What Are the Disadvantages of Depo-Provera?

Depo-Provera (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate) is an injectable prescription hormone used to prevent pregnancy in women. This medication mimics the action of the naturally-occurring hormone progesterone and acts by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries. Discuss the disadvantages of Depo-Provera with your doctor or gynecologist before you begin treatment with this form of birth control.

Administered by Medical Professional

Depo-Provero is administered by a qualified medical professional once every 10 to 13 weeks as an injection beneath the skin of the arm, thigh, abdomen or hip, explain health professionals at Cedar River Clinics in Washington. This medication cannot be self-administered and requires that you visit your local medical clinic at least four times each year to receive this method of birth control.

Decreased Bone Mineral Density

In November 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a “black-box” warning to the Depo-Provera prescribing information, warning users of the potential loss of bone mineral density. Use of this form of birth control can reduce the levels of estrogen within your body, which may weaken your bones. In clinical trials for this hormone, women using Depo-Provera for up to 5 years experienced an average decrease in bone mineral density of 5 to 6 percent. In contrast, women who did not take Depo-Provera did not experience any significant loss in bone mineral density. This disadvantage of Depo-Provera can increase your risk of experiencing osteoporotic fractures as you age.

Risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The use of Depo-Provera does not protect women against contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV. Additional sexual protection, such as condoms, should be utilized during sexual activity to decrease your risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease.

Side Effects

The most common side effects associated with Depo-Provera use are irregular vaginal bleeding and weight gain. During the initial 6 to 12 months of use, Depo-Provera can cause some women to experience lighter or infrequent menstrual periods. Planned Parenthood, the leading sexual and reproductive health care provider in the United States, reports that after 1 year of Depo-Provera use, at least half of all women will stop having a monthly menstrual cycle. Certain women experience irregular vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or develop heavier or longer menstrual periods while using this hormone.

The majority of women who use this type of birth control will experience weight gain as a side effect of treatment. In a study published in the March 2009 issue of the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,” Drs. Berenson and Rahman found that, after 3 years of Depo-Provera use, women gained an average of 5.1 kg in body weight and experienced a 3.4 percent increase in body fat. Women who use this form of birth control can continue to experience weight gain for the duration of treatment. If you are overweight or obese, discuss your body weight concerns with your doctor before choosing Depo-Provera as your method of birth control.

About this Author

Rachel R. Ahmed, M.S., is a freelance writer and editor based in San Diego. Ahmed received her M.S. degree in integrated biomedical sciences and has been working as a freelance writer and editor for more than five years. Some of her freelance clients include The Burroughs Wellcome Fund, alzforum.org, MedAngel.org, L3 Communications, and ThinkTank Learning.