Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Stopping Depo-Provera: Why and what to do about adverse experiences

April 11th, 2013 by Laura Wershler

Laura Wershler interviews Ask Jerilynn, clinician-scientist and endocrinologist

A screen shot of comments to Laura Wershler’s blog post of April 4, 2012: “Coming off Depo-Provera can be a woman’s worst nightmare.”

With 250 comments – and counting – to my year-old post Coming off Depo-Provera is a women’s worst nightmare (April 4, 2012) I thought it was time to revisit this topic.

That blog post has become a forum for women to share their negative experiences with stopping Depo-Provera (also called “the shot,” or Depo), the four-times-a-year contraceptive injection. (Commenters reporting positive experiences have been extremely rare.) Many women have experienced distressing effects either while taking Depo and/or after stopping it. They report that health-care professionals seem unable to explain their problems or to offer effective solutions. What is puzzling for many is why they are experiencing symptoms like sore breasts, heavy and ongoing bleeding (or not getting flow back at all), digestive problems, weight gain and mood issues when they stop Depo.

This post aims to briefly explain how Depo works to prevent pregnancy, its common side effects and, most importantly, why and what to do about adverse experiences when stopping it.

What follows is my interview with Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research board member, professor of endocrinology at the University of British Columbia, and scientific director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR) Section 1 explains how Depo-Provera works and what causes its side effects. Section 2  explains the symptoms women are experiencing after stopping the drug.

1) Taking Depo-Provera: How it works and established side effects

Laura Wershler (LW): Dr. Prior, what is Depo-Provera® and how does it prevent pregnancy?

Ask Jerilynn: The term, “depo” means a deposit or injection and Provera is a common brand name of the most frequently used synthetic progestin in North America, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). Depo is a shot of MPA given every three months in the large dose of 150 mg. Depo prevents pregnancy by “drying up” the cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming, by thinning the endometrium (uterine lining) so a fertilized egg can’t implant and primarily by suppressing the hypothalamic and pituitary signals that coordinate the menstrual cycle. That means a woman’s own hormone levels become almost as low as in menopause, with very low progesterone and lowered estrogen levels.

LW: Could you explain the hormonal changes behind the several established side effects of Depo? Let’s start with bleeding issues including spotting, unpredictable or non-stop bleeding that can last for several months before, in most women, leading to amenorrhea (no menstrual period).

Ask Jerilynn: It is not entirely clear, but probably the initial unpredictable bleeding relates to how long it takes for this big hormone injection to suppress women’s own estrogen levels. The other reason is that where the endometrium has gotten thin it is more likely to break down and bleed. These unpredictable flow side-effects of Depo are something that women should expect and plan for since they occur in the early days of use for every woman. After the first year of Depo (depending on the age and weight of the woman) about a third of women will have no more bleeding.

LW: What about headaches and depression?

Ask Jerilynn: It is not clear why headaches increase on Depo—they tend not to be serious migraine headaches but are more stress type. Perhaps they are related to the higher stress hormones the body makes whenever estrogen levels drop. Unfortunately, headaches tend to increase over time, rather than getting better as the not-so-funny bleeding does.

The reasons for depression are mysterious to me but this is an important adverse effect. I believe that anyone who has previously had an episode of depression (whether diagnosed or not, but sufficient to interfere with life and work) should avoid Depo.

LW: Although there has been little discussion about bone health concerns on the previous blog post, I think we should address the fact that Depo causes bone loss. How does it do this?

Ask Jerilynn: As we discussed, Depo causes estrogen levels to drop. Dropping estrogen levels always cause bone loss. Several randomized, blinded studies for example, have shown that if women taking Depo wear an estrogen patch, compared with a placebo patch, they don’t lose bone. (That was a test of the cause of bone loss but isn’t a good strategy during Depo because it might prevent its contraceptive effectiveness).

The bone loss concern is now decreased because we know that women, on average, regain all of that lost bone as they stop taking Depo. MPA, like progesterone, stimulates new bone to form but this formation is not visible while bone loss is high (as in, while taking Depo). The increase in bone density on stopping Depo is because rising estrogen levels prevent bone loss and the increased bone formation then becomes visible.

I have tended to think the bone loss is not an important problem because the bone density returns to normal. However, women at osteoporosis risk do have more broken bones while on Depo. Therefore I recommend that all woman choosing Depo for contraception have at least three high calcium (dairy or calcium-fortified) foods per day (or take one 500 mg calcium pill with a meal and the other at bedtime) plus also 2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.

It is probably wise for teens to avoid Depo if they have a personal history of amenorrhea (no flow for three or more months), or a close relative (mother, grandfather or sister) who had a broken bone without a major fall. (Note: For more life cycle specific information about preventing bone loss click here.)

LW: Weight gain has caused grief for many women taking Depo. What’s going on?

Ask Jerilynn: The suppression of women’s estrogen production likely causes the weight gain on Depo (that averages 2 kg or five pounds in the first year). A similar weight gain occurs in women or in animals when their ovaries are removed. It is probably the body’s way of trying to increase fat (that can convert male and stress hormones into estrogen) and thus to prevent the rapid bone loss that happens when estrogen levels drop.

LW: Another reported effect of Depo is digestive problems. I’ve read that abdominal distress including cramps, bloating and constipation are common because Depo loosens the tone of the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. Can you comment on this?

Ask Jerilynn:  I don’t really understand this. What I do know is that abdominal problems are common in general for women and haven’t shown up as significantly different between women on Depo or placebo in trials of Depo. I suspect, again, that the drop in estrogen level triggers stress hormones that cause crampy gut pain and changes in bowel habits.

2) Stopping Depo-Provera: What is causing adverse effects and what to do about them

LW: Thanks for explaining the side effects women experience while taking Depo. What happens and why are women miserable when they stop it?

Ask Jerilynn: First let me say that I have looked in the recent medical literature and been unable to find any studies of women’s experiences on stopping Depo. One would surely hope that drug regulatory bodies have required research on the return to fertility in women taking Depo.

Here’s what I think is happening, and I’ve formed this understanding based on what women described in their posts: Women’s reproduction has been suppressed by Depo for months or years. This means that (figuratively speaking) the hypothalamus, pituitary and ovaries have ‘forgotten how’ to coordinate their usual complex and amazing feedback needed for normal ovulatory menstrual cycles.

However, our bodies are programmed to work hard to regain reproduction so there is a kind of rebound over-stimulation of estrogen levels (the easiest hormone to get the ovary to produce). The result is erratic but high estrogen levels causing nausea, sore breasts, fluid retention and abdominal bloating, mood swings and heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding.

With high estrogen levels and weight gain, plus the “hypothalamic incoordination,” ovulation doesn’t occur and therefore no progesterone is produced. Progesterone – the hormone produced after ovulation in normal menstrual cycles – is needed to counterbalance the high estrogen levels. I believe that it is this estrogen-progesterone imbalance that is leading to all these miserable symptoms.

LW: Many women who have shared their experiences on my previous post also seem very concerned by the delayed return to normal menstrual cycles, with some experiencing no bleeding for months. Others seem to have flooding and continual flow. What’s up?

Ask Jerilynn: We’d have to study this to be sure, but I suspect that the women who have no flow for months on stopping Depo likely are younger, have gained the least weight and are under the most situational/emotional/physical stress. On the other hand, those who have heavy and/or prolonged vaginal bleeding are likely older (and often perimenopausal—when ovarian hypothalamic coordination has normally become dysfunctional) and have usually gained more weight.

Therefore I believe that the varying responses in vaginal bleeding depend on whether women were on the young-thin-stressed side when starting and stopping Depo versus normal to now overweight or obese. Another possibility is that women have become perimenopausal during their years on Depo. Thus when they stop Depo they are now in a symptomatic perimenopause that the Depo was preventing or treating.

LW: Some women have noted extreme weight gain upon stopping Depo. Can you explain why this might be happening?

Ask Jerilynn: If estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low, the natural result is inappropriate hunger and weight gain. Progesterone levels following ovulation make women burn about 300 more calories a day, which obviously helps prevent weight gain. I think this weight gain side-effect of stopping is also due “estrogen dominance.”

LW: Another common experience that disturbs women as they stop taking Depo-Provera is extremely sore breasts. What causes this?

Ask Jerilynn: This is directly caused by the “estrogen overdrive” as the body tries to recover from the suppression caused by Depo. Sore breasts tell us that our estrogen levels are higher than the highest normal mid-cycle estrogen peak. If it is sore when you press your palm onto your nipple, you don’t need a blood/urine/saliva test to know your own estrogen is higher than it ever should be in the normal cycle.

LW: Why are some women getting acne or pimples on their face and backs?

Ask Jerilynn: Whenever women are overweight and not making enough progesterone (because they are not ovulating) the body makes more male hormones that lead to oily skin and acne.

LW:  What about the hot flushes that some women are experiencing? These symptoms are typically associated with perimenopause, the transition to menopause.

Ask Jerilynn:  Yes. Some women who have become perimenopausal while on Depo will have had their hot flushes and night sweats effectively treated by the progestin. Therefore, when they stop, they experience the symptoms of perimenopause including night sweats and daytime hot flushes.

That brings me to another educated guess—many women stop Depo in their 30s and 40s because they want to have a family or because their doctors advise them to. They may already be starting into perimenopause but the signs, such as hot flushes, are masked while on Depo. However, off Depo the estrogen swings (that may be high both because of stopping Depo and because of changes related to perimenopause) cause hot flushes and night sweats. If you’d like more information about perimenopause here’s a recent open-access scientific review.

Heavy flow is one of the most common experiences of early perimenopause that at least a quarter of all women experience. When you add the estrogen excess production on stopping Depo to perimenopause (“Estrogen’s Storm Season”) you get really, REALLY heavy flow. No wonder women are so frustrated and doctors are so puzzled.

LW: Many women are told to just “wait it out.” This could mean months of not ovulating, ages without a menstrual period, or putting up with flooding menstruation. Do you think that’s a good idea? If not, what would you suggest?

Ask Jerilynn:  Based on what I’m guessing is going on hormonally, and also on a woman’s age, her desire or not for pregnancy, and on her current body mass index, here are some suggestions:

Heavy vaginal bleeding:  My first suggestion—something every woman should know— is ibuprofen. One tablet four times on every heavy-flow day, decreases flow by almost a half. See this article about how to manage flooding or heavy vaginal bleeding. You can take ibuprofen on your own and track your own cycles by downloading and completing the Daily Perimenopause Diary.

Having such a record will help your health care provider to understand what you are experiencing as well as allowing you to know for yourself what is going on. If ibuprofen does not sufficiently decrease heavy flow so you can cope, you will likely need to ask your physician’s help. You will need a prescription in order to take what I next recommend, cyclic or daily progesterone.  What works best is to print out this information sheet for on Cyclic Progesterone Therapy, one for yourself to stick somewhere obvious and one to take to your doctor.

However, if your flow has been so heavy and long that you already have iron loss anemia (commonly called a “low blood count”), have had continuous flow for over a month, or are bleeding enough to become dizzy when standing, you need a more powerful solution than cyclic progesterone. The answer is progesterone every day for three months (plus ibuprofen on every heavy flow day).  I’ve written this article on heavy flow to take to your family doctor.

No flow for three months after stopping Depo: I suggest starting to take natural, bio-identical progesterone (see Cyclic Progesterone Therapy) for two weeks and stop for two weeks. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a period when you stop it. Just keep doing that two weeks “on” and two weeks “off” progesterone until your flow returns. Even without flow, this treatment will increase bone density (based on a trial we did years ago).

If, in the course of taking cyclic progesterone you start getting irregular flow, follow the instructions (and picture) in that handout carefully. Most of all, think of this as restoring a normal balance of your own hormones and ovulatory menstrual cycles.

When you start noticing stretchy mucus about the middle of the month, this means your estrogen levels are recovering. Now you can actively start working on becoming pregnant, if this is your desire. You will take the progesterone for two weeks or fourteen days but start checking for your urinary LH peak (with a fertility kit you can buy over the counter) in the evening when you notice stretchy vaginal mucus. Only begin the progesterone after you see the LH peak (a positive test) or after the stretchy mucus decreases. The reason is that if you take the progesterone too early it could suppress that necessary LH peak.

Sore breasts, bloating and/or nausea: These symptoms mean high estrogen levels, usually without any or enough progesterone. Increasing exercise, increasing vegetables and fruits, and decreasing junk/snacks and desserts (except fruit) will decrease estrogen levels in premenopausal women. Although I can’t promise that for women in perimenopause, it will certainly help you feel better. After you’ve started on these lifestyle changes, I’d suggest beginning cyclic progesterone 14 days after the start of a flow or any time if you are not getting flow regularly. Follow the suggestions about how to take progesterone on the Cyclic Progesterone Therapy. If sore breasts get better but still persist, you can also try (gradually) decreasing your caffeine and alcohol intakes.

Hot flushes and night sweats: To start, I think it is important to realize that the experience of hot flushes or night sweats means you are in perimenopause. So, although it is not much help, you can blame some of what you are experiencing on perimenopause instead of just on stopping Depo!

CeMCOR recently proved that progesterone is effective for treatment of menopausal hot flushes in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. We are now testing its effectiveness for perimenopausal hot flushes in a similar controlled study. If you live anywhere in Canada, you could potentially participate.

If, as is typical in very early perimenopause, you are waking at night feeling hot (and often sweaty or irritable) on only a few nights a month, and usually around flow, then cyclic progesterone works. Take it for 14 days, but if you typically have night sweats on the first few nights of flow, continue it a few more days.

However, if hot flushes are coming day and night and are troublesome any old time, then take progesterone daily instead of cyclically.

LW: This information will certainly help the many women who are having these experiences. Is there anything else you want to add about Depo-Provera?

Ask Jerilynn: I would like to say, perhaps belatedly, that Depo is an effective contraceptive that I feel women should have the option to choose. (Here I may differ from Laura!) Those of you who know me (and CeMCOR) realize that my goal in life is to help every woman achieve normal, ovulatory menstrual cycles. However, not every woman is — because of living conditions, partner attitudes or general life chaos — to manage barrier birth control methods that support ovulatory cycles.  For women who should not take estrogen-based hormonal birth control (past blood clot, liver problems, heart problems, severe migraines, smoking, or over age 35) Depo may be an effective and valued contraceptive. Here’s a quote from one post, “I too was on the depo, for 11 years actually during this time I loved it…no periods, no PMS awesome. . . .”

LW: Point taken. I agree women should have access to Depo-Provera for the reasons you mention. But, what that commenter wrote next was: “My god what happened post depo I never ever thought I would go through…throbbing sore breasts to the point I couldn’t even touch them, night sweats (a year) anxiety, major bloating, nausea, withdrawal from social events, weight gain mid section and boobs…I hated life!!!!”  I think this is the “nightmare” scenario I was referring to in the title of last April’s post. Let’s hope your suggestions above are helpful for her and everyone who has commented, or will comment, on last year’s post.

What I find unacceptable is the lack of information women have about how this drug works and what its effects are both during and after use, as well as the lack of assistance available from healthcare providers in recovering from the drug. Thank you so much for explaining some of what is going on for the women who’ve been sharing their experiences here at re:Cycling, and for offering suggestions to help in their recovery from Depo-Provera.

Note to readers: Please feel free to share the PDF document of this interview with other women and health-care professionals who may find the content of value.

  

280 Responses to “Stopping Depo-Provera: Why and what to do about adverse experiences”

  1. Kandace says:

    Hi,

    I received the depo provera shot in mid May of 2013. I received 2 shots in total. Officially my depo was ‘done’ at the beginning of Nov/mid-Nov 2013. I weighed about 115 at 5’6″(normally I was about 120-125, a bit thin at the time). I stayed this weight until about the beginning of Feb 2014. At that point I gained about 13-15 in two weeks. It really just came out of nowhere. I have continues to gain a bit of weight until now (September 2014) I weigh about 134. My weight does not really budge, I can go up and down a few lbs but no matter how good I eat/exercise I cannot loose the extra fat I have put on. I am still very fit and have good muscle (I have always been active and athletic) under the fat. The fat is just being stored mainly on my thighs, butt, hips and stomach. It is a combination of fat and bloating that doesn’t seem to go away with any effort I make. I have been extremely fatigued since I gained the weight, unfocused, it has been such a major change from my normal self and very scary. I have good optimism that with more major lifestyle changes and time I can get this all out of my system. I also realized looking back that my second shot had caused numbness in my lower right leg for a few weeks. I also had a large swollen spot on my leg in Feb 2014 right before I gained the weight. I seem to have suffered from a lot of the side effects that this drug can cause without knowing it. I have truly learned a lesson in putting things in my body that change the natural habits your body should go through and doing my research too. I consulted a homeopathic woman who did assist me through herbal medicine to get my period once in the middle of Aug 2014, however I have not had a second period and it has been about 40 days since I had it. I know I am starting to get back on track, but this has been a long and depressing process. I wanted to share my experience so far in case it helps anyone else.

    I also wanted to ask the doctor that if I were to take the cyclic progesterone therapy, will this help get me back on track and is it natural? I really would like to take the natural route only. Please advise.

    Thank you for all your advice and comments. It’s helpful to know I am not alone.

    Kandace

  2. Lisa Leger says:

    Excess estrogen is a simple way of explaining a more complex process involving liver function and intestinal environment as well as the hormone feedback loop. If anyone is looking for ways to “reduce excess estrogen”, I suggest looking to the organs of elimination. Avoiding constipation is important. You might want to investigate things that help the liver convert estradiol to the safer forms of estrone and estriol like Diindoylmethane (DIM) or Indol-3-Carbonol (I3C). I’ve seen good results in reducing symptoms of estrogen dominance like fibroids, endometriosis, breast pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and perimenopausal PMS.

  3. Tami says:

    I was on Depo for 12 years, and came off about 10 months ago (cold Turkey). I thought I was starting to feel better, but just made a trip to the ER yesterday, nausea, bloating, unbearable. Dr. thought it was my gallbladder, did numerous blood test and gallbladder scan, everything came back normal. I am wondering if this is now menopause, since the Depo should be out of my body…I am so sick of feeling sick!

  4. Valerie says:

    Tami, I too was on depo for many many years. I am looking for other women have experienced any kind of bone density loss, osteoporosis, frequent fractures, or any other bone loss issues.please let me know if you have experienced any of these other symptoms. And if any other women have experience with these symptoms I would be interested in discussing it further.

    • susan says:

      Hi I was on depo for many years , I gave been off for 8 yrs , my biggest complaint was the sore injection site, weight gain.
      I have recently had the extremely sore arm like I used to have when i got the shot ,, I am having trouble lifting , washing dishes, sleeping because I am in pain.
      I also have chronic pain and fibromyalgia and often wonder if it is all related //

  5. Katie says:

    If I just stopped my depo shot as of 9/24/14 but have begun taking the generic version of micronor, do you think this will increase my progestrone levels so I do not suffer as much from the post-depo side effects?

    • Lisa Leger says:

      Good Question about micronor post depo to mitigate the withdrawl. I hope Dr Prior answers because she’ll be able to explain the strategy she uses and why. (read her comments) From my perspective, it’s still a synthetic hormone and I want everyone off all such, however I do see a temporary role for a drug to treat the side effects (effects) of another drug at times. Ultimately the goal is to have healthy cycles unfolding on their own and then avoid pregnancy using a combo of barriers and fertility awareness, and to treat any irregularities with diet, lifestyle n natural remedies rather than suppressing the endocrine so profoundly with such powerful hormonal drugs.

  6. karen says:

    Hi i have been on the depo shot for 20 years now and never had a period but for 2 weeks now i have does this mean its not working i am 52 and its never happened before i mean its the bloating the cramps and i am not liking it help thanks

    • Karen says:

      Karen, I am 44 and have been on depo for about 20 years. I have just started getting my period a few months ago, but it is light and only 3 days long. It’s just because our hormones are getting goofy and the shot does not have the same impact on flow as it used to. Judging by the side effects of getting off of depo, I think I will opt to stay on it until menopause is over and then maybe there will be more information available as how to minimize the effects. As long as my dexa scan is ok for my age, I don’t see any reason to stop. Your flow may increase dramatically if you stop, so keep that in mind.

  7. Samantha says:

    does getting off depo make me more fertile and more likely to get pregnant??

  8. unis says:

    i took only one shot of dipo provera and my menses has stopped since. i have being asked to take secure contraceptive to restore my flow. do you think this is helpful and for how long will i continue to remain on secure?

  9. Kristena says:

    Hi
    My name is Kristena, I have officialy been off of depo for 3 months and 3 weeks. I am currently experiencing sore breast, bloating, nausea and mood swings. Ive been on depo way longer than I should have been. My main concern is, is it possible to get prego immediatkey after getting off depo? I know some woman bodies are different and my bf and i are both curious.

    • Laura Wershler says:

      Hi Kristena, The question is do you want to get pregnant? If not, then you should use an alternative birth control method when you stop Depo, probably a barrier if you want to restore natural hormonal function. Although for many women the return to fertility takes months, depending on your health and the amount of time you took Depo, you could get pregnant right away if you don’t use a reliable method of contraception. If you do want to get pregnant, information about how to restore ovulatory cycles is included in this post.

      All the best, Laura

  10. Margaret says:

    I’m 39, and I stopped getting my depo January 2014. It is now October 2014. Just recently for the last 2 months I have felt pukey sick, stomach pains, diarrhea, tired, dehydrated, am getting a period if you want to call it that about 1 to 2 weeks apart from the time the last one ends. I am peeing a lot of blood, but not passing a lot on to a pad. I am now getting dizzy spells.

    What is going on as I am NOT pregnant, and all my labs came back great.

  11. Noelhy says:

    I have had the depo shot about 2 times and it weared off and I’m bloated with cramps, spotting a lot, and nausea … I also have had depression for the past week..

  12. Margaret says:

    Update fron my last post. About 12 days ago, rough guess. I had a period for about 3 days. It returned 2 days ago full force. I don’t know if it’s the side effects of comin off depo after about 14 years of being on it, but my cycle is back full force, stronger than ever, I am tired, loss of appetite, nausea, drinkin too little amount of liquids, and have major cramps, stomach pains, etc. And I feel like I just want to cry or sleep 24/7. And NO I am not pregnant. Are these all side effects? If so how long do they last for?

  13. Chelsea says:

    I was on Depo for about a year. While on it I had the worst menstrual cycle. I would be off my period for maybe 1 to 2 weeks at a time (why I stopped). I’ve been off the shot roughly 4 to 5 months and I have been having the worst abdominal pain that seems to come and go along with me cycle. The pain starts on my right side near my ovary area and also around my left rib area. At first I though it was a kidney stone but there is no other signs of that being an issue. Could this be the aftermath of the Depo?

  14. Chelsea says:

    I was on Depo for about a year. While on it I had the worst menstrual cycle. I would be off my period for maybe 1 to 2 weeks at a time (why I stopped). I’ve been off the shot roughly 4 to 5 months and I have been having the worst abdominal pain that seems to come and go along with my cycle. The pain starts on my right side near my ovary area and also around my left rib area. At first I though it was a kidney stone but there is no other signs of that being an issue. Could this be the aftermath of the Depo?

  15. Margaret says:

    I caved under the pressure of coming off my depo. My period had come back after 7-8months of stopping the shot, and imy periods would last a couple days, end, and then have another a week later. Then October I get a heavy, horrible period, the nausea, stomach pains, not eating or drinking liquids, I had enough, and I finally went back on my depo. I have relief now from the stomach pains, nausea, and am drinking more liquids.

  16. Marsha says:

    I took two depo shots as required by my doctor before having the essure procedure done. This was only my second time ever taking any birth control of any variety. The first time went horribly wrong, as I assume I have a very sensitively balanced body chemistry.

    Since having the essure procedure six month ago, I have had continuous bleeding. I’m not talking about mild bleeding… I’m talking about you best buy your tampons at Sam’s by the “flat” bleeding… horrific horror movie bleeding… OMG I seriously think I’m gonna die bleeding.

    I’ve been lethargic. I don’t want to leave the house, but if I do leave then I definitely don’t want to see anyone. It takes a series of pep talks, just to convince myself to run the most mundane errand. I am very emotionally sensitive and want to cry frequently. I’m living in this illusion that leads me to believe that everyone is an asshole. I’ve been having panic attacks. I’ve stopped working out.

    My boobs are sore, my vagina is sore, and my ass is getting larger. My legs and feet are retaining water. I’ve gained two pounds, but when I look in the mirror I swear it’s 20.

    Although I still shower daily and make sure I have good hygiene, I have absolutely zero desire to: brush my hair (literally haven’t in months), wear makeup, wear jewelry, or dress in anything other than jeans or jean shorts and a t-shirt.

    Prior to the depo shot, I had a very healthy/high sex drive. Now, I have ZERO desire for sex. I have no desire to date, talk to, or in any way interact with any one.

    At this point, my doctor has said “just hang in there” and my body will eventually get back to normal. I feel like I’m going bat shit crazy and honestly don’t care if the rest of my life is spent just me and my yorkie.

    • Lisa Leger says:

      Keep reading Marsha – there’s lots of good info. Pay particular attention to what Dr Jerilyn Prior has to say, she knows a lot about this subject and addresses it like an Endocrinologist (which she is).

  17. Jane says:

    Hi, I am 24 years old. When I was 23 I stopped pill form birth control because I kept forgetting to take it and I wasn’t having sex. Recently, I went and got the Depo shot as recommended by some doctor. My first shot was in March 2014, Second in June 2014 and then I quit. In March I weighed 158 pounds now (in October) I weigh 210 pounds. You can guess how awful I feel going up 5 pant sizes. I’ve gained all in my ass, thighs, lower belly. I feel tired so I sleep a lot, no motivation, headaches, bones cracking and no period. Ive had lots of stress in the past 3 months but I shouldnt be feeling all of these symptoms. I have read the above comments and I’m wondering if I should continue to wait it out or seek a doctor? I am not currently taking any chemical birth control. Except for what is remaining in my body from the Depo. I wish I was better educated for it.

    I regret taking this shot and I feel like a complete idiot for doing it!!

    I hope this is a more normal feeling but honestly I hope my body balances out, fast.

    • Kandace says:

      Hey Jane, I completely understand what you are going through and I have felt and still kind of do feel the same way you do. I gained about 25 pounds from it. The tiredness is one of the worst things. I was and still kind of do get very tired and have zero motivation. I read that Depo can create insulin resistance so your body can’t process sugar. I have been trying to eat fruits and veggies that are low in carbs and eating fish, and other lean proteins. It definitely has helped me avoid being sleepy and regain control over that. My work has suffered a lot from feeling this way. I have been off the shot for 11 months now and still have the weight. I have hope that I will loose the weight and get my body back in balance as it once was. I saw a holistic person and she helped me get my period restarted. I have had it twice, but it’s not regular. My body is definitely working on getting back together.

      • Jane says:

        Kandace, After I wrote you the first time I had an after thought. The doctor told me to go back on birth control and gave me a year prescription of Aviane (apparently the weakest birthcontrol) would that help regulate your period? Of course I didnt take the doctors advice BECAUSE I know my body is weak tolerance for drugs and I dont want more chemicals in my body for the same thing. I am curious about your holistic person I did read up on what they do but none are available in my region. My plan was to eat healthy and try to exercise then hope it will regulate itself. I cant believe how long it takes for the body to get back to normal.

        Thanks for your comment its awful for what you suffered and by the sounds of things your on your way to recovery after almost a years of hard work. Keep it up!

        • Kandace says:

          Hi Jane,

          Glad we can correspond on this. I read that taking birth control pills can restore your body into a rhythm, but I haven’t done that because I have had such side effects from Depo that I don’t want to put anything else like that in my body. I guess if I don’t see any better results in the next 3-6 months I may try to take other avenues.
          I went to this woman for help holistically. It was reasonably priced and I think she definitely help jump start things for me. http://www.wholisticallyspeaking.com/about.html
          I do think healthy lifestyle will contribute a lot to getting back in order and unfortunately time too…

      • Jane says:

        As am I. I’m happy to know its not just me but its very unfortunate. The depressing part is people are judging me for putting on stupid amount of weight. Yes, I have other stresses in my life. Today was one of my bad days where I slept until 11 in the morning with no motivation but I felt tired. Due to the weight I put on the guy I was seeing dumped me (which shows a lot for him, dumb ass). I’m finding many guys are thinking “I dont care enough to exercise” when that’s not the reality. Its too bad, really. I think I’m an awesome individual despite this horrifying depo experience. I can only compile to take this time for me and to get my s*** together and sort myself out before starting any kind of relationship. I am just sick and tired of people judging me. Grrr!

        Thank you for hearing out my outburst.

        • Kandace says:

          Awe Jane, I understand completely. It has definitely been a time where I am just being the best person I can be and being positive because what you give is what you get and even by working at being happy makes you happier. I have my challenging moments too, but people who truly love you for who you are will look past a bit of weight gain. You will get control of it. I read that exercising in short bursts is one of the better ways to work out that way you are not straining your body over an extended period of time. I read that you should drink lots of water, avoid alcohol, processed foods and fruits or anything that is high in sugar (processed or natural). I can say for myself I do my best, but I struggle with it also. Especially since it seems like no matter what I eat my weight remains stuck. However, this is the MOST helpful post I have read so far -http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Weight-Loss-Alternatives/Getting-off-Depo-Provera-because-of-weight-gain/show/23806?page=1 The girl who posts under the name SurferGirlLaguna has the most helpful and positive things to say about recovering from this. Check it out for sure. Please keep writing and I will keep you posted on my progress. Kandace

      • Jane says:

        I read that link you sent me and it suggested some people took Metformin. I went in today and asked the pharmacist about it. He suggested that I should seriously contact my doctor because after 6 months I should not be feeling how I do (especially weight gain). I finally got in to see the Doctor and he said that is the worst idea ever and made me go for a shit ton of blood work. He said after the results comes in he will discuss the options then. Yikes.

        • Kandace says:

          Hi Jane,

          Ya, I would agree that it isn’t necessary to take Metformin unless you are having major blood sugar problems. I did like how in the articles she talked about zero carbs and the fact that you can get through it. It’s just nice to hear there will eventually be a time when things even out. Let me know how the blood results go.

          Kandace

  18. Valerie says:

    Jane, please don’t feel like an idiot. I worked for a family planning clinic as a medical assistance when I got the shot and I didn’t know any better. Depo should be banned. All the symptoms you are having are normal AND so are you. I know it seems like it will never end, but it will. I am putting the link for more info about Depo. Keep writing and read all older blogs and we will all support each other.

    http://www.bigclassaction.com/lawsuit/depo_provera_contraceptive_osteoporosis_class_action.php

  19. Jane says:

    Valerie,

    Thank-You so much for replying. It means a lot to know that I’m not “crazy”.

    I enjoyed the article. When do you suppose the weight will balance out and a person can start loosing weight?
    Also, generally speaking when can a person regulate their cycles again? I’ve got wicked cramps once a month but nothing to show for. Some articles say 11 months but I’m not sure how true that is. How was these issues for you? Also of note I’ve grown here and there hairs on my face its not that noticeable will that go away?

    Thank you again Valerie!!

  20. Resha says:

    I started the depo when I was 21 and got off it when I was 24. In total I was on the depo for 3 years. While on the depo I experienced hair loss, hyperpigmentation, headaches, instantaneous crying, weight gain (about 5 pounds every year), vaginal dryness, low sex drive, and sore breasts.

    On May 22,2014 I took my last shot.Today is Oct,13,2014 and I’m still experiencing these side effects and some new ones. When the month of September 2014 started, I started to have the New side effects : extremely sore nipples and breasts, my headaches have also come more frequent and more painful, I spotted for about 3 weeks (haven’t had a period in 2 years),Nausea all throughout the day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner times), and mood swings (mostly anger and irritability).

    When I read the article and how eating veggies & fruits and exercise will help with the sore breasts/nausea/bloating, I felt doomed. I have been exercising and eating a lot healthier…. but nothing helps. Another thing that is troubling me, is how hard it is to lose the weight that I have put on. When I started the depo I was 115 pounds and a size 5 in pants. Since being on the depo I am currently 130 pounds and a size 9 in pants. I have been eating healthier and exercising 3 times a week every week since the month of August 2014 but have I not been able to lose the weight. I have seen some results but I am no where near where I want to be.

    Usually a lot of women are posting when their periods returned.Maybe what would also be extremely helpful is if some of the women could post how long it took for all the side effects to go away and how they battled their different side effects.

    Thank You,
    Resha

  21. Natalie says:

    I have been on the shot since I was 16. I lost 20 pounds during my first 2 months. I am now 26 and never been over 110 pounds. I am planning on getting married in April of 2016 and would like to have a child. Would it be safe to get off the shot now, even if I don’t plan on becoming pregnant till after I am marries? And also has anyone ever experienced “WEIGHT LOSS” while on the shot? And if so did you gain after stopping?

    Thanks,

    Natalie

  22. arl says:

    Well I have been taking the Depo for 5 years now and I stopped in May when I had to receive a double shot due to the fact I had a ‘breakthrough’ according to my doctor; meaning I had excruciating pain feeling like my insides was about to fall out and my vagina was hurting so bad. About a week after that I gained about another 10 pounds and that when I decided I needed a break from this thing. This week I saw my period again for the first time and the pain came along with it. I an monitoring my body’s response for the next couple months to see what happens. My greatest concern is if my Endo will become worst by stopping the shots. At the same time I am planning to take a bone density test to see if there has been any effect on my bones over the years.

  23. Jane says:

    Kandace,

    I’m not sure where your comment is on here but it had not occurred to me that Depo can create insulin resistance so your body can’t process sugar. It makes sense. I really am annoyed that doctors dont tell you the real consequences of this drug. If I had known what I would be feeling now I would never ever of tried it. I would like to hear updates from you because I was hoping 11 months form now I would be the same 6 months ago.. I have high hopes. I will start to QUIT THE SUGAR!

  24. E says:

    I took ONE depo shot in August 2012 and I didn’t return for the next one just due to feeling ill the whole time. I thought once after the shot “ran out” I would be ok. Well that stared a long road of other problems. I dropped weight rapidly like about 15 pounds I got down to about 103 pounds. I couldn’t eat due to acid reflux and dull stomach pains. I had rapid heart beat, sweating, body odor, shaking, depression so bad I thought I was dying. Two years later I still don’t feel like myself but I can say there is hope and your body will eventually return to some what normal. Doctors will deny its from the depo all they will say is well it’s out your system and that might be true but what about the after effects women suffer from this drug. I swear all test and blood work come back fine nothing serious but yet I still was feeling like crap. I still haven’t gained the weight I lost back and it’s been almost two years but I’m almost back to my normal weight. I eat better and feel better. Time seems to be the only thing that helped me. I will never deal with this type of birth control again.

  25. Hollie says:

    Hi Valarie,

    I had one shot back on 4/30/14 and three days later began experiencing excruciating pain in all my muscles from the waist down (both legs and buttocks) along with joint pain in my hips and knees. The joint pain went away after about two months but the muscle pain (fibro like symptoms) is still severe. Did your fibro like symptoms decrease after getting off this poison?

  26. Holly says:

    Hi Valarie,

    I had one shot back on 4/30/14 and three days later began experiencing excruciating pain in all my muscles from the waist down (both legs and buttocks) along with joint pain in my hips and knees. The joint pain went away after about two months but the muscle pain (fibro like symptoms) is still severe. Did your fibro like symptoms decrease after getting off this poison?

  27. Adeline says:

    i had been on depo for about 3 years. My last injection was in april 2014 and was due in july and oct but never went back for them. as soon as i started the depo shot i didnt have another period since. recently with coming off of the depo shot i have just had some symptoms nothing major, headaches more often, back pains, nausea in the mornings only, some slight cramping like my period is going to return soon but i have yet to have a period, the past few days i have had some super light spotting only in the mornings not sure if thats the start of her returning or what. its very unfortunate that alot of us ladies were not told of these nasty effects when we started taking it. i now know to ask doctors of all effects before i ever agree to taking any kind of medication ever again! to all of the ladies on this forum, i really hope everything starts to get better for all of you ladies very soon and to any of you ladies ttc any time soon good luck!!!! thank you for letting me share my experience. if anyone has any questions or any advice on how to get aunt flo back sooner please feel free to contact me!

  28. Courtney says:

    I have been on the depo for a year and before that i was off and on the depo and pills. After I had my first child in 2010 I had an IUD and because of it i got Chronic PID so now I have to watch what I do. I just came off the depo at the end of september. I know that is a very short time but in these weeks I have had about 20-30 lbs AND my breast are constantly sore. I am on the pill so I thought that would help my hormones go back to normal but it hasn’t any suggestions?

    • Lisa Leger says:

      sorry Courtney, but the pill is still fake hormones, so it wont straighten your cycles out, only impose a fake cycle that is more predicable than your current post-depo irregularities. To get your very own cycles back to working order will take a lot of healthy living and being off all synthetic drugs. Get all the help you can and keep at it; healthiness is a life long endeavor.

  29. Jenny says:

    Hi, I started on the depo injection when I was 23 after experiencing really heavy periods. I have epilepsy, so the medication I was on at the time clashed really badly with the pill, so the nurse suggested the injection as an alternative. I took it, and for the first couple of years it was fine, effective, no periods so it was fine. Then I noticed I’d put weight on – had to go up a clothes size as my stomach was so bloated – and my breasts were sore. I told this to the nurse the next time I went for the injection and she ummed and ahhed, then asked the date of my last period. I couldn’t tell her as I hadn’t had one *because* of the injection for three years.
    She told me it was probably around the time of my pms/period that my boobs were sore and I was bloated. I was reassured and had the injection again. This time I started getting acne, which was put down to the weight gain and my skin getting oily as a result. It seemed like every time I had the injection something else happened.
    After being on the depo for five years and all those symptoms, I saw a new nurse who suggested missing a couple of injections – I was single at the time, so didn’t need birth control – to try and regulate my periods, and also for bone density. About a week after I didn’t have it, my periods came back, and boy they came back. I don’t want to overshare but I thought my womb had burst. I was having terrible cramps, felt like I hated myself, gained even more weight, had headaches and had diarrhoea frequently. After about six weeks I went back to the nurse and told her, and she suggested going back on depo because my periods were back.
    (Wait, it gets better) I talked about it with her for about an hour, and finally, stupidly went back on the injection. Periods stopped again, no babies, all seemed ok. However a few months ago I saw my doctor and not a nurse (as I have epilepsy they get me in once a year for a chat) and she mentioned the contraception. She looked a bit concerned as I am not on the same anti-seizure meds now as I was when I started using depo. She asked the date of my last period – I’m now 29 – and when I replied that I had no idea because I’ve been on the depo so long, I couldn’t remember except for the six week break.
    I swear to God she almost screamed. I haven’t had a normal period in six years, and I think one of the nurses actually got fired about a month after the doctor found out. (I live in a small community, word gets round fast.)
    I am now off the depo permanently. My breasts are sore to touch and they ache all the time, I have cramps severely and often, I have frequent diarrhoea and my periods still haven’t come back as compared to last time. I haven’t even had any spotting, which is something especially that worries me.
    Btw the acne has calmed down a lot but now I have insomnia seemingly every night and sometimes just don’t get dressed because I feel like there’s no point getting up.
    I’ve been under a lot of stress under the last year as well, my dad died suddenly, he had no will so I had to battle that with solicitors for five months, and also had to have a full thickness skin graft in March after burning the skin off the back of my thigh as I was using straighteners and had a seizure.
    I know it’s a bit of a “where to start” case, but I just wondered if anyone out there has had any similar issues or even just been in a similar situation. The doctor has said to try and wait out for six months and see if there are any reactions that will affect my epilepsy. I know she’s trying to do the best for my epilepsy in the long run, but I feel really lonely and don’t really know who to talk to. My boyfriend is sympathetic but doesn’t really… get it, having not had periods/contraceptive issues, what with being a man. Obviously. I don’t want to worry my mum as she is having trouble at work and my best friend is currently in France.
    I just, like I say, wanted someone to rant at who might understand a bit. I’m sorry if there’s a load of spelling mistakes, I’m writing this on my kindle at 4am so I can’t really type properly. Thanks for reading and if you have any advice I’d be really happy.
    Thanks :)

  30. sarah says:

    Hi,I’m 41 and have taken depo for 9 years, until dvt occurred, I have had inflamed intestines and felt like all organs under ribcage were on fire, constant nausea, sweating,confusion,pain in non dvt leg and groin,arms and shoulders. As I can no longer take any form of birth control due to dvt, I would not be able to regulate my periods with methods provided. I have taken to eating a healthy diet and taking multi vitamins and vit b,healthy seeds and homemade ginger/peppermint tea. I’m glad I found this site as I thought I was going mad thinking it was the effects of warfarin, now I know it isn’t, I cried most of yesterday but feel better today, my daughter has not had her next injection thank goodness, this is not the best form of bc but I thought it was due to having no periods, I look back and I had become a hardfaced, heartless person with no feelings.things are looking up I’m hoping.

  31. vic says:

    Hi, I’ve been on the depo since February this year 2014 and I’ve taken the injections twice and I’ve stopped .I’ve not seen my menses till date, I’ve also seen some expansion in my breast, stomach, hips. I’m Always tired and my breathing is not consistent, severe abdominal pains and sometimes my stomach. Please i want to have my flowers ( menses ) back to normal so Please How do i get it back

  32. Jennifer H. says:

    Good morning, My last depo shot was in July 2014. I was due a couple of weeks ago to get another shot, but was negligent in going. In the meantime, my boyfriend and I have decided to have a baby. I know that it depends on the person, etc. but is there ANYTHING that I can do to insure that I will get pregnant sooner than later? Any suggestions would be great. thank you! :)

  33. Emma S says:

    Hi all My name Emma i wrote a post back in Jan i think it was i had my last shot in September 2013 and didn’t get my periods back for along time even had to get the doctor to put me on some tablets to start me of i had my first period in June 2014 omg it was so bad i had to take time of work my period start coming regular every month but sometime they start coming over 2wks and at one point ended up in the ER as the bleeding go that bad i cudnt even move around i still not even sure if im ovulating as with my period starting at different times have not been able to test myself which now there starting to be came more regular im gonna start testing myself i just hope after being on the depo for 8-9 year it hasn’t screwed my body up to bad as im now on my second married and wud like to have a baby with my new husband im just so scared that it has made me infertile i wud advice anyone who is taking the depo to stop taking it and anyone who is thinking about it try something else wish u guys all the luck in the world hope my posts helps :)

  34. amz says:

    hello
    im so sorry to hear your all having a bad time on the depo shot
    well this is my first shot which i had in august and due to run out in 2 weeks
    im worried whats to come so far abit of weight gained
    im breaking out in spots
    i feel pregnant all the time which im not has i have tested
    im angry at my partner all the time mood swings and depression
    i really hope when the depo wears off that i dont get all the bad side effects
    i just want it out of my system
    i havent had a period while been on depo
    i was on the mirena coil for 4 years and didnt bleed on that so all together i havent bled in 4 years 2 months
    will i ever see my cycle because of been on mirena then going straight onto depo i just want to feel normal well im counting down the days till my period comes but iv got a feeling its going to be a while i cant believe how much i miss my period haha
    does it matter that i only had one shot? because i only had one shot will i see my body go back to normal faster im not ttc after it wears off i just want my body back to normal after been on bc for a very long time since my child was born
    :)

  35. Hi there,
    I’ve just found a source of information (most of it sensible and science-based) about using Depo-Provera. In the Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada website, Depo is called “Injection” and there is a fairly extensive “Frequently Asked Questions” section.
    I’d strongly suggest that all women who are considering starting Depo-Provera read through these first: http://www.sexualityandu.ca/faqs/birth-control#injection

    What I have learned could be better explained from reading the concerns and problems that many of you have brought to this important discussion/board are the following:
    1) The Depo-Provera shot is a high enough dose that it suppresses your own hormones–that means it prevents ovulation as well as lowering both estrogen and progesterone levels.
    2) Some younger women and those who are in perimenopause may not have full suppression of their reproductive hormones–hence they may get heavy flow.
    3) Recovery of menstrual cycles following stopping Depo-Provera depends on whether your own reproductive hormones were coordinated and you were ovulatory before starting Depo. Periods are more likely to come back sooner if you are overweight or obese rather than skinny or of normal weight.
    4) Those choosing Depo-Provera in perimenopause should probably plan on having the shot every 2 months instead over every 3–because in perimenopause estrogen levels become higher and are less likely to be suppressed by “outside” or treatment-related higher hormone levels.

    As someone who had a horrid time on The Pill, I would probably have used Depo-Provera for contraception if I hadn’t found that using a diaphragm conscientiously and with a full dose of vaginal spermicide each intercourse was very effective. (Never a miss in 13 years’ use for heterosexual intercourse).

    Hope this helpful,
    Jerilynn

  36. Valerie says:

    Anyone in peri-menopause should be very cautious using depo. PLEASE read sll info on bone density before using depo. Read previous posts on this site and research current and past lawsuits against Pfizer in regard to the bone density issue.

  37. Hannah says:

    I’ve been on depo for 9 years and found it to be fantastic with no bleeding or side effects. I have however started (past 2 month) to get migraines,weight gain,mood swings, bloating,stomach cramps and have now had a period?! Not sure whats going on- can depo stop working-I’m only 29 so I’m sure it’s not related to my age and menopause-any ideas?

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