Birth Control
December 5, 2011 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Can you tell me about your experiences with Depo-Provera?

This is looking like my only birth control option besides tubal ligation, which I currently have neither the money nor doctor approval for.

What is the likelihood of my getting some of the really bad symptoms? After all, there's no real point in using Depo-Provera if I end up bleeding heavily or getting more abdominal cramps and dizziness than what I already deal with...

Please don't recommend that I try Mirena or pills, which I've already looked into. I'm currently not on birth control, but want to try this to make my periods less of an issue.
posted by DisreputableDog to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I started it when I was a teenager because the nurses suggested that I was not responsible enough to be trusted to take a pill every day (assholes!). So I got the shot. I had my period for three straight months. I went back and said I didn't want to be on it anymore. They said, 'it's normal, just try another round and then it'll stop entirely'. Went another three months with a daily period. Again, 'please, I don't want this any more, I want the pill". More "oh honey, we know what's best for you". Another three months. So, after nine months with a period, I switched to the pill, and that was 13 years ago.

I had no other symptoms. No weight gain or cramps or anything. But a had a period for NINE MONTHS.
posted by greta simone at 12:25 PM on December 5, 2011

I gained something like 60 pounds in the year I was on it. I didn't have a period at all for the first 9 months, but I did have cramps every month, just no blood. And then after my last shot, I had a three-month-long period. A very heavy three-month-long period. It was like that elevator scene in the Shining.

As you may have guessed, based on my personal experience, I wouldn't recommend it.
posted by bedhead at 12:35 PM on December 5, 2011

I had exactly the same experience as greta simone, where I had a full on period for 9 months until I finally convinced my doctor to switch me to something else. Conversely, I know some other people who had no bleeding at all the whole time they were one it.
posted by Zophi at 12:36 PM on December 5, 2011

I didn't get my period at all when I was on it, but I didn't want to have sex ever. Like, the idea of it was completely foreign, and how could I ever have wanted to do such a thing. It took me a while to figure it out. No problems with cramps or anything else.
posted by artychoke at 12:40 PM on December 5, 2011

I was on it for a year as treatment for endometriosis. My periods were erratic, it didn't help the cramps at all, my sex drive disappeared, I was intensely moody, and I had more acne on my face, chest, and back then since I was a teenager. Loathed it, basically.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:40 PM on December 5, 2011

Everybody's experience varies and there's no way to know how your body will react until it's too late. Sorry.

In my case, it's the ideal BC for me, I haven't had a period since a month or two after I went on it, I haven't gained that much weight, I haven't had cramps ever, and I feel awesome on it.

But everyone's results vary and everyone who's tried Depo either loves it or despises it. And that's exactly the non-helpful results you're gonna get on this thread!
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:41 PM on December 5, 2011 [6 favorites]

When my then-girlfriend went on it, she didn't get her period for four months, but got suicidal ideation instead. It was a bad trade.
posted by Jairus at 12:41 PM on December 5, 2011

I had serious mood swing, fatigue and irritability issues on Depo. It also totally killed my sex drive, and it made my hair fall out (not all of it or anything, but just enough to be distressing). I'd recently had a baby and was nursing when I first went on it, so initially I thought those were all postpartum issues, and I (regrettably) stayed on the Depo for nine miserable months. But -- pro tip -- your hair doesn't fall out for nine months after you have a baby. When I got off of Depo, the improvement in my mood within just a few weeks was staggering.

Also, AFTER getting off of it I learned about the bone thinning issues associated with Depo and was fairly pissed that OB who had totally dismissed the idea that I might succeed at preventing pregnancy with a combo of nursing and barrier methods and pushed Depo on me (I mean, really, really pushily pushed it) as "so much easier" than a progesterone-only pill had totally failed to mention that potentially very serious side effect.

Later when I had a new OB I mentioned the problems I'd had with Depo and she said, "Well, yeah, that's because Depo is a terrible drug. Everyone I know who's been on it hates it." So I wouldn't personally recommend it. But it of course personal experiences with any hormonal BC tend to vary widely. So if I were you I'd be sure to look around for anecdotes from people who've had positive experiences with it, too.
posted by BlueJae at 12:44 PM on December 5, 2011

When I was considering Depo my doc put me on the minipill as a trial to see how it went. She said that if you had major problems on the minipill then at least you can stop taking them ASAP instead of waiting 3 months for the Depo to wear off. I'm glad I went that route because I gained 10lbs and spotted for two weeks out of every month. And then I quit smoking and went back to Nuvaring.

Is trying progestogen-only HBC via the minipill first an option for you?
posted by elsietheeel at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2011

I *loved* being on Depo, and would still be on it if it weren't for my clotting disorder. My period stopped after about a month and I never noticed any side effects besides that (awesome) one. Oh, well, and I didn't have any acne either. It was seriously the best thing ever - no period, no need to bother with a barrier method with my husband.

Honestly, though, all you're going to get in this thread is anecdotal evidence, which won't help you figure out whether it's a good fit for *you* or not. Go read up on the side effects on Planned Parenthood and decide whether you can handle having one or more of those negative side effects for the 3+ months it takes for the drug to exit your system. For me it was totally worthwhile to try it out, and it turned out awesome. You might be just as lucky or you might not.
posted by Gori Girl at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2011

Give it a try, and see what you think. Be on the lookout for side effects that don't seem like symptoms, like screeching fits of rage and complete lack of libido, which is what happened to me. Many people don't experience these side effects, but some people do.

If you are aware that it could be a side effect, and can catch it relatively quickly, it can make a big difference.
posted by ErikaB at 12:59 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm nth-ing that it completely depends on your body's reaction. I was on Depo for 9 years and it was perfect for me: no side effects, no period (occasional spotting was about the worst of it). I only switched because I became a little alarmed reading articles that it wasn't recommended to take it for that long. I switched to a non-hormonal IUD and that was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. There is literally no way to tell how you'll react to any given form of birth control until you've tried it, in my anecdotal experience and the experience of my friends.
posted by booknerd at 1:00 PM on December 5, 2011

From a commenter who prefers to remain anonymous:
"I was on Depo off and on for a good ten years (from my early 20s to mid-30s) and I loved it. I didn't gain weight, had no problem with my sex drive, and even got pregnant during one of the years I was off the stuff, so it obviously didn't affect my fertility. And it even seemed to have a somewhat stabilizing effect on my naturally erratic moods.

However, BIG SERIOUS WARNING: It destroyed my bones. When I had a DEXA scan a couple of years ago, it revealed advanced osteopenia (almost to the point of osteoporosis in my lower back). Depo causes serious bone loss if taken long-term, so beware.

(After the scan my gyno made me get off the Depo immediately and I spent a couple of unhappy years trying different BC pills continuously until I found one that lets me be bleed-free. I'm told the bone loss is reversible, but haven't had a follow-up scan yet to see if my bones have re-strengthened.)"
posted by restless_nomad at 1:03 PM on December 5, 2011

I also was on Depo, on and off, for about five years between 17 and 22. I liked it more than I liked the pill- which is to say, Depo didn't make me crazy the way the pill did. (It wasn't just the multiphase hormones, it was the constant worry and "Did I take it?' that made me nuts.)

This was before IUDs made a comeback for childless women, and after the first implantable had been pulled from the market, but before the second debuted. Depo was also really cheap compared to the pill- it was $25 every three months, versus $25+ per month.

I am very grateful that I had it. I never got pregnant so it did its job.

But, I gained a considerable amount of weight, and it absolutely slayed my sex drive. I used to joke that it was double birth control- you don't want sex at all, but if you do get some, at least you won't get pregnant.

I did not have a period at all on Depo, and it usually took at least two months to return after I quit it (which I did more than once).

Now that I have had IUDs, I cannot imagine going back to Depo. Even though it made my periods heavier, I love my Paragard. I'm on my second one.
posted by Leta at 1:04 PM on December 5, 2011

I had an experience similar to the anon answer. I gained about 50 pounds in a year, and I ended up with osteoporosis. I only found out because I had enrolled in a bone density study at my university. I had a bone scan and my T score was -3.3. Went to the doctor and he told me if I fell I would destroy my hips. It's better now (bone loss is reversible), but the Depo experience SUCKED. YMMV.
posted by bolognius maximus at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2011

To add to the anecdotal evidence, I did three rounds of Depo-Provera after some difficulties with various pills, each time hoping that I would get to be one of the lucky ones who had none of the adverse effects, and desperately hoping for the perfect skin on top of it all. Alas, it was not to be. I did indeed lose my libido (what was left after the twenty pound weight gain and resultant body image issues) and any other sexytime opportunities were diminished by the frequent spotting and my annoyance at it, and not much else changed - I still had/have rotten PMS and uncomfortably heavy periods. It's a real shame that it's such a crapshoot over how someone's going to react to Depo-Provera.
posted by peagood at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2011

I was on it for about 18 months and loved it. No unpleasant side effects, and the only problem I had with it was the potential bone density issues meaning my doctor was very reluctant to prescribe it for more than two years.
posted by Catseye at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2011

I was on Depo for about 3 years, gained 80 pounds, had absolutely no sex drive whatsoever, but never had a period the entire time. It was both awesome and completely the worst all at the same time. But that's me, and you're different!
posted by kerning at 2:28 PM on December 5, 2011

Tried it for 9 months (3 shots) and was absolutely miserable. I didn't get my period at all after the first 2 months (yay, I guess?), but I completely lost all interest in sex and had awful, unstoppable crying fits almost daily, with little to no provocation. It made me feel like I was going crazy. And with such a low sex drive (like, not even a lack of interest but a substantial aversion), the birth-control effects were barely relevant. After I quit taking it, it was 8 months before my periods and mood became regular again, even though people usually say it takes "only" 3 months to get it out of your system.

Not long after I had quit taking it, I found my friend's textbook for a Human Sexuality course he was taking in college. I looked up Depo Provera and found out that due to its libido-killing properties, it is used for chemical castration of sex offenders. This isn't a "whoops, you must be one of the unlucky ones" side effect. It's so strong and so common that the drug is used for the purposes of making sex offenders lose their interest in and ability to engage in sexual activity. If I had known, I would never have tried the drug.
posted by vytae at 2:37 PM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a very (very very) positive experience with Depo.

My disappointment was that I did not gain the weight that others had complained of.

No untoward bleeding, no moody craziness, and in fact I think it was the time of my life where I suffered the least from my depression.
posted by bilabial at 2:50 PM on December 5, 2011

I was on Depo for about three years. I absolutely loved it. I went off of it, however, because my GYN found cysts on my ovaries. After about four months off, they were gone. It could have been a coincidence but she advised me not to go back on it.

No weight gain, my libido was even stronger (no pregnancy! Yay!), no mood swings, no period from the first injection. It was wonderful and I've never, ever found anything else that works as well.
posted by cooker girl at 2:54 PM on December 5, 2011

First shot did make my arm sore for a few days. Other than that, nothing changed.

I'm spayed now (yay!!!) but did not have any problems at all. You are not me. You might grow a tail.

Discuss at length with your doctor.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:25 PM on December 5, 2011

I loved it. No period at all the whole time I was on it. No real side effects (I did gain a little weight, but I don't know if that was the Depo.) If you do try it and decide to quit taking it, be warned that it could take a while for your body to get back to normal. It took about a year for my period to come back.
posted by Weeping_angel at 3:31 PM on December 5, 2011

I've been on it for most of the last decade (with a few breaks). It's the best thing for me. No periods, no major weight gain, no mood swings, etc. But yeah, I miss my libido a bit. It's a trade-off. Whenever I've been off it, my period has come back within 1-2 months.

During my last break, I tried out Implanon (the arm implant that lasts for 3 years). THAT sucked. I spotted (sometimes heavier, sometimes lighter) for more than six months straight. I was also really moody and stressed. I got my doc to remove it and went back on the Depo.
posted by web-goddess at 4:47 PM on December 5, 2011

I also loved depo. I had no period, clear skin, and no discernable weight gain. I only went off it because of bone density concerns, after around a decade of using it on and off. I now have the implant, which is working out okay after a rocky initial six months.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:04 PM on December 5, 2011

I was on Depo for about a year and a half. I actually lost weight (about 15 pounds), I stopped having a period, and it completely killed my sex drive. And I'd have horrible mood swings the week after having the shot.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:08 PM on December 5, 2011

Wow am I glad I read this thread, as lots of the negative side effects happened to me. I'm getting off Depo, well, now. All I can say is, be committed to re-evaluation at the three month (second shot) mark rather than later.

I definitely agree that you should try the mini-pill first. I had continual breakthrough bleeding on the mini-pill, which should have been a bad sign right there. My breakthrough-bleeding on Depo has been ridiculous (I haven't stopped spotting since oh, August). Please consider trying the mini-pill first.

Other side effects (as if the bleeding wasn't enough): total loss of libido--like stone cold gone--it's been awful and it didn't help my now-failed relationship at all (surprise). I also gained weight, but that's birth control in general. I have been an angry, rage-y mess for a few months now and never connected it to Depo but it makes a certain amount of sense. All in all, I will be one happy camper when Depo is out of my system.

All those lovely side effects could happen to you or they could not, but the worst symptom of all is bone loss and as far as I know that one's guaranteed. If you find yourself loving Depo, be prepared to go off of it for a while (my doctor suggested 2-3 years on, 1 year off) as needed.
posted by librarylis at 7:11 PM on December 5, 2011

I was one of those people who loved Depo, but I was only on it for a few years (I got off of it due to loss of health insurance + decision to stop trying to be heterosexual). My periods stopped nearly immediately, it reduced my appetite by a significant amount (at a time when I was largely depressed due to being in a bad relationship + smoking tons of weed, and eating all the time), and like triggerfinger, it cleared up a lot of skin problems. But I had had good experiences before with progesterone-only BC, so my doctor at the time was fairly certain I would do well on Depo -- I would second the recommendation to try the "mini pill" first, since you can go off of it easier than you can go off of Depo.
posted by heurtebise at 7:51 PM on December 5, 2011

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