The Dangers of Hormonal Contraception: Part 3: The Depo Shot

April 27, 2012 at 14:18

Little Miss Sicky Poo


Last week, I posted part 2 of a series that I’ve been working on that focuses on the dangers of hormonal contraception.  This week I’m focusing on the Depo Provera shot, also known as the “Depo shot” or “the shot”.

What is the Depo Provera?
Depo Provera is an injected form of birth control that is administered by a woman’s provider.  The shot blocks ovulation and changes cervical mucus to create an uninhabitable environment for sperm.  The effects of the shot last for 3 months, although in many cases the side effects of this drug can take much longer to subside.

Similar to the pill or the patch, Depo Provera uses synthetic hormones in order to interrupt the natural process of a woman’s body.  It is these abnormally high levels of hormones that do not naturally occur in the body that cause the common risks factors such as blood clots and heart problems, bone density loss, etc., that are seen across all types of hormonal contraception.  But an additional subset of risks associated with Depo Provera.

Ectopic Pregnancy
One of the risks involved with this type of contraception is ectopic pregnancy which can cause life threatening complications to the mother, and sadly, although there are documented cases, there is virtually no chance of survival for the fetus.  Pregnancy rates are fairly low when the Depo shot is used correctly, however, if a woman happens to become pregnant on this drug this risk becomes very real.  The risk increases if they miss an injection or wait longer than three months for the next dosage.

Severe Depression
Another problem that seems to be common among users of Depo Provera is the onset of severe depression.  There is a never ending resource of forums and blogs online surrounding just this one issue.  Depo Provera can have a very negative impact on brain chemistry.  Women often report severe changes in mood, loss of interests, deep sadness, feeling disconnected from loved ones and friends and even suicidal thoughts.  Many victims of Depo often seek help for their depression only to be prescribed an antidepressant to combat the side of effect.

Excessive Bleeding
One of the popular selling points that manufacturers of Depo like to promote is that women using the Depo shot will not get their period.  Unfortunately for some women the exact opposite is true.  It is not unusual for women to experience what seems to be the endless period.  Constant spotting and prolonged bleeding are the number one reason that many women stop using this method of birth control.

Depo Provera is a multipurpose medication.  It is interesting to note that Depo Provera is indicated and often prescribed as an anti seizure medication for those that suffer from epilepsy.  What is frightening, however, is that it has a history of causing seizures in otherwise healthy women.  Abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes the seizures and victims can experience a range of symptoms from staring spells to a loss of consciousness.  More serious symptoms such as a sudden loss of consciousness can result in physical injury such as falling, car accidents, etc.  Imagine the fright of your life when you experience your first seize after starting this drug.  Would you be inclined to continue using it?  I doubt it.

Weight Gain
A study by the University of Texas found that women who use Depo gain an average of 11 lbs and experience an increase in body fat by about 3.4% over a three year period.  In many cases, the weight appears to happen within the first few months of usage.  This is a common side-effect of all hormonal contraception, however, Depo seems to have a higher incident rate in this area.

Symptoms After Discontinuation
I think what bothers me the most about this drug is the fact that if you happen to experience any negative side effects, you are literally stuck with them for at least 3 months.  According to drug manufacturers, Depo should be out of your system within 3-6 months of ceasing use, however, there are countless women that report that these side effects last much longer than that.  In fact, sometimes they can last for years.  Irregular bleeding and lack of ovulation can also continue far past this allotted time frame.

Other Common Side Effects of Depo Provera
And the list goes on…
  • Bone density loss
  • Infertility
  • Increased risk for cervical cancer
  • Increased risk for breast cancer
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Abdominal discomfort and cramping
  • Anxiety
  • Adrenal gland suppression
  • Hair loss
  • Decreased libido
  • Mood swings
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • injection site problems

Quick Note: This was going to be the final post of a three part series, but I would like to expand this to a 4 part series to include NuvaRing.  This form of birth control is not as widely used as the other methods but it merits attention as Merck, makers of NuvaRing are currently pushing a massive marketing campaign onto American women.  Stay tuned…

Related Posts:
The Dangers of Hormonal Contraception: Part 1: The Pill
The Dangers of Hormonal Contraception: Part 2: The Patch


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