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.


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

  1. chelsea says:

    i went on the depo at age 16 (2009) for excruciating period pains and i also got reqular cysts on my ovaries.
    my last shot was July 2013 since then i have only had 1 bleed which was june 2014.
    so it has been over a year and i am still very emotional, i have sore breasts regularly, i have gained weight only a few kilos, also i am getting pimples more often.
    i do get pains around the same time some months. but it has been over a year now and still my body has not gone back to the way it was?

  2. Tori says:

    I got the depo right after having my baby and bled for maybe 2 or 3 months straight then got the shot again and stopped and had my last shot in February and decided to get off of it and go to the pill and when I started the pill I had 2 periods those two months of being off the depo then completely stopped having a period and I haven’t had one since!! I have stomach pains too like cramps a lot and head aches and back aches and can’t sleep at night at all

  3. Nat says:

    Hi guys, I’m 24 years old and was on the depo shot for almost exactly 4 yrs. I was put on it because my docs told me that it was the best birth control if you smoke cigarettes. I have barely been sexually active for 2 years now, but no one said anything. I quit smoking cigarettes finally a month and a half ago so I decided to cancel my shot appt 16 days ago. the receptionist told me “good for you” when i did. i also work in a naturopathic doctors office and it was not sugarcoated how hard this would be.
    I have crazy insomnia at night. when i do sleep its when the sun rises till 10-11am, so no real rest ever. no bleeding, but intense lower back/front pain. i consider it a miracle when i’m not crying. i do not want to take more drugs to cover up these drugs side effects, and i am taking supplements to help. i am disciplined on the food/weight gain so far, i have actually lost weight after quitting cigarettes/adderall/depo etc. but mostly because i’m too busy crying. i was a sensitive person without this..very sensitive…i’m glad there’s a community at least reading the comments in that i’m not alone. i’ve been very depressed before but this is the worst because i can tell its not me! thats what i keep having to remind myself to not take it personal and that this isn’t my fault…thats a full time job though now to control this craziness

    • kenya says:

      I’ve been off depo for a while now like a couple years now I was 16 when I first got it stop taking it at18 and now I’m 22 my period comes when it wants I still have sore breast moody and I can’t sleep like right now its 3:48 am I’m tired but I just can’t seem to go to sleep

  4. .. says:

    IM feeling that exactly the same.. I have a partner of 3 yrs got on the jab after an abortion as i wasn’t fit to be a parent as i loved smoking pot, ciggys. Only had 2 shots. My score breast and back pain and feeling sick has finally gone and i bleed for 7 days not normal for me and now im pushing my partner away and i don’t know why as i love him and we plan to get married, i don’t ever feel like intercourse, the littlest things make me angry and once im angry i cant seem to stop been angry even though im over it and its only small. I have been depressed for many years it all went away when i meet my partner,but after 2 abortions started coming back and now this jab is really messing with me cant leave the house i dnt knw why anyone know any good meds that will stop this all? IM only 19 and cant get a job or do anything i just wnt to stay home..

  5. Britt23 says:

    I was on the depo for not even a whole year…. I decided to get off BC it was making my body go through different changes and idk if anybody else had this but ( I know this sound disgusting but hey I have to get it out) my virgina was not getting wet at all before we would have sex it was horrible and I was looking and i saw some post where some ppl was saying they got their period back 6 months but I got my back exactly the sometime I was suppose to get my shot so I am confused is this my period r just bleeding from not getting the shot and i was having pregnant like symptoms so is it my period or a reaction from the shot I don’t want to bleed for months ughhh

    • Noah-Lee says:

      Yaasss.. Iwasnt getting wet either!! But that only lasted for the first round.. Now I’m 5months off depo & ive had 2 regular periods.

  6. krystal says:

    I have been on the shot since 2006 and have decided to get off it. I did have a period in 2009 but it was short because the pill made me gain excessive weight that the depo immediately took off. My sex drive had decreased to 0 over the last couple years and is affecting my relationship terribly. After reading some comments on the effects of getting off the shot, I am scared! I am not concerned about the baby making, I do have an 8 year old. I am more concerned about the effects on my body. I do suffer from extreme stress levels, blood pressure issues (caused from stress), insomnia, fatigue and the list continues. Basically, I’m a hot mess. Any advice!

  7. emma says:

    Hey. I’ve been off my depo couple of months not bled yet got told to go on the pill to help bring bleeding along but not worked.. I now feel really depressed and anxious and could cry at anything. . I hate feeling like this cos I’m taking it out on everyone I love :( I was on the shot 3 years.. wish I never touched it!!

  8. cari says:

    I’ve been on depo for almost 4 years. We have decided it’s time for a baby. I didn’t know coming off the shot would be so awful! Only one of my breast ìs extremely swollen and painful. I have been really emotional. The breast issue has concerned me. I have been stressing praying that the swelling and pain is just hormones. After i stopped my doc gave me Provera (progesterone). This did not help at all. He said the Provera will force me to have a period. Been over a month and still no period. I need help. How can i go back to normal? I’m stressing out everyday and scared i can’t have children.

  9. Kayla says:

    I took the first shot of depo and was on my period for three months straight. I decided not to take it and It’s been a month but I’m bleeding everyday and my stomach hurts so bad and I puke every day. I don’t know what could be the cause. I’m so worried about it.

  10. Nattasha says:

    Hi Ladies,
    Like many women out there I decided to take the depo shot. Unkike many I didn’t have problems with my periods, stupidly I took the shot because I am lousy with pills. That was 4 years ago, I had one shot and never had another. My periods disappeared for 2 years, I gained weight, cramping, face stained (melasma), my hairhas continuously fallen out so much so that I had to cut it short after my operation to remove a cyst. I am a living nightmare and I feel constantly on edge. How can this injection be legal? I am from the UK and I wasn’t given any serious/rare side effects of this injection. I feel helpless!!!

  11. Nattasha says:

    Hi Ladies,
    Like many women out there I decided to take the depo shot. Unkike many I didn’t have problems with my periods, stupidly I took the shot because I am lousy with pills. That was 4 years ago, I had one shot and never had another. My periods disappeared for 2 years, I gained weight, cramping, face stained (melasma), my hair has continuously fallen out so much so that I had to cut it short after my operation to remove a cyst. I am a living nightmare and I feel constantly on edge. How can this injection be legal? I am from the UK and I wasn’t given any serious/rare side effects of this injection. I feel helpless!!!

  12. Caitlyn says:

    Hi ladies, I was on the shot for 9 months, i just got off of it on friday. Already, im having serious head aches, back pain and stomach pain along with crampimg. i bleed a tiny bit, when on the depo i would bleed constantly then stop for a few months. This shot is down right terribl. I was deppressed on the shot and very angry and emotional. I dont think anyone should every get this. its horrible.

  13. jannett says:

    Hi I’m 24 and I took my depo shot for 8 months and got off it about a 2weeks and it hell cuz I my mood swing change Im married about 6yrs already and I’m n a divorce cuz I’m always angry I don’t want any.intercourse I just don’t want no one around me I get headache I don’t know wats wrong with me now I just want help?

  14. natalie says:

    I’m so glad I read these comments….
    I was on d dypo 4 bout 3years and came off it in june. I got a 1st proper period 3wks ago hich last 7days went away 4 5days then came back again. Which I’ve never had my cycle only every lasted 3/4days and was very light. But I’m hardly sleeping see every hour on the clock its horrible and so tired…the cramp pains in my stomach r everyday….the thing that was really worrying me was my breast r so senstive and swole as I can now see this can be ANOTHER side affect.

  15. keilei says:

    I was on the depo shot for a year, my last shot was in 2009. I’ve had all of those same ‘omg, I think I’m pregnant’ symptoms. They would sporadically kick in over about 3 years time, they did finally stop though. One of my other symptoms, which most women, who haven’t gone through what we here have, would think wonderful. It was almost 4 years after stopping depo before I started to get my periods back. Which you would think after that long, they would be the normal once a month however many days thing. Not the case with me. I would halfway start a period, spot for 2 days, nothing for a day, then have a light flow for maybe 2 or 3 days. As I write this now, I still have not returned to a normal menstruation cycle. I can’t correctly guess what part of the month it will be, because it could be at the end of the month, then the middle of the next, then be at the beginning of the month after I should have already started. I do not recommend taking the Depo Provera birth control shot. The side effects for during and most definitely afterwards are just not worth it. I feel for all of you out there going through the same things or even possibly worse symptoms. Just know that you are not alone, and we care. No one should have to go through these things when all we wanted to do, was to be responsible, and chose when we wanted children or not to have any(more) children.

  16. alicia says:

    hi im 19 years old i have never been on birth control until i had my daughter i was on the shot from oct to may of 2013 to 2014 i got off the shot cuz how i didnt get a perdio unitl 4 months after and it lasted about a month and then it left for two weeks and now it is back i dont like what the shot did to my horomones its all fucked up now i am now bleeding more than before when i got my perido again going to have to go to the doctors cuz im losing alot of blood feels as if im peeing but its nothing but blood and cramps that i feel if some one has the same problem as me plz leave a comment as to if this is normal

  17. erin says:

    Hey guys…i started taking the depot shot a litte
    after i had my daughter. that was is in 2010. I just got
    off the shot about 4months ago.
    It has been the most horrible time ever.
    hotflashes,headaches,stress,boobs aching,back pain,hips hurtin,
    and lots more.
    its been so bad i thought i have been going crazy because
    my husband i have been with for 5 years told me i havent been
    i went to the doctor…they told me i had depression. well i kno i don’t
    because ive always been fine. but i noticed
    i get so aggervated,upset,just start crying,
    I mean my hormones out of wack!
    I dont feel like me. i hate feeling like this. i wish i had never
    took the depo. the whole time i was on it…i never had a period.
    i also never wanted to have sex. and never could get wet.
    worst feeling!
    Now that ive been off of it…ive kinda had normal periods. alot
    heavier thab usual…and last a lot longer than usual. i just wabt
    someone to tell me if my hormones will be normal?

  18. chelsey dobbins says:

    I would not recommend this shot to anybody. It is horrible, makes you depressed, your emotions are basically everywhere, I cant sleep at night, I have hot flashes,i always feel tired but i cant sleep, i gained weight, im bloated, in the first month I bleed for week straight & like some days after. I am 19 & I only had one injection which was august 5th so I should be up for another injection in october but im not going back because this shot is just rediculous. I wouldnt wish this on my worst enemy.

  19. Nani says:

    Hey ladies
    I was on the shot for 3 years almost 4 am just getting of it because I am trying to get pregnant. My hormones are everywhere and I want to know why is getting off the shot so hard my breast hurt so much and am scared it could be cancer or something

  20. Erica says:

    I started the depo at the beginning of the year, I after the second shot I decided I didn’t like so I didn’t schedule an appointment for the third. I’m always nauseous now and my beast are sore and hurt everyday, My body feels weak and it just sucks I wish I had never taken that shot.. Idk what to do to feel better

  21. Samantha says:

    Girls, as we can all agree this form of contraception is not recommended. Once you have agreed for it to be injected into your body, there is unfortunately no cure for it. It can take about a year (May be longer) to get out of your systems (and yes even after 1 shot).
    I recommend stop stressing and take back control of your lives. Make sure you eat healthy, do regular exercise and drink plenty of fresh water daily to flush out toxins. Your weight gain or loss will stabilise.
    The migraines will become less, your boobs will become less tender, your periods or shows will regulate again and you will get your sex drives back. If you have concerns about anything I would suggest contacting your GP’s or health advisors to see what options you have.
    Remember everyone is different, keep patterns of what’s going on with you. Your lives are your own responsibilities and sometimes we have to deal with the consequences, even if we put faith in the system.
    Stay strong girls. Know you are not alone as we are all in the same boat, hence why we are on this website. x

  22. Laura says:


    I came off of the depo last March 2013 and I have not had a preiod since. My breasts are sore and I get stomach cramps so bad that I can’t move. My mood swings are entertaining, so much so I have no idea what I will do next. Sleeping seems to be a thing of the past and crying is my new hobby. Please use this injection as a last resort.

  23. Miriam says:

    I am so happy that there is a discussion going on about this! I started the depo shot when I was 15 and I’ve been on it for four years now. I initially started it to get rid of excruciating period symptoms and decided to stay on it when I became sexually active. I lost my sex drive, gained weight that I can’t lose, my mental health disorders are worse than ever, my bone mass has significantly decreased, I hardly have any energy, I have terrible insomnia and I often get pregnancy scares. My body acts like it is pregnant in every way when it’s not. It has caused problems in my relationships and with my everyday life. The sad thing is that it took me this long to realize the shot was causing it! My last shot was due a few weeks ago and I decided not to get it. I’m already experiencing horrible side effects. My stomach is constantly upset, I’m very nauseous, I can’t sleep, I can hardly eat and I have terrible cramps and bloating. This shot is an absolute nightmare. I cannot believe that my doctor encouraged me to stay on it. I can’t believe she encouraged me to start this shot in the first place. If you’re thinking of going on the shot, DON’T do it!

  24. Yeama says:

    I had been on Depo Provera for almost 8 years..i am in my late 30s. everything was fine except a little weight gain. I was happy with it…no Periods no PMS. Then I decided to stop in August 2014 then all hell broke lose. I haven’t been myself ever since. I feel nausea, tired, weakness, abdominal cramps, migraine, lose of appetite, nervousness…. it is as if i am sick every day. I experienced sore breast and my period came for a whole week then it stopped. As i am writing this i still feel terrible. The only good side is i am losing weight. i have decided that no matter what the feelings are, i am not going back to it.Just wanted to share my experience

    • Anne says:

      I have been on the depo shot for 6 months, just for a form of birth control, but gained about 10pounds, so I stopped it. I have been off it for 2 weeks now but I am feeling nauseous some mornings and mostly at night, regardless of what I eat. Defos not going back on it again.

  25. Jessica says:

    I’ve been on and off the shot since I was 16 I’m 29 now I have a 2 yr old and been on the shot since I gave birth and just got off of the depo 3 weeks ago I have these crazy symptoms… headache, nausea, back pain, insomnia everything u can think of I feel like I’m pregnant, won’t mind if I am but its crazy how many side effects you get on or off the Depo.

  26. Anne says:

    When does one know that you not pregnant, (obviously when your period returns) but after how many months must you leave it for if your period does not return soon

  27. sue says:

    I got off the Depo about 2 months ago after being on it for several years. I feel aweful! I have constant sore breasts and wake up every day feeling light headed and dizzy. This feeling has lasted all day. I keep hoping these symptoms stop so that I can feel normal again.

  28. Kelly says:

    My last shot was the beginning of June. Hoping to start a family soon. I’m not getting any crazy side effects but have gained weight. Not sure if it’s being off depo or “letting go” after getting hitched. I noticed I gag a bit more over things that didn’t normally bother me. I just need to know- anyone have a half positive testimonial about going off depo? Not that I’m considering going back on. I’m 27 and it’s time for babies :)

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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.