Depo Provera makes birth control a hands-off experience for women who have trouble remembering to take daily pills. The quarterly injections are just as effective as other forms of hormonal birth control, and many women enjoy the convenience of not thinking about birth control on a regular basis. Still, Depo Provera is not free of side effects. For some women, these effects are mild, but for others, they're serious enough to warrant stopping the injections. Once you stop taking the injections, side effects can still occur or can result specifically from stopping the medication.
Depo shots interfere with your menstrual cycles in big ways, according to Robert A. Hatcher, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine. This is a deciding factor for some women because a common side effect of the shot is that menstruation stops altogether. For other women, however, spotting, heavy and irregular bleeding occur as a result of Depo Provera. Once you stop taking the shot, these menstrual irregularities can persist. Hatcher notes that you can take medications to manage irregular bleeding conditions if your irregularities are too problematic. Complete menstrual regularity may not return for up to 18 months, according to the Center for Young Women's Health (CYWH).
Prolonged Side Effects
Depo stays in your body for three months. If you have a bad reaction or a rare allergy to the shot, you can't stop taking it in the same way you can stop other contraceptives. It takes a minimum of three months for the medicine to work its way out of your body. Women who stop the shot due to complications can expect these complications to remain until the current course ends. For some women, negative side effects of the shot persist slightly longer or until normal menstrual cycles resume, meaning up to 18 months.
If you are stopping the shot in an attempt to get pregnant, you'll need to plan ahead. It can takes anywhere from 6 to 10 months to regain normal fertility, according to CYWH. Some women are able to regain normal cycles 13 weeks after receiving the last shot, but for many women it takes longer. Most women do regain complete fertility.
Return of Menstrual Complications
Doctors recommend the shot to treat a wide variety of menstrual complaints, from endometriosis to dysmenorrhea. Because it often suppresses menstruation, women with these painful menstrual complications find relief by taking Depo Provera. When these women stop taking the shot, symptoms of their conditions will return and they'll need to find other methods of managing them.
Improved Bone Density
Women, especially teens and young women, can lose bone density while on Depo Provera, according to CYWH. This has serious implications for girls between 11 and 15, who are at a critical point in bone density development. Women and girls who stopped the shot were able to stop and reversed this bone loss. Manufacturers of the shot recommend a women be menstruating for at least two years before getting the shot to allow for this initial spurt in bone density gain.