Questions Remain about Effects of Stopping Depo-Provera

Depo provera
Depo Provera injection / Photo:
By Rachel Walden |

8.24.16: Check out our latest blog post by Laura Wershler of the Center for Menstrual Cycle Research: I Wouldn’t Recommend It to Anyone: What We Can Learn from Women who have had Bad Experiences with Depo-Provera.

6.21.13 update: Our colleagues at the Center for Menstrual Cycle Research recently posted , an excellent interview with endocrinologist and My contributor Dr. Jerilynn Prior, who shares her advice for managing symptoms after stopping Depo.

Our 2009 post on side effects of stopping the injectable birth control Depo-Provera (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, or DMPA) continues to generate important discussion — read than 100 women have shared their stories of adverse effects after stopping the drug.

Although a finds many women complaining of or asking about post-Depo symptoms, there isn’t much published scientific evidence on the topic. Frustratingly, there is really not much new on the topic in the 2 1/2 years since we first posted on this. There don’t appear to be ongoing or upcoming studies on the concerns we’ve heard, either. A few studies here and there report some effects, like how long it took for menstruation to return, how long periods lasted, and how long it took to become pregnant after stopping.

Most of the existing research on women who stop using Depo-Provera seems to focus on bone mineral density. The drug comes with a that it may cause significant bone density losses, although research suggests that it’s possible that these losses may be made up after women stop taking the drug. The Society for Adolescent Medicine that “The data from all of these studies [of bone density in adolescent users] are encouraging, although it is unknown whether girls ultimately achieved the same peak bone mass as they would have in the absence of DMPA.” They also suggest that the advantages of preventing pregnancy may outweigh the risk for bone loss, but that patients should be informed of the potential for bone loss. Because of this concern, though, research on what happens when women stop using this birth control method tends to focus on understanding changes in their bone density.

Studies of “discontinuation” of birth control methods also tend to focus on the side effects of taking a drug and the reasons women stop using them, rather than what happens – aside from pregnancies – after they make that decision. It is thought that about half of women who quit Depo in order to get pregnant are able to do so by 10 months later, but that some women have longer waits before they are fertile. According to the , “it is expected that 68% of women who do become pregnant may conceive within 12 months, 83% may conceive within 15 months, and 93% may conceive within 18 months from the last injection.” It also notes, though, that almost 40% of who discontinued the drug to become pregnant could not be followed up on, so they are not represented in those percentages.

What would you like to know about stopping Depo-Provera? What should researchers be examining? If you would like to share your own story of stopping Depo, please add them to the previous post.

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992 Comments

  1. Rachel, thanks for writing a follow-up post to your November 2009 post about the challenges women are facing coming off Depo-Provera. It was brought to my attention on re: Cycling, the blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in a post last weekend :

    I write monthly for re: Cycling and am working on a series about coming off hormonal contraception and the many issues involved. Women’s comments at your original post inspired my most recent post:

    I support your call for read research into women’s experiences coming off not just Depo-Provera, but all hormonal contraceptives. We also need to do read to help women who stop using hormonal methods transition to healthy ovulatory cycles and effective, confident use of non-hormonal birth control methods.

    Laura Wershler
    @laurawershler

    • Fatima H says:

      I strongly dislike depo.
      I started it in 2003 and had my period for 6 months straight (with maybe a day or two in between without bleeding). I stayed on it for 2 years and my periods were never regular, they came and went as they pleased. I stopped. I recently tried again this year because oof the ‘new formula’. 10 x worse. I had mood swing, hot flashes, dizziness , light hesdedness and my period issue was still the same. Bled for 3 months and then it stopped as soon as it was time to get the 2nd shot. I never went and got it and so far the mood swings and hot flashes have stopped, yet my period has still not regualted. I bled for another two weeks, stopped for about 45 days, bled for a week, stopped and it came back two weeks later. I am so frustrated !

      • Brianna says:

        Mines does the same thing, ill bleed for months straight , if i have sex , it will start right back up, i got on it to regulate my cycle and to not get pregnant. But my cycle is all over the place.

      • natasha graham says:

        This should be banned.I took 4 mo ago have not stopped bleeding since. This is ridic and it just will not stop. Better off risking pregnancy than taking this stuff…shot wore off 1 no ago haven’t stopped bleeding in 124 days. What do I do?

      • kristina d says:

        i couldnt agree read ive been on depo on and off since 2010 and the first two shots were ok then i dec that in jan 2015 to try it one read time and i just got off it a week ago and its been a nightmare headaches bloating naushied dizzness breast tenderness and some moodswings that come and go and always weak I feel like icant do anything i herd in some other countrys its banned they should bann it in the us bc i swear its posion !

      • dory says:

        hi we’re on the same boat. i just have nasty abdominal cramps! this so annoying! like u said i bled for 2 weeks and then stop 45 days and then the cycle goes on!

      • rachael says:

        I realize how unfortunate it may be for those who have had horrible side effects bc of depo. But everyone is different and will react differently. I was on depo in high school and agian now. Depo saved my life.I have severve endometriosis and anemia. Depo is thing that has worked. The pill did nothing but give me bad side effects. With depo i loss my period right away.

        As for bone loss, which my docter was very concerned about, has me take supplements eat healthy and be active.

        I do feel for those who have had a bad reaction. But that doesn’t mean it should be banned. For everyone that depo doesnt work there are many that it does.

      • Latonia says:

        Being on Depo has really been made me miserable. I have been on it since March 2015 and I have been bleeding non stop since then I went back for my second shot June 2015 and I thought that maybe my cycle would have stopped by now but it surely hasn’t but that was my finally shot I will not get another Depo needs to be taken off the market seriously.

      • Dominique says:

        I just want to say I have had a great experience with the deep shot I got put on it 4 years ago and I have nut had a period one since I have started. The only thing I noticed was weight gain but I was 16 when I got put on it so how much of that is me just getting my “woman body” I have never had any bad side effects with mine aide of being emotional the day after the shot. I like the shot because it works with my body. I completely understand that some women it just doesn’t work well with me and a girl I know got put on it the same time and she had to so hers right away

      • CS says:

        I considered this to be a miracle drug for myself. After I had my son, I bled consistently for 3 1/2 years. There may have been 5 days total where it wasn’t as heavy but still had it. I went to every hospital and Dr I could think of that may be able to tell me what was causing the bleeding. It was so heavy I was changing super tampons every 1/2 hour and still needed to wear a pad in case of leaks. I started the depo and it was the only thing that stopped it. I took one shot every 16-18 weeks for about a year, then the bleeding started coming back, so they up’d me to 2 shots every 8 weeks. I did that for almost 14 years. It was not until this past Jan. that I stopped the DEPO in order to have a total hysterectomy. The only thing I am dealing with now is very sore breasts which comes from the lack of “fake” hormone and my body trying to establish a new normal level by itself. The Dr who performed the surgery told me that my bleeding was caused by an issue called “Abnormal Uterine Bleeding caused by Anovulation”. Basically my menstralcycle was never considered normal. Normal for me was 6hours to 2 days tops and very light about once every two months or so. He said the fact that I even got pregnant was a miracle. I would check with a specialist if your womens Dr isn’t doing anything.

      • raven says:

        Me too and it sucks! Ihad my first and only depot shot In sept 2015 and I bled for 6 almost 7 months !! It stopped for abt two weeks and now its back again!! I wish thee doctors that give these shots would tell ppl abt this constant bleeding . Right before I got my shot I asked if it would stop the bleeding she told me yes and I got thee complete opposite!! Does anyone know how to make thee bleeding stop?

      • melissa says:

        Like most of what i have read about.i have been on depo shot for 7years .i stop getting it about 8 mounths ago .the first 2mounths i did not bleed .only spoting . Now i have been bleeding 6months .my tired weak .just dont feel like doing anything help …..when is it going to stop .i got on the shot to help with periods it helped when on it .

      • Bre says:

        I got the depo in end of July in 2015 because my doctor recommended it because I’m a college runner and to not deal with your period is a great thing… Before I was on it I didn’t really have period problems lasted only 4-5 days . Then I got the shot, two weeks later I started bleeding. Non FRICKING stop. I went to a specialist, and she told me the read I got the shot the less bleeding will accord. She also said she can out me on a different birth control ( the pill) to stop the bleeding. But I don’t want anyread birth control in my system till this one is gone.So when I got my 4th shot, it didn’t slow down, it didn’t stop. And now it’s July, almost a year later, and wow I’m still bleeding. I’ve done a lot f research and blogs have said to drink tons of water to get it out of the system faster. So I drink like a gallon a day. I just recently called the doctor again but I haven’t gotten a call back. I need to know how to get this out of my system ASAP. I’m sick of bleeding. A year of it basically! You don’t know how stressed I am.

      • Lyssa says:

        I took it for a year and a half and then got of about 6 months ago and have never had a period or anything even close since i started. Its now been two years ive been able to live cramp free and stopped having to spend money on period stuff and feeling sick and ruining my clothes. 2 years of bliss. Best thing thats ever happened to me.

      • Sabrina says:

        I was on the depo for 9moths and then I got off of it like in November and it’s August now and l I have had is a couple dad I was spotting I’m just trying to figure out if my body is okay

      • Brianna says:

        I had no problems while being on depo my period was always the same. But now that i decided to get off of it after a year of using it i have crazy side effects. I have been on and off bleeding for two weeks. I dont mean crazy bleeding but it will suddenly be a lot of blood almost like the start of my period but it only lasts a few hours and then starts up again the following day.

    • Tiffany says:

      I was on Depo for two years. During those two years I had consistent spotting for about 6 months after the first dose and then finally no periods. That part was great no read period no read painful cramping just nothing aside from the 60 pounds of excess weight that I gained. I was informed that some weight gain might occur usually around 10-20 pounds. Yeah I had 3 times that even with diet and exercise. I came off of the shot after the second year. One full year after I stopped taking Depo I finally got some resemblance of a period. At first it was a month of light spotting then one day it turned into the heaviest, longest, most painful cycle I have ever had. It lasted about 10 days then I had 2 days off then it started right up again. So far I have been 10 days on this “hell period” with 2 days off for the past 45 days. How much longer before or if this will ever turn back into something read manageable?

      • deedee says:

        i just came off the Depo because of the massive weight gain and now with seeing all the comments i am terrified to come off it I’m 14 and had the period and bleeding of a 45 year old women my periods were 5 weeks long no matter what and cramps that made me pass out i just thought they were stomach cramps or something because i get chronic stomach pain from my illness i have but later found out it was not so we went to my doctor and he said try depo Ive never had a period since then except when i spotted and he said it was normal it saved my life except when the weight gain came that was not fun i used to be 199 and losing the weight and was happy about now I’m 245 pounds and pissed about it i hate my weight and i just went off Depo and hope that it will help with my weight but i dont want the hell periods he said give it a month then we will put you on the pill Im scared about my period coming now because all I’ve seen is one bad review after another

      • T says:

        I was on depo for 20 years I loved it, before I had heavy periods & cramps so bad I was going to be in kidney failure cuz I needed to take so much meds to function and i hate medicine. I was always throwing up missing school and work. Regular birth control didnt help. I recently got off depo & it’s been the worse. My breast so tender I don’t want to wear a bra I’ve been on my cycle for the past 3 months with maybe 7 days off. I had bad cramps at first now nothing which I’m glad but the periods I’m tired of. I had to increase my iron I was getting so tired unable to exercise or stay awake. I’m trying to wait it out I really don’t want to be on any birth control but I might have to just to regulate it.

      • Paula says:

        Tiffany are you still having an issue with your cycle. I just recently stopped taking the depo shot and have had my period for about 4 weeks

      • Lisa Hall says:

        OMG I REALLY DONT WANNA HEAR IT BECAUSE IM ON THE DEPO SHOT TOO AND ITS GETS ON MY LAST MIMD RIGHT I REALLY HATES IT MY PAIN WONT STOP

      • catherine bidwell says:

        that sounds weird, just like mine.I’m getting very worried as I have’nt had a period for 6 weeks.It took 10 months for my periods to come back but I had light periods and very heavy periods which lasted 10 days and had to take some tablets to calm it down. I trying for a baby but I cant work out when the best time is.

      • Marlene says:

        I’ve been on the shot for 14months and I just missed my appointment to get it this time. I never got a period the whole time that I’ve been on it but I would get bad cramps and be very moody all the time I lost a whole lot of my hair it would fall out in chunks and I’ve gained a lot of weight I get back pains and muscle and bone aching but read I would feel like I would get a lot of back spasms it was scary. Now I am just wondering how my menstrual cycle will be like now that I stop the shot. I would get headaches. Once in awhile I would feel nausea and I’ve notice I would get very tired I would have to take a nap at least once a day. My boobs would be tender and sore.

      • Marlene says:

        I forgot to mention that the shot also took away my sex drive I never wanted to have sex and was never in the mood at all. Cramping would come and go off and on sometimes it would be read painful then other times.

    • cheyenne says:

      I was on the depo for one shot short of two years. Started in March when I was went in my for last shot when I was 17, December, had I gotten another shot, it’d have been in March, making it two consecutive years. Anyways. I am now 19. It’s July 2015. Rewind back to my last shot. I never had periods with the depo. Gained horrible weight even with dieting and excersise. I got my first period in two years, April 2014. It was like three days. Then I got another period in June. Which lasted three weeks, into July. I then started recording my periods, starting the 27th of August. They seemed to regulate. Except for one small detail. I get two periods a month. Full fledge cramping and everything. One on the 6th and one around the 25th of each month. Some months I’ll have just the one in the last week of the month. But most times, I have two periods a month. I’ve discussed this with my mom, and its quite possible I’m not even ovulating. I was told by a doctor that since its been almost two years since I’ve stopped the shots, it should regulate out now. I spoke to another doctor, and without running tests, she looked at me and told me I’m just overweight and with weight loss will come a normal period and that was that. Now, I’m overweight. But I’m not like morbidly obese. I know people that are close to 300 pounds and get normal periods and pregnant. So what makes me different. What should I do? I want kids. Will I have have motherhood? Or even a normal cycle?

      • angie says:

        Hi, I’ve just read your post and saw it wasn’t that long ago..I couldn’t tell if anyone’s replied but i wondered if you’ve gotten any resolution to your problem? Doctors failing to help you short of blaming this on your weight is wrong. Not to mention ignorant. My best suggestion to regulate your cycle after the hormonal blow your body has clearly been through from the depo shot would be to try birth control pills for a few months.. Probably low dose (something like ortho tri cyclen- I may have misspelled) really you shouldn’t have to troubleshoot your own medical problems but sadly doctors are useless much read often than they ever should be. Maybe before attempting your own solution, try seeing another dr or two but this is what I would try if I hit a wall at solving my problem.

      • angie says:

        My email is [email protected]
        I am reading about this shot because just over one month after going on for the second time in my life, I’ve started my period. Two years ago I was on for six months and had no period with it at all..I’m thinking right now living with three other women cycles are syncing up and maybe that’s why but these stories honestly have me concerned..

    • Melanie Mankey says:

      Ok, so I have been on the depo shot now on and off for 13 years. I have had several health issues that has not been addressed by doctors because they have not known the underline issue. So here it goes. I was placed on depo when i was 11 years old. I was placed on it due to having irregular periods at a younge age and at the time this was a better option for me as to the pill. Because well a 11 year old doesnt remember to do their homework let alone take a pill. Everything was great. No periods at all. When I became 16 I started having issues with low iron and having a uti atleast once a month. Doctors said it was my eating habits. I did everything that i could think of to stop having a monthly uti, but even bumping up my vitiamin c has not worked. I stopped taking the depo shot when I was 19, I kinda fell in love and wanted kids). Within 6 months I was preggers with twins. Doctors said that I had a high hormonal inbalance that they never saw but due to being on the depo shot for so long my kids where considered high risk the whole time. Thankfully I gave birth to two healthy girls. At my 6 week check up I decided to go back on the shot. Worst idea ever. I thought it would be the same as before, but it wasnt. I bled for 7 months straight. I started to have a uti twice a month and the antibiotics stopped working. I have become depressed and suffer from anxiety attacks. After reading some of the comments I am relizing that I have a lot of the side effects in reference to the shot. I wake up everyday feeling like a 60 year old constantly stating that my bones hurt and people laugh because im still young. I have had dental issues (teeth breaking while simply talking). Im tired alot. I have here recently been passing blood clots (while not being on my period) I have long periods heavy periods (going through a whole bag of pads in a days timeframe…tampons are not longer an option.) I have had hair loss which i didnt think was affiliated because i dye my hair alot. I have cramps that come and go the type where you just want to lay in a fetal position on a heating pad all day. No sex life at all because its too painful. I feel hollow inside and i have gone to doctors for help but it seems like we have been looking in the wrong place. After reading all these comments my eyes are open. I have an appointment with a new obgyn as of oct 26th my shot comes due the following day. I am going to address all of this with him to see if there is a better way around it. After reading all this it has me wondering if i was misdiagnosed last year with ovarian cancer. I mean I gave birth to two healthy kids if I had cancer they would have seen the begining stages than wouldnt they have?? To the lady with the lawsuit please include me. I do admit at first things was great so with that being said depo is ok for some just not for all. I think doctors need to be fully aware of the sideeffects before offering it to people. And i think the two year rule with it should be voiced read, because i have never been informed of that let alone told even after all of this. I think there is read sideeffects that are out there for this shot than the benefits of it. I plan on discontinuing my shot at my appointment and am looking into having my tubes tide. I hope winging my body off of this wont be the death of me but it truely is a drug that is addicting. And it does ruing lives.

      • Sharon says:

        I was on depo after having a baby for two yes, horrible night seats, it’s been 15 yrs since my last child and even though I was only on depo shots for a year .. I’ve never stopped having night sweats. So I also decided to get tubes tied because I couldn’t take birth control… Worst thing I could have done.. I ended up with premenstrual dyspioric syndrome… They don’t tell you that when you have your tubes tied. Along with the depo shots came night seats, brown coloring above my top lip, and these horrible painful cyst in my breat that will never go away ?

      • Adrienne says:

        I got depo shot in sept. Had no period until nov. Bleed 3wks straight. I was suppose to get shot dec. 27, 2016. Now i wont start bleeding until 6pm to midnight then stop until the next day. I been doing this for 3days now. I can say i will never get that shot again. My doctor said get the shot and it will make you have a monthly cycle its been nightmare. Any suggestions. What have you been doing.

    • erin says:

      I need some help – I’ve been on depo for 21 years because I have (self diagnosed) pmdd. seriously disabling pms that swings my moods so badly that I’m unable to enjoy anything about life. thus, the depo which has successfully eliminated my periods for the majority of my adult life. now @ 40 if I go too long without a shot I swing back into my extremely unsavory, and severe pms. this last shot I lapsed for a month and in the last week of not getting my shot my breasts became so large they actually broke my underwire bra. yes, the underwires snapped, to my amazed embarrassment. if I go off the depo I am extremely depressed, to the point that my cheeks chap from so much crying, if I’m not crying I’m raging angry. 2 emotions only. I cry or yell for any reason, and any circumstance. I tried once to stop depo and it was the most miserable 7 months of my life, the thought of having to get my period sends me into terror. I’ve been told that getting a hormone imbalance test would require going off depo, but I simply can’t go through it. I called my mom to just confirm my pre-depo self and she reminded me of how bad I get. from period 1 I had extremely bad pms. anyone have any ideas?

      • CS says:

        @ Erin, I would suggest going off of it and schedualing a hysterectomy. The longer you are on the shot the better chance you have of sever bone loss aka Osteoperosis. Especially at your age, I would highly recommend this. But be forewarned – your breasts will get extremely sore, tender, and swell for awhile after stopping it. Good luck, and may I also suggest a good Dr in this field.

      • Denise says:

        CS I really need a dr in ATL I’m walking with a hump my bones ache and I’ve been on depro for 20 yrs I just stop 5 months ago and it’s killing me cramps and I really need to see a dr for my hump in my back any suggestion

      • Stacy says:

        I know how you feel. I, too, have PMDD and am on depression meds as well. I still get the PMS while on the shot though 🙁 when did yours start helping your PMDD? My doc recommended depo for it…

  2. callie says:

    I have noticed Quite a few women have been experiencing the side effects of depo such as bone loss and brittle teeth. I have too its time we all get together and start a class action law suite and get this product off the market it is very dangerous and you don’t suffer the side effects until after you stop the drug. Please me if you too have these problems I have already ed a lawyer about a class action. If you can be a part of it please do!! [email protected]