Although Depo-Provera has been on the market worldwide for at least three decades, it has only been approved for use in the United States for about 10 years. It has proven to be a safe form of contraception, by far safer than oral forms of birth control. Whether you are considering taking this pharmaceutical injection to prevent pregnancy and are looking for information on how to end Depo-Provera should the need arise or are currently using it as a method of birth control, you probably want to know what happens when you stop using it. The first thing to do is understand exactly what it is, how it works, potential side effects, and finally the recommended procedure for ending treatment.
What Is Depo-Provera?
Actually, Depo-Provera is simply medroxyprogesterone acetate injectable suspension USP which is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone that is naturally occurring in the body. It is administered through an intramuscular (IM) injection once every 12 weeks and there is absolutely no estrogen in the shot. Depo-Provera is only used to prevent pregnancy and it should be understood that it will not prevent contracting any sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as HIV, herpes, chlamydia or gonorrhea, or syphilis. To prevent STDs it would be necessary to abstain or use a condom.
How Does Depo-Provera Work?
The exact mechanism through which Depo-Provera works is by preventing ovulation and by thickening the mucus in the cervix. Thick mucus will hinder sperm from progressing up the cervical canal which of course would prevent fertilization should an egg have dropped. Therefore, the mechanisms through which it works are twofold in that it prevents eggs from dropping and it hinders sperm cells from reaching their destination. However, there are very precise guidelines for beginning treatment.
How to Begin Depo-Provera
To make absolutely certain you are not pregnant, Depo-Provera is only administered for the first time only during the first five days of a regular menstrual period. After pregnancy shots are started either given within the first five days after childbirth if the woman is not nursing or in six weeks after childbirth if she is nursing. Because this medication does not interfere with lactating, it is safe to take during nursing but only after 6 weeks to protect a newborn baby because what is in mommy’s body passes through to mommy’s milk. Beginning treatment time frames are vital to ascertain that you are not pregnant.
Frequency of Doses
There is some amount of disagreement on the internet as to how often the shots should be administered. Some sites say every 11 weeks while others say every 12 weeks. To get a realistic idea of how frequent the shots should be administered it is always advisable to go on the manufacturer’s website. According to Pfizer, the recommended dose should be administered every three months (13 weeks). If longer than 13 weeks or 6 weeks after delivery, a physician should perform tests to ensure that you are not pregnant. Once treatments have begun they should be administered regularly. If you miss a shot you would need to wait once again for the 5th day of your next period and a test would need to be taken to make sure you are not pregnant.
Common Side Effects
Among the most common side effects is reduced or no bleeding along with a reduction in cramps and pain during ovulation. Some side effects reported are irregular menstrual bleeding, amenorrhea, headache, nervousness, depression, dizziness, weakness or fatigue, swollen breasts, no hair growth on the head and excess hair growth on the body. There are other symptoms as well that may be indicative of side effects so if you notice any changes whatsoever in your body it is recommended that you talk to your physician. Although the doctor may take you off the shots, it will take at least 13 weeks to notice a reversal of the side effects.
Less Common Side Effects
Other side effects may be more serious even though they are reported in very few women, but there are serious side effects like convulsions, jaundice, urinary tract infections, allergic reactions, fainting, paralysis, osteoporosis, lack of return to fertility, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolus, breast cancer, or cervical cancer (Source: Pfizer web site). None of these results were noted during clinical trials but some women have reported them and these side effects may or may not be directly attributable to Depo-Provera.
How to End Depo-Provera
In the end, should you want to end Depo-Provera shots the answer is really simpler than you think! Just don’t get the next shot! However, understand that it may take several months to get pregnant once you end the shots and it could take as long as 12 months or more. There should be no serious adverse reactions when you stop, but some women notice that it does take a while for their menstrual periods to go back to normal.
Although it is quite easy to just stop getting your shots, it is always recommended that you discuss any changes whatsoever with your medical practitioner. There may be things that you are unaware of which need to be discussed prior to making any changes in your lifestyle so medical advice is for your safety and wellbeing.