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Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) is a synthetic version of a female hormone called progesterone. This injectable drug is used as a form of long-term contraception to prevent pregnancy. Its effects last for about 12 weeks (three months), after which fertility returns unless another injection is received.

How Depo-Provera Works

Medroxyprogesterone or Depo-Provera is a synthetic form of progesterone, a hormone which helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy. This drug is injected to a woman's upper arm or buttock to avoid pregnancy by preventing the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation) and preventing the entry of sperms into the uterus. At high doses (150 mg, intramuscular, every 3 months), Depo-provera can significantly reduce a woman's fertility for weeks, until the next shot is given. Once given, its effects cannot be reversed until the reserve is depleted from the muscle. It may take some time for women to ovulate again after the last injection, but the duration varies from woman to woman.

Side Effects of Depo-Provera

Common side effects of Depo-provera include:

  • Nausea

  • Pain at the injection site

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Bloating

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Tiredness

  • Decreased breast size

  • Breast tenderness

  • Acne

  • Hair loss

  • Spotting between menstrual periods

  • Changes in weight (increase or decrease)

While an increase in weight is more common for women using contraception, a few actually lose weight, while other do not experience any significant weight changes.

It is also important to remember that Depo-Provera should not be given for longer than two years because it can cause serious problems such as osteoporosis (bone loss), which may not be reversible.

When to See a Doctor

Before using Depo-provera, tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions:

  • You might be pregnant or you are currently nursing a baby

  • You have kidney or liver disease

  • You are allergic to Medroxyprogesterone

  • You have unusual vaginal bleeding

  • You have other health problems

If you have received the injection, consult a doctor if you experience persistent or worsening side effects. Significant or unexplained weight loss may be a symptom of another health problem, which may need to be investigated.

You need to see a doctor if you have lost at least 10 pounds ( about 4.5 kilograms) or more than 5% of your usual body weight without trying. Loss of appetite and unintentional but persistent weight loss over a few months must also be investigated.

Common causes of unintentional weight loss include stress and anxiety, chronic diseases, drug abuse, digestive disorders, eating disorders, undiagnosed diabetes, and cancer.

Your doctor will evaluate your medical history, including your drug intake, do a physical examination, and ask for laboratory exams if necessary. You may be given a special diet to improve your weight and to prevent further loss of weight.

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