6 Common Depo-Provera Side Effects

What to Expect and What You Can Do

Common Side Effects of Depo-Provera
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Depo-Provera is a hormonal birth control shot that uses progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin is a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone.

Depo-Provera is as much as 99.7% effective when used correctly. As a ​progestin-only birth control, it may be a great choice if you are unable to use estrogen-based birth control.

Depo-Provera side effects can happen as your body gets used to this medication. This article explores the most common side effects of Depo-Provera.

Irregular Menstrual Bleeding

Many individuals stop using Depo-Provera within the first year because of irregular spotting or bleeding. These side effects are common and can last more than a year for some people.

There is no way to predict who will experience bleeding or how severe it may be. In some cases, ending the treatment is the only option.

For others, supplementation like Lysteda (tranexamic acid) and Ponstel (mefenamic acid) may provide short-term relief until the body gets used to Depo-Provera.

No Periods

After a few shots, Depo-Provera may stop menstruation altogether in some people. Others may have very light periods.

Clinical studies estimate that over a third of those on Depo-Provera will stop menstruating after six months of treatment. This number increases to 55% of individuals after a year and 68% by year two.

Many are willing to tolerate the initial bleeding with the hopes of not having a period anymore.

Bone Density Loss

Depo-Provera has a black box warning, which is a label used to highlight serious medication risks. According to the Food and Drug Administration, if Depo-Provera is used continuously for more than two years, individuals are more prone to bone thinning, also known as osteoporosis, and broken bones.

Because of the risk of bone loss, it is recommended that individuals should limit their use of Depo-Provera to no more than two years.

To help with bone loss, doctors will often recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements, as well as a calcium-rich diet. Keep in mind that if bone loss occurs, it is considered permanent.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is another reason why some will stop using Depo-Provera. According to research, around two-thirds of women who used Depo-Provera reported a weight gain of 5 pounds during the first year.

That number increased to 8 pounds by year two and continued to increase. By year six, women on Depo-Provera gained an average of 16.5 pounds (or roughly 2.9 pounds per year).

This effect, however, is not seen in everyone.

Delayed Fertility

Depo-Provera has a long lasting birth control effect. Once stopped, it may take up to a year to start ovulating normally again. If you would like to get pregnant, you may have to wait at least nine months before trying.

According to research, 68% of women were able to get pregnant within 12 months after stopping Depo-Provera. By 15 months, this increased to 83%. By 18 months, 93% of those who wanted to get pregnant were able to do so.

Local Injection Reactions

One of the more common symptoms of Depo-Provera is injection site reactions. Some report mild pain associated with the shot, while others experience skin reactions around the area where the shot was given. Both tend to be relatively minor and will resolve on their own within a day or two.

Other common side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • Mood changes, especially depression

These types of symptoms tend to get better the longer you take Depo-Provera and usually don't need treatment.

Summary

Depo-Provera is a progestin-based birth control shot. Common side effects include irregular or no periods, bone thinning, weight gain, delayed ovulation, injection site reactions, and depression. Some may also experience headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do side effects usually last from Depo Provera?

    Most side effects from Depo Provera go away within two to three months.

  • Can hormonal birth control make you tired?

    It is possible that hormonal birth control can cause fatigue. One study showed a link between hormonal birth control use, insomnia symptoms, and daytime sleepiness.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Veisi F, Zangeneh M. Comparison of two different injectable contraceptive methods: depo-medroxy progesterone acetate (DMPA) and Cyclofem. J Family Reprod Health. 2013;7(3):109-13.

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  4. Planned Parenthood. What are the disadvantages of the birth control shot?