed this weight by then! My OBGYN never went over ANY of these side effects with me. Extremely disappointed and frustrated.

  43. adrianna says:

    Hello I’m 23 years old ,ive been on depo for almost five years,when I first started my period stayed on 3 months ,then they completely stop. I was very active in sports and my studies so I want to be responsible. after a year of being on the shot everything seemed fine but then my appetite increased I eat all the lol.. i missed a shot and four months later my breast hurt soooooo bad especially when I take my bra off . I have to keep it on …

  44. [...] some of our favorite posts. This post by Laura Wershler originally appeared April 4, 2012, and has received nearly 600 comments. To avoid confusion, we have closed comments on this [...]

  45. rose says:

    I got on the depo 3 months after having my first child at the age of 15. I have been on it for 3 yrs now. I recently got of the shot. I was due last month. I have gained a lot of wait and my breast are still ful of milk. I stay tired. Im in college. I fall asleep in class every where I go amd starting to fallasleep while ddriving only 30 min. Still no period. I never had cramps but my stomach pains gets so bad I cant walk. This is unhealthy and not safe. Dont take it!!!

  46. Kayla says:

    I have a spotting three or four times since I got off this shot
    Is this just te depo leaving my body?

  47. Samantha says:

    Hi i just started the depo shot. I took my first shot on august 5 off my period and they said to wait 7 days before it can become fully effective I had sex on the 8th day I am freaking out cause I’m not sure if I should be seeing period I get severe cramps at times I’m nauseous and I see little brownish spots. Im so lost here I’m thinking of coming off it because I’m so uneasy about this. Any suggestions or advise?

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Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.