Advantages and disadvantages of hormone injections for birth control

The following table lists the advantages and disadvantages of using the Depo-Provera injection birth control method.

Deciding about the progestin-only injection birth control method
Consideration

Depo-Provera (progestin-only injection)

Advantages

  • Injections are needed only every 13 to 14 weeks
  • Reduces risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer
  • Reduces symptoms of endometriosis
  • Reduces risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Reduces risk of ectopic pregnancy
  • Reduces frequency of seizures in women who have a seizure disorder
  • Reduces number of sickle cell crises in women who have sickle cell disease
  • Can be used after a miscarriage or an abortion
  • Reduces cramps and pain at ovulation
  • Can be used while breast-feeding

Disadvantages

  • Using Depo-Provera for 2 or more years can cause bone loss, which may not be fully reversible after stopping the medication. This concern may be greatest during the teen years, when young women should be building bone mass.1 Talk to your health professional about whether the benefits of long-term use outweigh your risks and how you can protect your bones with daily calcium and regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or running.2
  • Often causes irregular spotting
  • Causes slight weight gain
  • Fertility may not return for 6 to 8 months after stopping the medication
  • May decrease levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • Provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • May increase the risk of chlamydia or gonorrhea infection among women who are sexually exposed to these bacteria. (Depo-Provera users who have any risk of exposure to STDs are advised to use condoms.3)

Citations

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). Black box warning added concerning long-term use of Depo-Provera contraceptive injection. FDA Talk Paper No. T04-50. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/2004/ANS01325.html.
  2. Hatcher RA (2004). Depo-Provera injections, implants, and progestin-only pills (minipills). In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 18th ed., pp. 461–494. New York: Ardent Media.
  3. Morrison CS, et al. (2004). Hormonal contraceptive use, cervical ectopy, and the acquisition of cervical infections. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 31(9): 561–567.

Last Updated: May 22, 2008

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