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Depo-provera (depot medroxyprogesterone acetate) is an injectable birth control drug that is made of a hormone similar to progesterone. It is believed to be 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and is a convenient form of contraception because it is injected every three months, during which women do not have to worry about taking daily pills or using physical barriers. However, like any drug, it has some side effects. One of these undesirable side effects is weight gain, which affects about two-thirds of women who use the drug.

What is Depo-Provera?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that more than 2M American women use Depo-provera, including about 400,000 teenagers. It is a popular contraceptive method because it is relatively inexpensive and has a low failure rate. It is also convenient because it does not have to be administered daily. One shot in the arm muscle provides protection against pregnancy for about three months. However, doctors do not recommend using it as a long-term birth control method (i.e., more than two years) because prolonged use has been associated with a reduction of estrogen levels, which may lead to a significant decline in bone mineral density.

Another side effect that concerns many women using this drug is excessive weight gain. Not all women using it gain weight, but for about two-thirds of its users, it can be a significant concern. However, one should also consider that there are many factors that affect weight gain, including lifestyle factors and other medical conditions.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston followed 240 women using Depo-provera for about three years and found that those who gained excess weight within six months of use were most likely to gain the most weight after continued use. They also found that women whose initial body mass index was less than 30 and had children before initiating its use were at greater risk of gaining excess weight. The authors believe that this weight gain is linked to an increase in abdominal fat, a risk factor for metabolic syndrome,and other obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Although the exact mechanisms for weight gain are not known, they think it may linked to the drug's glucocorticoid-like activity, which is related to how the body metabolizes simple sugars and its interference with the action of insulin.

How to Lose Weight While on Birth Control

Consult your doctor about the type of birth control method you are using to check if you need to change or continue this method. Doctors and nutritionists often advise their patients to keep a food journal to keep track of their eating habits. From this you will see the amount and quality of food you have been consuming for a week and you will know how to adjust your daily eating habits.

The best way to lose weight while on Depo-provera is to eat a healthy well balanced diet that is nutrient dense and low in calories. This should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Avoid eating salty and sugary foods, which encourages water retention and weight gain. Engage in regular exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, treadmill or bicycling to burn excess calories.

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