Nurse Says She Has Osteoporosis because of Depo-Provera

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New Orleans, LALike most women who chose Depo-Provera as a method of birth control, Thuan thought it would be "simple and easy." Instead, a shot of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, better known as DMPA or depo shot, has caused confusion and complications, namely loss of bone density and early signs of osteoporosis.

At the age of 40 and the mother of two children, Thuan talked with her doctor about birth control and he suggested Depo-Provera. Besides being a mother, she works in a hospital as a registered nurse and teaches nursing school. "I am busy and thought I might forget to take the pill, so a shot every three months seemed like a good idea," says Thuan. "I don't remember exactly for how long I took Depo shots, but it was for at least 10 years.

"By about the seventh year and because of my age, I asked my doctor about bone density and he ordered some tests. The results indicated that I have the beginnings of osteoporosis and he put me on Actonel, 35 mg weekly, to increase bone density, along with calcium." (Actonel is used for preventing osteoporosis in women who are past menopause and to treat and prevent osteoporosis caused by treatment with corticosteroids—e.g., prednisone—for both men and women.)

During that time Thuan, who is now 56, says she was still getting the Depo shot. She didn't know that she was menopausal—many women no longer menstruate after taking Depo-Provera. "I had no idea that DMPA was related to bone loss until about two years ago," Thuan explains. "After 50 I was in menopause so why did I still take Depo-Provera? My doctor took a blood test to determine whether I was menopausal and determined that I didn't need to take it anymore.

"Now I have a bone density test every year and it hasn't improved. My back hurts and my legs ache. Because I am on my feet all day, loss of bone density has really affected my work and I have to wear something to support my back. I am afraid that I am going to really hurt myself when I lift a patient—and being a nurse, that's part of my job.

"I was shocked when I found the Depo-Provera lawsuit online. And I found out that a lot of women are in the same situation as me. Even though I am a nurse, I never talked to my doctor about putting me on Depo-Provera for so long. I trusted my doctor so why should I question him? I am very frustrated; why was I given this medication with so many side effects? I found out that you shouldn't be on this for more than two years, but I was on it for a decade."

The Depo Provera Web site says that "You should use Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection long term (for example, more than 2 years) only if other methods of birth control are not right for you…The longer you use Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection, the more calcium you are likely to lose. The calcium may not return completely once you stop using Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection."

"I don't think my doctor knows about these side effects," adds Thuan. "If not for me going through menopause, I would probably still be taking it and my bones would be even worse."

Depo-Provera and its link to loss of bone mass has been in the news for several years. In January 2010, The New York Times reported on a study (Obstetrics & Gynecology, Jan 2010) that followed women who used a shot of Depo-Provera every three months. Researchers found that 45 percent of the users experienced bone mineral density losses of 5 percent or more in the hip or lower spine.

And a Depo-Provera class action suit against Pfizer Canada was filed in 2005—the first time a Quebec judge certified a contested national class-action claim. (Similar class-action claims in other provinces were suspended.) The claimants are seeking $50 million in punitive damages and compensation depending on the specific injuries suffered by the class members, and the suit is also seeking $250,000 in damages for lead claimant Noelia Brito, a Quebec woman in her forties.

"Even though I've stopped taking the Depo shot, my disease is not over," says Thuan. "I don't know whether I have a case against the maker of Depo-Provera but in the meantime I will continue to take my meds for bone loss and hope it doesn't get worse."

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Reader Comments

Posted by

Seven years on depo this time. My teeth are cracking, I barely hit my tailbone and it broke. Im falling apart this is the worse BC ever, I was never told it was black boxed or given to sexual offenders.. Help

Posted by

Hello I also took the DEPO Shot for 4yrs, and the Ortho Ever a patch after that TILL 2010 When I found out that I was Expecting. Just recently I was Diagnosed with Osteoarthritis,Fibromyalgia,Tendinitis & Bursitis, and still Waiting on the Results of my Blood Work & Exrays . I wish everyone the best

Posted by

I know that since 2011, Depo-Process has to my knowledge came with a black box warning that it causes decreased bone density.

I'm surprised the woman was given calcium. In my experience, my doctor has recommended increased vitamin D consumption and said increased calcium would do me no good, that vitamin D was key. She said this had no scientific backing, merely her personal observation that an increase in vitamin D seems to offset the risk.

I had another doctor tell me that she noticed that Depo-Provera worked best in patients under 130 pounds. She said their is no science backing this claim, just in her many years of administering the shot she has observed that those under 130 pounds seemed to tolerate it the best.

I chose the shot as I am a smoker which makes traditional birth control pills a poor option.

I believe the shot should never be removed from the market for many like me benefit from it. However, more women should be told to educate themselves when it comes to selecting a proper method as such things cannot always be trusted to be told from a doctor.

For starters, many administer Depo-Provera on site, a patient will never see a label. In my case, I had to get a prescription written, go to the pharmacy, and bring my shot in for injection. I was always given a pamphlet with the black box warning on the front so one could not miss it if they do much as looked at it.

No prescription birth control is natural or 100% without health risks. It is very important for a woman to educate herself, weight the cons and pros, and decide herself what method she feels most comfortable with.

Posted by

I started getting the DEPO shots in 1994 I was 34 I stopped taking them 3 years later due to excessive weight gain. I had no pain or bleeding for 3 years so I thought It was a wonder drug until the weight gain. I now have had left and right total hip replacement and will be getting back surgery END of the year...And my knees are bone on bonel. I have irreversible bone loss due to those 3 years on the DEPO SHOT.. I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis ..DO NOT TAKE THIS DRUG......I TOTALLY REGRET IT.....

Posted by

This drug is horrible. Please Ladies do your own research.
I have had terrible side effects. i notice some back pains and
also my hair change from a thick texture to a very fine texture.
i was given one shot at the beginning of January and then another
shot at the end of January 30,2015. This when given is a 150 mg
each dose.i had to use the heating pad every day on my back.
It is now July the 6th 2015 i am still waiting on this shot to wear
off. i also bleed for about five months straight. After all the bad
reports i still believe there is light at the end of the tunnel stay
encourage ladies. Please every one get your stories out there this
drug need to be taken off the market.

Posted by

wow this is crazy, right now im 24 years old and have osteoporosis from depo, i was 19 when i had my son in 2009 and they never told me of this, they only ordered a bone scan after i actually had to start up on them again for missing one and then they realized i had been on for 4 years and i really feel like this is totally unfair and i wonder if i could file a lawsuit now.......?

Posted by

I too, was on depo for 7 years, went every 3 months my husband and I decieded we were ready for another child so I talked to my dr. stopped the shots said it would take up 2 or more years to get pregnant, exactly 1 year later I was pregnant, after delivery I talked about birth control I requested depo and the nurse said no it wasnt good for me cause I was already on it for to long and because I was skinny I would have severe bone loss and have alot of pain, well she was right, its been 7 years and even though I havent been to the doctor for pain or bone problems I know its from the depo. Thr left arm is where i usually got the shot dont know if that is becuase of the location but that is the most affected area of pain, to the point where I cant have it bent and move it up and down, and sleep ha, depo for some for short term is great. too bad I was a human guinea pig. oh well

Posted by

From what I have read of the changes in bone density during Depo-Provera, there is some bone loss initially but it recovers when premenopausal women stop the shots.
However, Thuan was taking Depo-Provera through perimenopause which is normally a time of major bone loss for all women, no matter what they are taking.
Therefore, I think it would be hard to prove that Thuan's current low bone density is due to Depo-Provera.

Also, there is far more to preventing osteoporosis than taking a drug like Actonel--see the "ABCs of Osteoporosis Prevention for Perimenopausal Women" at under "Help Yourself",
I'm sure that, with these strategies, Thuan will regain bone to a level sufficient to prevent a fracture.

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