Womens Health

Side effects of Depoprovera® in teens

By Frederick R. Jelovsek, M.D.

Side Effects

Many women are concerned about undesirable side effects of any form of contraceptive. The perceived incidence of these effects keeps women from using any protection against pregnancy so it is important to know what the chance of symptoms such as weight gain and irregular menstrual bleeding actually is.

Side Effect Study

S. C. Matson and others in J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 1997 Feb;10(1):18-23 documented the main side-effects of the injectable contraceptive, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA, Depoprovera®) over 30 months in 53 adolescent females.

Each teen received 150 mg DMPA intramuscularly in either the shoulder or buttocks muscle. The first two DMPA injections were given 6-8 weeks apart in an effort to decrease menstrual irregularity. Subsequent shots were given every 3 months. At 5, 11, and 17 months of DMPA use, only 75%, 40%, and 19% of the women subjects respectively, continued DMPA. The most commonly perceived side effects were weight gain (27%), headache (25%), irregular periods (24%), fatigue (23%), abdominal pain (18%), and decreased sexual desire (15%). Significant weight gain was noted with an average increase of 12 pounds (6.0 kg) at 11 months of DMPA use and 19 pounds (9.0 kg) at 17 months. No menstrual bleeding was experienced by 30%-40% of adolescents in any 3-month injection period, and those who had any menstrual bleeding averaged 8-13 days of bleeding between injections. No pregnancies occurred.


The study shows DMPA is an effective, acceptable contraceptive for some adolescent females who are at high risk for pregnancy. The side effects are substantial however, with weight gain being the most significant one.

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