Real Women Discuss Their Experiences with Depo Provera

Depo Provera Side Effects

Depo. Photo Reprinted With Permission from E. Scott

Do you use Depo-Provera to prevent an unplanned pregnancy? Perhaps you are considering whether to switch your current birth control method to the Depo Shot or maybe your doctor has recommended Depo Provera to help lower your discomfort from endometriosis-related pain. Depo-Provera is a reversible, prescription method of birth control. Also known as the Depo Shot or the birth control shot, each injection slowly releases the synthetic form of progesterone medroxyprogesterone acetate and protects against pregnancy for a period of 11 to 14 weeks.

There are two versions - Depo-Provera or the newer Depo-subQ Provera 104 -- with the exception of a few differences, both injections work the same way and provide the same level of pregnancy protection. Generally speaking, you would need to get a Depo injection about 4 times a year.

Irregular Spotting or Breakthrough Bleeding on Depo:

"I took my first Depo shot back in April. I was fine for the first two weeks but as soon as I had sex, my period came. I've been spotting since." -- K

"I'm 16 and received my first Depo shot in February 2009. At first, it was great. After a few weeks, I got an irregular period, and after a few days of that, just began to spot (a brownish/red discharge since then). I'm supposed to go in to my doctor within the next week or two to get my second shot but I don't think I am." -- Kristin

"I have been on Depo for a year now. I am still having some mild spotting problems but not too bad and only for a few days at a time.¨ -- Sim

These experiences are not uncommon, and I often receive comments and questions like these wanting to know if spotting and lightly bleeding is normal after receiving a Depo injection. Your body will likely go through changes as it adjusts to the progestin provided by Depo Provera. Irregular bleeding (spotting) and/or prolonged bleeding (like a continuous period) is actually a completely normal side effect when a woman begins to use Depo-Provera. In fact, many women stop using the Depo shot during the first year of use due to irregular bleeding (spotting) and/or prolonged bleeding. This side effect is especially common during the first 3 months of use. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how you will react to Depo Provera - whether or not you will have spotting, when it will stop, or if you end up not having a period at all.

Depo and Weight Gain:

"Depo is okay. I like that I don't have to take pills every day, but I have definitely put on some weight. I also spotted for like the first two weeks, but that was it. I don't like the weight gain, so I am thinking about switching to something else." -- Annie

"I've been on Depo for 5 months. My doctor recommended it because I can't take combination birth control pills. My first two Depo injections were fine - no bleeding at all! About two weeks ago, I spotted (lightly) for like 3 days, then nothing. So far, I am happy. I heard that Depo-Provera can make you gain weight - thankfully, I haven't put on any extra pounds (I actually lost a few, but I don't think the Depo had anything to do with that). I say, give it a try - glad I did!" -- Rebekka

When taken on time, the Depo shot is 99.7% effective; however, weight gain is frequently cited by women as a reason for discontinuing Depo Provera use. During the first year of use, most Depo users experience an average weight gain of 3.5 to 5 pounds. That being said, research has shown mixed findings as to whether this method of birth control actually contributes to weight gain. It does seem, however, that body weight and fat appear to increase with the use of DMPA, but this side effect should be balanced against Depo Provera's low failure rate and ease of use. Research has also shown that women who used nonhormonal contraception after discontinuing DMPA experienced an adjusted mean weight LOSS of 1.7 kg after 24 months (lost .42 kg in 6 months).

No More Periods on Depo Provera:

"I had been on the Depo shot when I was younger, and it was awesome. I never had a period! Then after having two kids, I decided to get on Depo again. I have been bleeding for 4 months straight (some days are heavy, others light)." -- Megan

"I took my first Depo shot, and now it is time for my second. I have been having normal periods the whole time until this month -- and now, they have stopped." -- Emily

"I just had my third Depo Provera Shot about 3 weeks ago. I had a little bit of spotting (maybe like a week) after the first one. After my second Depo injection, I spotted for 3 days, then nothing. Since then, I have had no issues and no period. For me, this has been awesome. I don't have to remember taking pills every day and am totally protected against making babies. I completely recommend this method!" -- Belinda

"I've been on and off Depo for 3 years. Having my son at the age of 15, I figured it was the best prevention method. The first two years I was on Depo, I hardly ever had a period. I was so happy!" -- So Classy

Pfizer (Depo's manufacturer) indicates that in clinical studies, 39% of women usually find that their periods completely stop by the end of month 6 of use. After nine months of using Depo Provera or Depo-subQ Provera 104, about half of women's periods have either almost stopped or have completely stopped. Finally, for the remaining women, 57% report that their periods have stopped by the end of a whole year of use.

Nonstop Bleeding on Depo:

"I had one Depo shot and have been bleeding for 11 months since. My Doctor says this is NORMAL with the Depo. I advise never to receive this form of birth control." -- Emily

"I am on Depo, too (my second shot) and am bleeding. The first 3 months were smooth. I got the second shot in February 2009, and it is now March, and I don't seem to stop bleeding." -- Essy

"I had my baby Dec 14, 2008 and decided to take Depo January 14, 2009.

One week after getting the Depo injection, I started bleeding. Ever since, I've been bleeding for 2 and a half months. I have called 3 doctors, and they can't help me." -- Jeannie

"Oh I feel so sorry for you guys. I'm 24 and have been on and off Depo since I was 19. I haven't had any problems until my Depo shot 3 weeks ago. After the shot, I have been bleeding. Annoying, yes!" -- Marion

"So I see why they say Depo lasts for three months, and you won't get pregnant ...because the whole time you are bleeding and don't want to have sex there is no way to become pregnant!" -- Shay


It is important to discuss the potential for irregular or prolonged bleeding while using Depo Provera with your doctor as research has shown that women are more likely to continue with using Depo if they are counseled about the bleeding effects before they receive their first injection. As with spotting, prolonged bleeding (like a continuous period) is also a completely normal Depo side effect, and unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how your body may react to Depo, whether you will have prolonged bleeding, and if so, knowing when it will stop.

Depo and Bone Mineral Density:

"I have had 2 Depo-Provera injections - the first month was a bit rough as I never knew when the spotting would come. Ever since my second injection, I have had no bleeding (yay!). I am concerned though because my friend just told me something that Depo can lower my bone mineral density?

I am 19, so I am concerned. Is this true?" -- Heather


The package inserts for both Depo Provera and Depo-subQ Provera 104 contain a mandated black box warning concerning possible bone loss while using this birth control method. According to the insert, using Depo may cause you to lose calcium stored in your bones, and the longer you use Depo-Provera, the more calcium you are likely to lose. Thus, women who use Depo may lose significant bone mineral density.

Non-Contraceptive Advantages of Depo:

"I am actually using the Depo-subQ Provera 104 injection. I have had endometriosis for years, so ever since the FDA approved it for the treatment of endometriosis pain, I was first in line at my doctors! Using Depo-subQ has been the best thing that I ever did. Sure, I spotted for a few days at first, but it wasn't bad and was over very fast. In the meantime, fast-forward 6 months, Depo has helped reduce my pain better than anything else. I have virtually no more pelvic pain or pain with my period.

I can actually have sex again because it doesn't hurt and my pelvic area is not tender or painful when touched anymore. Plus, my other meds gave me the sweats, so Depo has stopped that as well. Thank you for inventing this option. I love Depo Provera!" -- Amber


The Depo-subQ Provera 104 shot is the first new remedy in the last 15 years to be FDA approved for the treatment of endometriosis-related pain. According to research provided by Pfizer, Depo-subQ Provera 104 treats endometriosis pain as effectively as leuprolide yet is associated with fewer vasomotor symptoms (like hot flashes or sweats) and significantly less bone loss. Depo-Provera can also be used -- overall, studies show that Depo yields pain relief statistically equivalent to that of leuprolide. Depo may cause changes to the lining and tissue growth in the uterus that also helps in relieving endometriosis-related pain.

Other Contraceptive Injections:

"I am thinking about starting Depo-Provera. My aunt told me about another birth control shot that I've never heard of. It's called Noristerat. Also, just to make one more comment, I have two close friends on Depo, and they love it (that's why I am considering switching to it. My friends swear Depo is the best!)" -- Vanessa

"I am currently using the Cyclofem birth control shot. I get one about every month, and it's great. No bleeding or any other side effects. Maybe you should look into it?" -- Maria

Birth control shots deliver synthetic hormones via an injection and are reversible prescription methods of birth control. Depending on the brand, pregnancy protection can range from 30 days to 14 weeks. Depo-Provera, as well as its newer version, the Depo-subQ Provera 104 Injection, are progestin-only injections.

  • The Noristerat Injection is another progestin contraceptive shot. It is not available in the US but is common in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, and Central America. It continuously releases its progestin into the bloodstream for 2 months. Noristerat is intended to be a short-term method of contraception as the injection may be repeated once, after eight weeks.
  • Monthly Combined Contraceptive Injections, like Lunelle, now marketed under Cyclofem and Mesigyna, are combined contraceptive shots that contain both estrogen and progestin. This birth control method must be administered every 28 to 30 days. Lunelle became available in the US in 2000, but its prefilled syringes were voluntarily recalled in 2002 due to a lack of assurance of full potency and possible risk of contraceptive failure. In October 2003, Pfizer stopped manufacturing Lunelle, so it's no longer available in the US. Cyclofem, a similar shot, is available in 18 countries (mostly in Latin America and Asia). Mesigyna (another type of combined injection) can be found in 36 countries, primarily in Latin America and Asia, but is also not available in the US.

Other Depo Side Effects:

"I have had no issues with bleeding or spotting on Depo Provera (I have been using it for almost a year). In fact, though my periods are not gone, they are very light and a day or 2 long. My issue is that nobody told me about how Depo can make you feel - mentally. For the first month, I felt very nervousness-like (maybe jittery) and dizzy. My doctor said this is a less common side effect of Depo Provera.

I waited it out and felt much better after my next shot. I plan to stop after my next injection, so I can prepare to get pregnant. Wish me luck!" -- Robin

"I am due for my next Depo shot (#4) in a few weeks. For me, I had some irregular, light bleeding on and off for about a month after my first shot. No bleeding since then, except for my periods (which are lighter than before). I can't use estrogen, so I decided to take Depo Provera over progestin-only birth control pills... so much easier! The only weird thing for me was that I got this lumpy spot where they gave me my second shot. It didn't hurt - it just felt odd. It went away after a few days. I never got it again with any of my other Depo Shots." -- Isabella

"I read all of your stories and feel so bad! For me, Depo-Provera has been awesome. My only complaint is the pain of the actual injection! But, it's worth it for the 3 months of worry-free birth control.

Girls out there who have had good experiences, you need to share them, so people don't think Depo is as bad as all these stories sound!" -- Analeigh


As with most hormonal birth control methods, Depo is not without side effects. Though there are many advantages to using Depo-Provera, like the fact that it is discreet, hassle-free, allows for sexual spontaneity, is highly effective and can be used by breastfeeding mothers, some side effects are possible as well. It can take an average of 9-10 months (sometimes more than a year) to regain fertility and begin ovulating after receiving your last shot. Some women report mild pain associated with receiving the Depo injection, and in clinical studies, about 6% of women experienced skin reactions where they got their shot - these were often described as the skin around the injection site becoming dimpled or feeling lumpy. Also, some less common Depo side effects include a change in sex drive, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, sore breasts, depression, change of appetite, headaches, skin rash or spotty darkening of the skin, hair loss and/or increased hair on the face or body.

Just Don't Like Shots!

"I have been on the Depo Provera shot for over a year and want to switch to another contraceptive method. I haven't had any side effects - bleeding, weight gain, etc. I just don't like getting shots! When I started Depo-Provera, there weren't a lot of progestin-only options available. I do wish to continue with a hormonal method (these seem more reliable). Does anyone know what my other choices are? Thanks!" -- Rhonda


Depo may not be the right option for all women. Luckily, there are several hormonal options available. If you need a progestin-only method, you can try the mini-pill, Implanon contraceptive implant or the Mirena IUD.

Combined hormonal (estrogen and progestin) options include the NuvaRing, Ortho Evra Patch and combination birth control pills. You should discuss all these options with your healthcare provider to decide which is the best method for you.

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