The most popular and third most prescribed female birth control pill in the U.S. is Depo Provera. Often referred to as the “mini-pill,” Depo Provera is a tri-phasic (three distinct phases) contraceptive that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981. It is a combination of levonorgestrel (LNG) and norethisterone (NRT) and is available in both a monthly and a quarterly (for hormone-sensitive women) dosage forms. What is interesting about Depo Provera is that it is the only birth control pill that the FDA has approved to help women lose weight.
How Does It Work?
As the name suggests, Depo Provera is a combination of two progestin compounds (progestins are hormones that can stimulate or inhibit the growth of cells or tissues in the body). Norethisterone is a synthetic form of progesterone and is a potent antigonadotropin (anti-fertility hormone). Like many other progestin-based contraceptives, norethisterone works by suppressing the secretion of gonadotropins (follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH)). Therefore, norethisterone inhibits ovulation and the production of estrogen by the corpus luteum (the endogenous synthesis of estrogen). As a result, women taking Depo Provera will experience regular menstrual cycles and be able to get pregnant only through natural means.
Reported Side Effects
The side effects of Depo Provera are typical of any oral contraceptive (including the other two most popular types of the pill—Levonorgestrel and Norgestimate and Rapex) and can include mood swings, headaches, and breast tenderness. In some cases, these side effects can be severe. However, as with any new drug that undergoes extensive clinical trials before being approved by the FDA, there are also some very positive side effects associated with Depo Provera. Women who take Depo Provera have reported a decrease in acne and wrinkles as well as an improvement in their sense of well-being. There are also some reports that suggest that Depo Provera can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. The fact that Depo Provera has been approved to help with weight loss makes it an interesting option for women who need an alternative to traditional birth control methods.
Is It Safe?
Like many other progestin-based contraceptives, Depo Provera has been reported to be generally safe for use in combination with hormonal contraceptive medications such as ethinyl estradiol (EE) and progesterone. In patients who are previously unresponsive to traditional birth control methods or those who have failed to respond to other weight loss medications, Depo Provera has been shown to be a safe and effective option for menstrual cancellation and weight loss. In fact, the most recent (2014) data from the FDA shows that Depo Provera is used by approximately one in four (25%) women using birth control in the U.S. However, as with any new drug that is introduced to the medical community, there is always the possibility that serious side effects may occur. While Depo Provera has been shown to be safe and effective in clinical studies, it still needs to be tested in larger groups of patients before it can be recommended for general use. This is especially important in cases where the patient is already taking other medications or where they have a history of severe side effects with other medications.
Can You Lose Weight on Depo Provera?
While Depo Provera is a safe and effective contraceptive for some women, it doesn’t guarantee that all women who take it will lose weight. In fact, as with any other drug or diet plan, it is very possible that the person who is most likely to benefit from Depo Provera is the person who is least likely to lose weight (the law of complication). The reason for this is because Depo Provera is an oral contraceptive and will, therefore, be more effective for those who need it (to prevent pregnancies) than those who need it to lose weight. In other words, Depo Provera is most desirable for those who are least likely to lose weight and truly need it to prevent pregnancies. While Depo Provera may be a safe and effective contraceptive option for some, it certainly doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for everybody.