What They Don't Tell You About This Birth Control Method

Many women use birth control, but what kind of birth control do you use? I have been on one type of birth control for three years--Depo-Provera. This method is said to be the most effective way to prevent pregnancies along with sterilization (which you probably won't want to do unless you never want kids).

So what is Depo-Provera? Well, according to The Women's Health Group, Depo-Provera is "a long-action form of birth control. It is an injection given every 12 weeks under a doctor's supervision." Once you get the injection, the progesterone injected into you prevents ovulation from happening. This way, no eggs can really be released into the uterus tube. The injection also creates a sort of "mucus wall" in your cervix, to prevent sperm from getting through. 

The first time you get the shot, you must wait a full 24 hours before it becomes effective. If you've already had the shot, you must go back to get an injection every 12 weeks or three months, for it to continue to become effective. If you get your next shot within twelve weeks, you don't have to worry about waiting 24 hours, it is still effective. You will no longer have a period or menstrual cycle once you start the injection. 

Although Depo-Provera is said to be the most effective method of birth control, with less than one of every 100 women getting pregnant while using it, there are some risks that doctors either make light of or simply don't mention at all. 


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1. Gaining weight  

Statistics show that within a year, about a third of patients gain about 3 pounds. In the years after, they gain around 5-7 pounds. Some 20% of patients lose weight, and others remain at the same weight. Your body is adjusting and is experiencing a rapid change in hormones, so gaining weight is a common thing. As for me, I'd gained about 10-15 pounds from the time I started the Depo-Provera shot. But then again, that could include other factors such as diet or lack of exercise.

2. Loss of bone density

Doctors have mentioned this to me before, and they've all told me not to worry about it because I'm not "older." Doctors recommend that patients stop taking the injection after two years because of loss in bone density. Depo-Provera is said to be directly associated with a higher loss of bone mineral density, but apparently, it's "totally reversible." After I started feeling as if my leg bones were weak and sometimes sore, I was told that taking daily vitamins would reverse the effects.

3. Nausea and headaches

During the three years that I was on the injection, I experienced headaches or migraines, about once every two weeks--sometimes even more. 

4. Loss of sex drive

Unfortunately, I was not informed about this when starting the shot. Virginia Beach OBGYN states, "Depo-Provera works by convincing the body that it is already pregnant, and inhibits estrogen production. Depo-Provera is a high dose of hormones and could lead to a decreased sex drive. Most women who get a Depo-Provera shot find that their sex drive decreases." So because your body believes that it is pregnant, it makes sense that your sex drive would decrease. In addition, an interesting fact that I discovered in a women's health chat group, is that the Depo-Provera drug is used as a "castration drug" on chronic sex-offenders. When injected into male sex-offenders, it is supposed to reduce their sex drive and sexual fantasies. 

Other side effects are irregular bleeding, stomach cramping, abdominal cramping, nervousness, dizziness, weakness/fatigue, and vaginal discharge and irritation.

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And when you get off of the shot after your body has gotten used to it, there are other things you should know...

5. You may experience breast swelling and tenderness 

About two to three weeks after I decided to officially stop the injections, I began to feel like my breasts were heavier and highly sensitive. I was highly concerned about this because I hadn't experienced this during the time that I was on the injections. After doing some research, I discovered that this is a common side-effect when stopping the shot. You may also continue to experience the regular side effects such as nausea and headaches, but some people experience them on an even more intense level. 

6. It may take up to a year (4 months at the least) to gain your fertility back

It's said to take up to a year or even two years to gain your fertility back, but some people can get pregnant after four months of stopping their injections. There's really no way to tell how long it will take for you. If you are trying to get pregnant, take this into consideration. If you are not--still take this into consideration, and remember to use other forms of contraceptives. Just because some people will take longer to gain their fertility back, doesn't mean you shouldn't be cautious about the possibility. If you do not get pregnant after 22 months of stopping the injection, it's recommended that you see a doctor, though the injection is not said to be a cause of infertility. 

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