Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Coming off Depo-Provera can be a woman’s worst nightmare

April 4th, 2012 by Laura Wershler

April 14, 2015 

I wish to thank all the women who’ve shared their experiences with Depo-Provera in the three years since this blog post was published. Comments are now closed. You can find more information here: Stopping Depo-Provera: Why and what to do about adverse experience

Those concerned about Depo-Provera and bone density may want to read Depo-Provera Use and Bone Health recently posted at the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.

Laura Wershler

Need proof that women are sometimes desperate for information and support when it comes to quitting hormonal contraception? You need look no further than the 100 plus comments in reply to an old blog posting at Our Bodies OurselvesQuestions About Side Effects of Stopping Contraceptive Injections.  The comment stream – a litany of woes concerning women’s discontinuation of Depo-Provera – has been active since Nov. 2, 2009.

On March 29, 2012, Rachel, author of the post, wrote a follow-up piece in which she laments: “Although a quick internet search finds many women complaining of or asking about post-Depo symptoms, there isn’t much published scientific evidence on the topic.” Beyond research about bone density and length of time to return to fertility, little is known about the withdrawal symptoms women have been commenting about.

Depo-Provera is the 4-times-a-year birth control injection that carries an FDA “black box” warning that long-term use is associated with significant bone mineral density loss.  Never a fan, I made a case against this contraceptive in a paper for Canadian Woman Studies, published in 2005. The comments on the OBOS post indicate that many women took Depo-Provera without full knowledge of the potential for serious side effects while taking it, or of what to expect while coming off the drug.

Considering that Depo-Provera completely suppresses normal reproductive endocrine function, it is not surprising that many women experience extreme or confusing symptoms once stopping it. Take Lissa’s comment for example, posted on February 21, 2011:

Omg I thought I was tripping. I have been on depo for a year and stopped in jan. My breasts constantly hurt, I put on weight, have hot flashes, and sleeping problems. I pray everyday my cycle returns and stops playing with me. I only spot lightly.

Two and a half years after publication, the original article continues to garner monthly comments. I’ve read most of them and have yet to see one that offers concrete advice or a referral to resources that provide information and support to women looking for both. One such resource is Coming Off The Pill, the Patch, the Shot and Other Hormonal Contraceptives, a comprehensive, clinical-based guide to assist women transition back to menstruation and fertility, written by Megan Lalonde and Geraldine Matus.

Lalonde, a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner, and Certified Professional Midwife, helps women establish healthy, ovulatory cycles after using hormonal contraception. She says that women who’ve used Depo-Provera generally experience the most obvious symptoms and have the hardest time returning to fertility.  She finds that every client’s experience is different and will be affected by the status of their cycles before taking the drug, and their overall health. “It can take time to regain normal menstrual cycles, from a few months to 18 months, in my experience,” says Lalonde. “Some women have minimal symptoms while their own cycles resume, while others might have significant symptoms, including mood changes, unusual spotting and breast tenderness.”

The comments to the Our Bodies Ourselves blog post demonstrate that many women are not finding the acknowledgement and support they need to understand and manage the post-Depo transition. Some are disheartening to read, like this comment by Judy from April 12, 2011, and this recent one posted by Melani on March 21, 2012.

In my last re: Cycling post, I asked for input on the Coming Off the Pill Mind Map I created. I’ll be making a few revisions thanks to the thoughtful feedback readers have provided. I had assumed that this guide would be applicable to all methods of hormonal birth control but, after reading these women’s comments about their Depo-Provera experiences, it appears this contraceptive may require its own branch on the mind map.

932 responses to “Coming off Depo-Provera can be a woman’s worst nightmare”

  1. Brandy says:

    Iiiiii chiii no more for me!!!

  2. Chrissy says:

    I have been on depo for about 10 years now I think. Kind of lost track. Been many years since I’ve missed it. Dr. recommend I take 1200 mg of calcium a day. I’m worried about bone loss more than anything since my mom has osteoporosis and she had been on depo but was never told about taking calcium or bone loss. She also has other factors that contribute to bone loss. I am 31 and now choose to be single and I have been debating if I should stay on depo. I love it because of not having a period and it greatly reduces pms cramps. Some times my breasts do feel just a little sensitive when it gets close to the next injection but the sensitivity is so mild I only notice it when I do an exercise that presses my breasts down alot. It definitely took away my sex drive and made sex very unenjoyable. I feel like I do not even need any physical contact while on depo. If it is safe, I would like to stay on it til I get close to menopause. Hope they do some more research on the long term effects. Not sure what will happen when I stop.

  3. Morgan says:

    I had gotten my depo shot in January and I’m due for one next month on April 6th. Is it normal that my period came back so soon? I thought it was just spotting here and there but now it’s normal and not as bad as it has been before the depo… My periods had stopped til just yesterday.. So I’m hoping its normal til I can get my next shot

  4. Elise says:

    Hi, I am 24 years old and have been on Depo for the past two years. The reason I was put on the shot was PCOS, diagnosed by ultrasound. At the time, my only symptom was multiple cysts on each ovary that were causing severe cramping throughout my increasingly erratic and unpredictable (in length, heaviness, and severity of PMS) monthly cycles. Prior to Depo, I had always maintained a healthy weight with enviably clear skin and thick hair. Since Depo, I have gained 40 lbs, now have cystic acne all over my body and face, and am losing my hair. My doctor has performed multiple blood tests for insulin resistance and excess androgens; however, these hormones remain in a normal range. In recent months, I have had continuous spotting after an immediate and complete cessation of menstruation since my first shot. I no longer have ovarian cysts, but now have recurrent endometrial polyps. Despite these alarming recent changes, my doctor wants me to stay on Depo with no changes in treatment! I’m not sure that’s a good idea, but I am scared my ovarian cysts and painful periods will return if I go off. I have sought numerous physician opinions, and have been given alternatives: IUD, oral contraceptives, or estrogen pills in adjunct to the Depo. But in each case, I was warned that any change could trigger recurrent cysts and further worsening of PCOS symptoms. What no doctor has answered for me is: Which option is best? Or even, does it really matter, and should I be pursuing a treatment like Metformin for current symptom relief (overweight, acne, thinning hair, endometrial changes) even though my glucose, insulin, and androgens are considered normal? I am grateful that Depo got rid of my cysts, but am saddened and frustrated that it has seemed to hasten the onset of other PCOS symptoms.

  5. amber says:

    I took the shot for 2 years from 18 to 20. Lost wait no period. No side affects. Got back on it in November and did not get a second shot because I had one month of no period and then haven’t stopped bleeding for 4 months. Light period.. but the smell is awful and it never stops. I need the odor to go away and the constant spotting. Any advice

  6. liz says:

    Was 16 when i was put on depo. Havent missed a shot in 4 years. I am 103 pounds and maintained it. I had no periods or problems while on depo. I missed my shot only 2 weeks ago due to my car breaking down. Im glad. I already have extreme nausau every single night. I cramp like im going to start my period but have nothing to show for the cramps. Im extremely tired all the time but have a hard time sleeping. And have swollen breast so much so that my boyfriend noticed. ITS BEEN 2 WEEKS and I already am having such bad symptoms. Also on a side not both of my sisters were on the depo for over 2 years each my oldest has been off for 4 years trying to conceive for 2 with no luck,my other sister has been off for 2 trying to conceive for 1 with no luck. No problems with fertility in our family. I cant say for sure if it has to do with the depo but with all things considered i would never ever ever get back on it again.

  7. esteff says:

    I got the shot only one time and I didn’t take it again, the shot was due on feb , and since then I haven’t gotten my period is that normal?

  8. Dana says:

    I’m glad I read this, I also didn’t have any problem when I was on it for 3 years. My last one was due on march 3rd and I spotted for like 2 weeks nothing really heavy, but it is a nightmare I’m nauseous all the time also have cramp pains like my period is near but nothing…I have most of the same symptoms and sometimes get anxiety attacks really bad, I wake up at 3 a.m. and not able to sleep back again.. my mood changes all the time and my breast were producing milk and really tender. I’m not taking the shot again I only hope my cycle get back to normal as soon as possible and not 6 months. Is there anything that can help with that I would really appreciated if someone reply with that info!

  9. Mackenzie says:


    I think you Should go to a doctor, nipple dishcharge isn’t normal. Better to be safe than sorry!

  10. Mackenzi says:


    It sounds like to me the symptoms you’re having are ones the come with PCOS. I’m sure you know that PCOS is having to much testosterone the male hormone. Which leads to thinning of hair and growing hair in strange places (nipples, face ect) acne and weight gain. Staying on the depo shot will help balance out the symptoms. I was put on the depo for the same reason. Only down side is two years later after being off of it I have terrible joint pain in my hips and shoulder and I gained 20lbs. My advice is listen to the doctors but don’t be scared to ask questions. If you don’t understand why they recommend a treatment ask them for clarification, they are there to take care of you!

  11. Kenzi says:


    I know how you feel, I was misdiagnosed with PCOS for two years! The sym

  12. Kenzi says:


    The symptoms your having could maybe be from the implant? My friend have something similar happen to her and after hers was removed the symptoms went away! Definately go back and tell them. I’m actually shocked they put you on depo and an implant! Having an implant like that can damage your uterus, they usually don’t recommend it for people that haven’t had kids yet. I hope things get better for you! Good luck!

  13. Keely says:

    I am 20 years old and I have had the shot three times. The first two times did mess with my cycle and make me spot regularly. However, getting off was normal. I had no symptoms like breast pain or weight gain or anything like that. However, the third time I got it, I bled everyday for six months AFTER the shot was three months old. So all in all, I never had a regular period again. Finally around my birthday I stopped bleeding. It has now been 10 months since I’ve gotten the shot, 6 months since I stopped bleeding every single day and since then I’ve just had strange cycles. Now I bleed a regular amount of a regular consistiency but every two weeks when I always bled for just a month. Here is what is killing me… I’m terrified that I am now infertile. I have been hearing horror stories about countless friends who got the shot, experienced the same symptoms, and became infertile. Please tell me if you’ve gone through what I have and can no longer have children. I’m so scared.

  14. liz says:

    Just wanted to update! My nausau has gone down slightly not by much but I am having extreme nervousness and a hard time focusing. Which is bad because i have a 35 minute commute to work and i work in an office on the computer all day. Going to go see the doctor. Im not sure if the newest additions to my list are because of my lack of sleep but its getting out of hand. I snap at everyone and its just not there fault. Will update after I go but if anyone has any tips let me know!

  15. krys says:

    hey, all these women giving feedback really has mad eme feel less alone in my depo related issues however im dissapointed to see how constant postdepo issues are. i have been on it for four years until last month. i started as ithelp regualting my periods and then it took away my periods after only being on it for about four months. i used to be the typeof woman that would get cramps so bad i wouldnt be able to move. and my periods never could be scheduled because they would come 20-35 days apart and would last 3 to 8 days long and with that said it was never light or spotting it was always open andclose the floodgates. so when i got on depo and not only did it completely get rid of my cramps but i stopped having a period all together.i thought that was the best thing ever. i read the possible side effects but no one ever takes those seriosly. i used to have a high sexual appetite before depo and ididnt think it correlatesuntil i saw others saying thesame thing but i barely havean appetite at all anymore. i didnt know if it was just me or if it was because of how often sex is painful now. all my joint pop and hurt, and i didnt evenknow about the bone effects until a few months ago. im only 22. i amon the watch list for cervical cancer. they said i amat risk but that i dont have it yet. they make me get checked every6 months. apparently i have a weird cell count. i was told in all actuality that i will most likely have cervical cancerits not a matter of if but when. so i have only been off for a month now because when i missedmy appointment i realised maybe its the reason why i might get cancer, all these chemicalsim subjecting mybody to. i always have been on the fence about having children but it hurt to know that i might not geta choice. i havehadbadmood swings and i havenot had a period yet. i have had bad gas and an almost imobilizing cramp the other day but other than that i dont know what other effects are going on inside that i cant see. i have heard that as soon as youget off birth control you are the most fertile so i have been scared that that is why i havent gotten a period yet. my family has a high fertility rate from both branches so i have always done monthly pregnancy tests because i dontwant to be like my little sister. she has always had a weight problem and when she concieved she gained weight like usual. she didnt have the popcorn bowl shaped belly it just looked like she got chubby. anyways it took until at 6 months and her feeling the first kicks to know that she was pregnant.

  16. krys says:

    i get hot flashes too! i dont even think aboutit. but its completely random. i always joke and say i might be 22 but i got menopause

  17. KDlynn says:

    This month will mark two years after stopping the depo shot. It took 11 months after stopping for my cycle to even return. my periods have been somewhat regular but I have had breakthrough bleeding every cycle at the same time. I have been ttc and had a devastating miscarriage in january. It took 6 weeks for my cycle to return, which is where I am now. I weigh 115 lbs and my gyno told me that depo lingers in skinny women a lot longer because they take the same dose of depo as an obese person, and it is almost like an overdose of medication for such a small body. She has patients that have had trouble with depo for over 3 years after stopping. I was blessed to have gotten pregnant and it was really hard not to blame depo for my miscarriage. since I have been trying to conceive every month, the last two years have seemed like an eternity. I have been trying to find similar experiences on the internet, but all the posts I find are years old. Any advice, encouragement, or similar experiences?

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Hello, I am almost 19 and I have been on the DEPO provera shot for almost 2 years now, my last injection was in November and it is now April of 2015. I have not received any signs of getting a menstrual cycle, nor have I gotten one for months. While i was on the shot I experianced low sex drive, pain during sex and weight loss. I was around the 125lbs area naturally and then dropped to nearly 109lbs during the shot. Slowly I am desprately trying to pick back up my lost pounds but it is very hard. Does anyone know when my menstrual cycle will return to me? I’m very worried.

  19. Fi says:

    My last injection was in Oct 2014. I’ve just come on. Was on depo for over five years

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Yes and No. Some people react diffrently to the shot. I, myself, received periods when my next shot was due. If you don’t receive a period after a shot, it is because the shot is doing it’s job. It’s supposed to make your period’s lighter.

  21. Ericka says:

    Elizabeth I took one shot August 2012 and didnt take another one. The whole 3 months I wasn’t feeling well. After I got off of it my period did return the following month but I experienced so many side effects that still bother me almost 3 years later. I’m already a small woman and I lost like 15 ponds its still a struggle to gain weight I have bad anxiety and always have aches and pains. Your hormones have to adjust in order to get your cycle back to normal which varies for each person.

  22. Heather says:

    I’ve been on the depo a year past January and I have gained around 25-30lbs in the time. Due my next injection in June but I want to lose the weight. Will coming off it help me lose it. I was a size 6-8 but now a 8-10 and I’m 5’2″ so I need help. I’m 18 next month…

  23. Heather says:

    I’ve been on the depo a year past January and I have gained around 25-30lbs in the time. Due my next injection in June but I want to lose the weight. Will coming off it help me lose it. I was a size 6-8 but now a 8-10 and I’m 5’2″ so I need help. I’m 18 next month and I want to lose the weight by then

  24. Heather says:

    6-8 and 8-10 in UK sizes or 110lbs to 135lbs

  25. Elizabeth A says:

    Hi, my name is Elizabeth, 35yrs old and had my last shot August last year. Didn’t go back in November for my next shot as I had broken up with my ptr in September and my next short was due the 11th November and as a legion officer I was conducting a parade in my local area. I still have yet to have a period but two days ago I started losing what I can only describe as a brownish clear fluid spotting not heavy but regular. My sister says this is something called a ‘dead period’ ?? She says after the shots the first few periods are like this because the first few eggs after the depo Vera wears off are dead and the lining is so thin??? I should listen to her as she is a Dr . But I don’t know??? Never experienced this before. Is this really the start of my periods returning? And have any of you experienced this because I’m so confused and want my period back. Many thanks :) x

  26. Heather says:

    I’ve been told its normal for what you have. It’s old blood so it looks darker. Did you gain weight while on it and lost it once you came off? I’m getting concerned about how much weight I’ve put on and I want to lose it. Could you help in any way?

  27. amy20 says:

    Ive been on the injection for 3years I had no periods what so ever. I had a low sex drive but ive always been like that. Since I stopped taking it in december ive had been on for a week then been on 2days then nothing for 2months then coming up to coming on this month my fiance said he had noticed a change in my mood I quiet. Not my usual bubbly self ive been on for 3weeks ill have heavy days then light days then really heavy days and just when I think im coming off it becomes heavy again since ive had thos period, ive been having really bad mood swings and my fiance has been walking on egg shells. Ive also been getting dipression like symptomsto the extrem were Iim crying for no reason and on my lowest days ive had suicidal thoughts. Ive always suffered from consipation and different bowl movement which I never had before the deppo im just stressed out and wish id never ever gone on it. Its like a constant battle with my moods. I did try takeing primrose oil tablets which are ment to help with womens hprmones and mood swings which got me from my loweat points and somedays im having good days and others im not. But they have helped I would recomend them. My sex drive has either been wild or not wanting it at all my bodys all over the shop to say the least and thos is only the beginning.

  28. Monique says:

    Hi. I’m still on the Depo and have been thinking about getting off of it for awhile now, but now that I read these comments i’m kind of scared too. I have been on the shot since I was 15 years old and I’m 20 now. So I have really debated on weather to get off of it or stay on it because I have heard it causes problems, but every time I ask the doctor they just say you might gain some weight and bone loss. I just need some answers on what to do???? Any ideas ladies???

  29. Natalie says:

    For the last two nights I’ve had the same exact thing, having to hold them and can’t lay on my side and swelling. What on earth is that? I’m really hoping this goes away! Not to mention my bras don’t fit.

  30. Mischa M says:

    I was on the depo from 17 – 21. I had maybe 1 period in that time. It was bliss. Although I was massively depressed, and i didn’t even realise it. I realised I had depression in December 2012, sought counselling and began to rebuild my life but it was a massive uphill battle with highs and lows (but never mood swings so I never thought to look at the depo). in September 2013 i had my last injection after reading that if you had a family history of osteoperosis you should avoid it. So I was due an injection in December 2013, which I missed and had a normal period in Jan 2014.
    Then nothing until one in July 2014, and then nothing until Jan 2015, and then March 2015.
    What I have noticed since coming off..
    -My mood! Oh my god it is like a cloud has lifted!!! I feel alive again!!!
    -My boobs hurt SO MUCH before a period, for 2 weeks they are agony. I only have small breasts but I can hardly sleep because they won’t lay comfortably. They are also very lumpy before my period. I also had 3 months of serious breast pain between august 2014 and Novemeber. So bad that I went to the doctor as it was unbearable.
    -My new found sex drive and how good sex feels. This really shocked me. I thought I could never reach orgasm without “external” stimulation (as I went on the injection before losing my virginity, so never knew any different).

    So it has now been 16 months since my last depo was due. In that time I have had 4 periods. My sex drive returned after 3-4 months. My cloud of doom and gloom lifted after 6-8 months. My boobs started hurting after 8 months.

    I’m now 22, I don’t plan on starting a family any time soon. But boy oh boy do I hope I’m not infertile. I’m angry at the lack of education behind this inconspicuous injection. Had I known half of the stuff I know now I would never have walked in to that room. .

  31. Liz says:

    Hi, I have been taking Depo for nearly 8 years. Side effects would only be dizziness around the time of the next injection especially when I do not take in enough fluid and possible loss of sex drive and probably a few others over the years. None of these symptoms bother me as the benefit of not having my period far out ways these. I have been off the injection for 6 months now. No current effects other than no period. I am happy to wait out the year to give my body a chance to cleanse itself of depo before chatting to my gp.

  32. Rachel howe says:

    My name is Rachel, I was on depo for 21 yrs. I did not have a period 20 of those yrs, and still have not. I am 49yrs old. The reason they took me off it is I broke 7 bones in 2,1/2 yrs, onley one from falling. I kept asking,and asking,but no one would say. A new nurse joined the clinic,read my file, and refuse me anymore depo. she said i had been on it to long.NO, one had said anything before!! OR will anyone talk about it now with me, I cry all the time becuase i wonder if thats why I’m in a wheelchair.I have not had a shot in a yr, and still no period .All I want to know is about side affects o getting off , Please

Readers should note that statements published in re: Cycling are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.