Progestin for dysfunctional uterine bleeding


Progestins, synthetic versions of the hormone progesterone, are used to treat dysfunctional uterine bleeding. They are given either as high-dose progestin pills or in the form of birth control pills.

Oral (pill)

Generic Name Brand Name
medroxyprogesterone Provera
norethindrone Aygestin, Micronor, Modicon, Norethin
progesterone (micronized) Prometrium

The levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) is also a progestin treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding. This type of IUD continually releases levonorgestrel, a form of progesterone, into the uterus.

How It Works

Progestins prevent overgrowth of the endometrium, which helps prevent dysfunctional uterine bleeding. (Heavy bleeding is often the product of irregular breakdown of an overgrown endometrium.) In teens and women who aren't ovulating regularly, progestins help restore a predictable monthly menstrual period.

You usually take progestins 10 to 12 days every month.

Why It Is Used

Progestins are used to treat irregular menstrual periods when no other uterine disease is present. They are mainly used to restore hormonal balance and normal menstrual bleeding in teens and women who aren't ovulating. Also, they are helpful for some ovulating women with irregular menstrual bleeding.1

High-dose progestin pills used to treat uterine bleeding are not the same progestin pills used for birth control. A levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) or a combination estrogen-progestin birth control pill is a better choice for women who want to prevent pregnancy.2

How Well It Works

Progestin therapy effectiveness varies with the type of dysfunctional uterine bleeding treated and the dosage and timing of treatment.

Side Effects

The side effects of high-dose progestins may include:2

  • Breast tenderness.
  • Nausea.
  • Bloating.
  • Mood changes or depression.
  • Headache.
  • Water retention.
  • Weight gain.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Many doctors consider short-term cycled progestin as a first-line treatment for dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

Oral progestin in the dose prescribed for dysfunctional uterine bleeding is not an effective birth control agent. Use a dependable form of birth control if you wish to prevent pregnancy.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Lobo RA (2007). Abnormal uterine bleeding: Ovulatory and anovulatory dysfunctional uterine bleeding, management of acute and chronic excessive bleeding. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 915–931. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
  2. Speroff L, Fritz MA (2005). Dysfunctional uterine bleeding. In L Speroff, MA Fritz, eds., Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility, 7th ed., pp. 548–571. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

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