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.

  

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

  1. Dkya says:

    Ever since I have stopped this shot I feel like crap I can’t aleep , my head is always bounding , I feel like im going to vomit all the time , I’m also very dizzy and light headed . I get symptoms of being prego but I know I’m not , this shot was the worst idea , I was recently in the er do to sucicide thoughts .DO NOT TAKE THE SHOT

    • ash says:

      well, i have been on and off the shot for the last 8 years.. now ive been off it for a while… my last shot was in april.. ive experienced some wierd symptoms too.. thinking i was prego. and finding out not.. alot of random headaches. that i never have had.. ever.. now my breasts are sore as heck.. even just to touch.. makes me crazy.. ive been depressed and have definately thought about seeing a dr about it but reading this from everyone else has helped me realize im not alone in this whole depo problem. be positive girl!! we will survive!

  2. Josey says:

    Ohkay, I really need answers!!!
    I was on the depo for a year after having my daughter, then I switched to the birth control pill, I took the pills for a month /two months but I recently didn’t take them for a week or two, but I started taken them but that same day I started again I had sex but the condom broke and he cumed in me. Is there chances I could be pregnant?!!
    Please respon need answers!!.

  3. kyra says:

    Do you think I could possibly be pregnant I missed my shot August 25th and it’s now October 17 th I under stand that when,you get off depo you get pregnancy symptoms but I’m wondering if anyone has had bloating in there uterus pretty much and I have had white milky watery discharge fatigue headaches and a lot more I’m hoping am but then again I put my self in doubt because of depo tell me what you think

  4. Sara says:

    Okay, I had a miscarriage in September 2013. I had a DNE, after that I got the shot.(Only One) I bleed all month long, maybe a week a month not bleeding. Went to an OBGYN and was put on fertility drugs in July 2014. I have not ovulated. Now there saying it’s me. I never had a problem before the shot. Is this anything someone else has gone through?

    • barb says:

      I have been off depo since July 2013, August 2014 I bleed for about a month just enough to b annoying then had a month of nothing and now bleeding for past two weeks. I havent ovulated since I started the shot July 2012. so I would definately say its the shot that caused it I have always been regular and ovulated every month prior to the shot. I have two kids.

    • nina says:

      Its not you trust me im going through the same thing and so are many other people, its definitely the shot

  5. LeeAnn says:

    I have been following this forum for several months. Last time I had posted I was supposed to go in for a full hysterectomy but of course being 34 at the time they refused to do it even though my doctor was pushing to have it done. It has been 3 years since I last had the shot and I still to this day have not ovulated. I know this because I use to be able to check the cervical fluid and the position of my cervix. It always stays the same but now this month I ended up with two periods within a week of each other the first was was quite painful as usual but the second one was just annoying because I have never had two full periods. It started out pink then turned a dark stringy brown. Has anyone else experienced it and what could this mean. I am so confused I seriously need some advice for piece of mind thank you.

    • Laura Wershler says:

      Hi LeeAnn,

      You don’t mention if you’ve been menstruating over the past three years. Were these recent bleeding episodes the first since you stopped Depo? Have you been having periods occasionally or at all?

      At age 34 you still want to be ovulating consistently to build and maintain bone density. You will find some helpful information on how to restore ovulatory cycles on the other post I wrote about Depo-Provera:

      http://menstruationresearch.org/2013/04/11/stopping-depo-provera-why-and-what-to-do-about-adverse-experiences/

      It is a Q and A with an endocrinologist who explains what women are experiencing when they stop taking Depo, and treatment suggestions for problems you may be having. Hope you find it useful.

      • When I first got my periods back they were 32 days apart but now for the past few months its been every 27 days except thins Month o started a day early in the 8th bled for 3 days instead of 5 then a week later started sleeping again for 3 days

        • LeeAnn Jordan says:

          It was meant to say bleeding at the end

        • Kristen Adamson says:

          I was on the depo shot for about 3 years and after being off of it for over a year now my periods are still not normal! Even now sometimes I’m getting my period every two weeks. It really messed up my monthly cycle. When will it be back to monthly!!! Still waiting…

  6. April says:

    Hi I am 35 years old and I have been on and off depo for 11 years. I would never come off for more than a year at a time just to let my body reboot. I decided that it was time to come off for good and try to have another child with my 2ND husband (I have 3 from my previous marriage). My depo was due the first of this month and I am experiencing severe pelvic pain. I have never really had menstrual cramps and prior to depo I was very regular. Even the times I would come off to let my body “reboot” the most I would experience was mild cramping and spotting type bleeding once a month, fairly regular. While on depo I loved it, all I had to remember was one appointment every 3 months. I am seriously reconsidering returning to depo if the pelvic pain persists. Does anyone have any helpful feedback or tips I can try to help ease the transition?

  7. jen says:

    I stop taking dEpo last august 24 2014,nOw I’m scAreD beCause I’m bleEDING for aBouT 2 wEEKs tilL now.what sh0uld I do? NeED REPLY,

  8. kaylie says:

    hi I was depo for 2 n half years been off it 5 month and got my bfp im 4 weeks

  9. kaylie says:

    hi I was on depo for 2 n half years been off it 5 month and got my bfp im 4 weeks

  10. tonie says:

    Well, I first posted around june/July with rubbish symptoms and that we were trying for another after haing my last injection in March. Took the test on my birthday last week (and 3 more since!) and i am finally pregnant, it has taken us 7 months so stick it out all those of you who are trying it WILL happen :-)

    • Ally says:

      But hoe long did it take for you to get your first cycle after you stop taking the Depo shot?

      • Jenna says:

        It took 5 months after the shot should have worn off (so 8 mths after last inj)-I then had 50 days of no bleeding, then a second period. I do not think I am ovulating yet.

  11. Caroline says:

    I have been having the Depo injection for 2 and a half years, I have recently been advised to come off it due to bone loss. However after reading these comments I’m not sure what’s best to do. I don’t know whether to stay with the Depo or change? Any advice?

  12. Mysti says:

    I’ve been off of depo for 18 months now. (Took the shot in April 2013 and it’s now just the beginning of Nov. 2014) so about 19 months. I started getting somewhat regular periods back in January but could never get pregnant. Well October 23rd was supposed to be when I started my period but today Nov. 2 2014 I still haven’t gotten it. I spotted October 20 and 21st. Then nothing. Then a little spotting the 23rd then nothing and a little the 28th then nothing and now today Nov. 2 spotting and then it went away. What the heck can this be? Has anyone experienced this???? I’m freaking out. I have a doctors appointment set but it’s still worrying me… :(

  13. bree says:

    Hi i am 19 and i have been on and off depo for a year. I started taking it in january, stopped in may and went on the pill. I took nother shot in july and haven’t taking another one. I was due for my shot the beginning of October and still haven’t had a period. Whats going on? I am completely lost because when i stopped it before i got my period right away. Please help me

  14. Tank says:

    Im 17 , i got my depo shot a few weeks ago and i started spotting then i stopped. Then i started bleeding very heavily but im not bleeding red , its black then sometimes red , i had sex with my boyfriend a couple days and fee hours before i got my shot and he came inside me all the times could i be pregnant and the baby dieing ?? I have cramps , back pain and my legs are becoming weak and i get lightheaded and can barely stand up without almost passing out , somebody please tell me whats wrong with me

  15. Laura says:

    Alright I took my second depo shot I felt like a pregnant old woman I discharged a lot. Yesterday I was suppose to go for my 3rd shot but I didn’t (because I’m going to see another doctor) well I’m not bleeding sence I did not take the shot. Could I be pregnant?

  16. Maria says:

    Hi ,
    I’ve just turned 50 and have been on the depo for 13 years. I went on the injection because I suffered form endometriosis since I was a teenager and all other treatments failed. I had my last jab 3 weeks ago and have been suffering abdominal pain since. I’m scared my periods will come back and I also don’t know if I am menopausal. I’m am also getting other symptoms such as severe headaches back pain nausea dizziness etc and don’t know if this is due to stopping the depo or the menopause. Does anyone have any advice?

  17. Melissa says:

    Hello
    I took the repo shot at the end of June and did not go to take another shot. I have been on my period from August 23 till today November 7, 2014. Has this happened to anyone else? Its a little scary that i do not know whats going on with my body and i am just waiting to finally end my period.

  18. Nhia says:

    Hi.
    I’m concerned about stopping my depo.I am soon to be due for my 3rd dosage, but uncertain about following up on it. When I first started the depo I waited for my period. Then I started to spot for a fee days. I was in the clear until about 3 weeks before my 2nd dosage. I bled for days and rarely would spot. Wen I got my 2nd dosage the bleeding stopped in about 5 days. Then back to spotting in a few days.after I bled and currently now til my 3rd dosage.I also failed to mentioned I felt the pregnancy symptoms too.So my concern is what can happen to my body if I don’t take the 3rd dose??

  19. Diana says:

    Okay, I have been off of depo for 2 months. I’ve been having white creamy discharge. It does not smell, itch, or burn. So I don’t believe this is BV or a yeast infection. I think it’s probably my hormones are re adjusting … I’m not sure. Can someone please tell me if this is normal??
    I have unprotected sex, and thought for a second it could be a pregnancy symptom.. But both test came back negative.
    Please help -

    • Kimbralyn Cross says:

      Dianna I have been having the same problem. Went to my doctors I amfine they said Iits just your hormones. Though having head aches, server abdominal pain, and feeling nauseous 24/7 hasn’t been fun coming off depo on top of very server breast tenderness…. and this back pain has got to stop… never choosing depo again. Was on it for 2years… time to get my periods back and get back to normal so I can try for baby #2.

  20. Diana says:

    Okay, I have been off of depo for 2 months. I’ve been having white creamy discharge. It does not smell, itch, or burn. So I don’t believe this is BV or a yeast infection. I think it’s probably my hormones are re adjusting … I’m not sure. Can someone please tell me if this is normal??
    I have unprotected sex, and thought for a second it could be a pregnancy symptom.. But both test came back negative. Oh and I haven’t had my period yet.
    Please help -

  21. Jenna says:

    I am 30, and was on Depo consistently for about 11-12 years. Off for a year and a half to 2 years. Then back on for 3 inj.
    I took a break from it a couple years ago during which time I had regular cycles, and I don’t remember having any issues other than occasional spotting and a month or two where my periods were every 2 weeks or so.
    I started taking Depo again Aug 2013, and had my last inj Mar 2014. Since coming off the drug this time I have only had very light spotting once, and then a heavy 6 day period w/ dark, old, stringy blood and clots. I have sore tender breasts, and pelvic pain nearly every morning. I don’t think I have ovulated since coming off Depo. I have not had a period for 48 days and confirmed I was not pregnant 31 days after my LMP. Has anyone else had a similar experience? How long does it typically take for a return to normal fertility? I have heard anywhere from 5 months to a year or more.

  22. mika says:

    I am 23 years old with 3 beautiful children. After my first child i went for the depo shot it instantly took away my periods (hello awesome) this lasted for about a year and i had missed an appointment due to work because i am dedicated to taking care of my children. Well needless to say i missed the shot in early october..the first time i slept with the my sons father again in january i was instantly pregnant do not recall even having a period between those times this was quite awhile ago..well then after that oregnancy my dr did not listen when i said my fertility is way to strong for the pill needless to say i got my daughter as a blessing…my youngest 2 are roughly 15mths apart so after the long haul of another pregnancy with her i decided i needed to be on the shot again because jothing else would stop me from getting pregnant. I have been on the depo yet again over a year this time it completely killed my sexual urges oh and not to mention i would bleed for months straight when i restarted the shot this go around…i recently missed the shot yes on purpose in September because it was literally making me feel like i was insane. Now i have been mm most would say a tad bit psychotic and very very depressed which i was already there before i did not get my last shot…i do not ever want to feel these side effects again i still contemplate going to my doctor each day to get placed on medication which i do not highly do not believe in.
    I personally will never reccomend this shit to anyone i am very small figured and framed that way well after all 3 of my babies of course my hips widened up a bit but now ever since i have taken my first shot i can honestly tell you when i am due for one because my hips will have excruciating pain for weeks and same as to after i get the injection.. i do not wish what all this pain and nonsense that ridiculous birth control has caused me on anyone..

    Best of luck to all of you all of the syptoms and freakish things like hot flashes not being able to sleep etc i have experienced as well :(

  23. Lena Shay ❤ says:

    Hi I’m 20 with 2 kids. I got the depo after I gave birth in may 2014. Got my shots every 3 month like normal and decided to stop bc I kept spotting for a whole month. One day I’m off and then back to spotting. Now that I didn’t get my Nov shot I haven’t stop spotting. When can I obvalated again

  24. LOLA says:

    please i need help,i was on a contraceptive injection for just 9 months,i stopped since May,till November i am yet to see my period, only to start experiencing breast pain this month of November…this is the feel of the pain, it started with the two breast, at the sides,i had to check if it was cancer signs,, i feel this heat sensation from my boobs, my nipples are always erect, just this hotness , i feel, this is crazy,though at first i have to massage and massage my nipples to lessen the pain but now i stopped cos its not burning like before but i still have this crazy pain,especially from my sides of my breast mildly i feel little pain in my lower pelvic like period wants to come
    , but still no period, can someone please tell me if they have experienced this before

    • Jenna says:

      The symptoms you are experiencing seem to happen regularly. I had a very similar experience. I got my period 8 mths after my last injection, and just got another period 50 days later. No spotting in between. I had intense breast and lower pelvic pain, which resolved with my last period.

  25. Shelley says:

    Ive been off.the Depo shot for 4 months and o have all the signs of pregnancy the nausea headaches light spotting. im glad im not the only one who has experienced these symptoms. makes me feel.better and know that im not going insane.

  26. emma says:

    Hi, i was due to get my shot in june 2014 but wanted to come off it so never bothered getting it. I had my first period in august and then september but nothing in october or this month (november). Is this normal? Someone help if they can thanks!

  27. Kaitlyn says:

    Hi I’m 18 years old. I started depo when I was 15 and.recently stopped August, 2014. Its now November 2014 and I still haven’t gotten a period. I’m very sore and I’ve been peeing so much that twice I peed on myself and fell down and hurt myself trying to get to a bathroom last night. I’m having watery liquid discharge and I’m SO hungry… When will this stop and I can get my period back? Will it ever be regular again? I want to have kids jn the future and I’m not worried!

  28. Kaitlyn says:

    Hi I’m 18 years old. I started depo when I was 15 and.recently stopped August, 2014. Its now November 2014 and I still haven’t gotten a period. I’m very sore and I’ve been peeing so much that twice I peed on myself and fell down and hurt myself trying to get to a bathroom last night. I’m having watery liquid discharge and I’m SO hungry… When will this stop and I can get my period back? Will it ever be regular again? I want to have kids jn the future and I’m worried!

  29. Katherine Rose says:

    I have just been to see a naturopath. I was on the depo on and off for the last 12 years. I would try to come off it, but the side effects to stopping were just to severe, i thought I had breast cancer, I thought I was pregnant, gained weight and I thought I was going crazy, so I would go back on it. No doctors or specialists could give me any answers. They told me I should lose weight and that the depo is a good thing!! Well my last shot was end of August this year. The symptoms are back, however I’m not going back on it. Thank gosh I found this forum, suggesting natural progesterone. The naturopath explained how my hormones are all out of wack. She gave me some wild yam cream, which is a natural progesterone. I will try this out and will probably go back for further natural hormone balancing treatments. Don’t give up ladies. More studies need to be done into the depo provera. Health care professionals need to be informed about the side effects when you give up and we should be told before we start and also been given a clear and supported treatment plan, for when coming off.

  30. Dwell says:

    Hi All – its been a couple of months since my last post. I was on Depo for 16 years and was told by my GYN to stop taking it due to bone loss and that I was only suppose to take it for 2 years. My last shot was April 2014 I have experienced hair loss, lose teeth, nausea, joint pain, blurred vision, fatigue, and of course no period for 16 years. Well on November 19, 2014 my period came back after 19 months from my last shot, I have never experience pain like this it started out as spotting brown with mild cramps, but this morning the pain was so intense I started shaking and vomiting. I am having what appears to be dark clots but the blood is bright red I am in so much pain right now my lower back hurts really bad. I don’t know how long this cycle will last but I hope its a short one. I am 49 years old and was told by my GYN a few months ago that I am at that stage in my life for menopause, but he stresses that I need to take precautions because I can still become pregnant, which I doubt I have viable eggs to become pregnant. I just took 600mg of Motrin IB so hoping this will help with the cramps. Take care ladies and good luck coming off this horrible medication Depo If I knew then what I know now I would have never taken Depo. For those of you who want to have babies stay away from this it will screw your system up.

  31. Sam says:

    Hi

    I was on Depo for 3 years, I had my last shot in February 2014. I had my first period 2 weeks ago and now I am having another really heavy one with big clots, I dare not even go out of the house and this is the 6th heavy day. I can’t get into doctors for a week, I may have bled to death by then!

  32. Dani says:

    I have taken it for a year, I put on weight, I also experienced signs (after getting off it) of pregnancy… I’m not. But now I’ve experienced bleeding, but I mean it’s not stopping and it’s going on the 3rd week and I am freaking out and I can get an appointment fast. I have on December 10th (For a doctor on another thing. I have Anemia)But I want to know has anyone experienced this? I mean bleeding that last long but not heavy?

  33. STEPHANIE says:

    I GOT ON DEPO BACK IN JUNE AND I WAS DUE FOR IT IN SEPTEMBER BUT I NEVER GOT BACK ON IT. I HAD A LIGHT PERIOD FOR ABOUT A WEEK IN OCTOBER AND I HAVENT HAD MY PERIOD ALL THIS MONTH AND IN TWO DAYS IT’LL BE DECEMBER..IM VERY NERVOUS! COULD IT BE THE DEPO THE REASON WHY I DIDNT HAVE MY PERIOD THIS MONTH OR COULD I BE PREGNANT??? PLEASE HELP ME

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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.