Weight gain is one of the more common side effects of using Depo-Provera, a birth control shot. Depending on how much you want to gain, relying on Depo-Provera may not be enough to add pounds to the scale. However, increasing the number of calories in your diet can result in a healthy weight gain.
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Adding high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods to your daily diet can help you gain weight while on Depo-Provera.
What Is Depo-Provera?
Depo-Provera is a brand-name for a contraceptive injection called medroxyprogesterone acetate that is administered every three months by your doctor or health care provider. According to the Mayo Clinic, this birth control shot is given to suppress ovulation, which keeps your ovaries from releasing an egg. It also thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.
Just how effective is Depo-Provera? Well, according to Planned Parenthood, when used perfectly, it is effective in more than 99 percent of people. In other words, 1 out of every 100 people who use the birth control shot will get pregnant every year. That said, many women neglect to get their shot on time, which raises the pregnancy rate to about 6 out of every 100 users.
Many women like Depo-Provera because they don't have to think about taking a pill every day and it only requires a doctor's visit every three months. It's also commonly used if a woman needs or wants to avoid the estrogen that is used in other forms of birth control. And if you have heavy periods, you will likely experience a lighter menstrual blood flow and notice a decrease in menstrual cramps and pain.
The prescribing information sheet provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists several risks associated with using Depo-Provera including loss of bone mineral density, weight gain, cancer risks, depression, convulsions and thromboembolic disorders. While Depo-Provera can help prevent pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Weight Gain and Depo-Provera
Weight gain is one of the more common side effects when using Depo-Provera. If you are eager to gain weight, then you're in luck. When administered every three months, the Food and Drug Administration says the average weight gain for a one-year treatment period with the birth control shot was 5.4 pounds. Those gains went up in year two, with the average gain totaling 8.1 pounds.
For users who complete four years of Depo-Provera, the average weight gain was 13.8 pounds, and after six years of continued treatment, the average net gain was 16.5 pounds. These results are based on a starting weight of 136 pounds.
An August 2016 study review published in the_ Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews_ found that mean weight gain at six or 12 months was less than 4.4 pounds for most studies. And a May 2019 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Medical Research found that the majority of adolescent girls and young women using Depo had no excessive weight gain in six months, but the ones who did were at high risk of gaining even more weight at one year.
If weight gain is your immediate goal, relying on Depo-Provera to do the job may not be your best option. Even if you gain 16.5 pounds, on average, it will take you six years to hit that mark. The good news? If the weight you gain on Depo-Provera is not enough or you're one of the few people that does not gain weight at all, there are other ways to put on a few pounds safely.
But before you head for the kitchen, you may want to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have about your weight. If you are underweight and not sure why there may be an underlying medical cause contributing to the problem.
Read more: Weight Gain Meal Plan for Women
Healthy Methods to Gain Weight
There are a variety of reasons someone may want to gain weight, including athletes wanting to increase muscle mass, older individuals that have unintentionally lost weight or regaining the weight lost due to a medical condition or hospitalization. Additionally, you may want to gain weight to feel better, especially if you are underweight.
While eating tubs of full-fat ice cream and putting butter on everything will result in your weight going up, it's not the healthiest way to go about this process. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says the key to healthy weight gain is eating nutrient-dense foods most of the time, which is the same recommendation for weight loss. The big difference? You'll be eating a lot more calories if you're trying to increase the number on the scale.
But rather than racking up calories via high-fat, sugar-laden, processed foods, the Academy says to focus on food strategies such as using milk for oatmeal rather than water, top foods like chili with concentrated calories such as grated cheese, or spread almond or peanut butter on a whole-grain muffin.
They also suggest liquids before and after meals rather than during, especially if you tend to fill up and not eat as much if you drink too much water or other liquids. Plus, if eating large meals is not your preference, consider smaller meals, several times a day.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Healthy Weight Gain"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Highlights of Prescribing Information"
- Planned Parenthood: "How Effective Is the Birth Control Shot?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Depo-Provera"
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Progestin-Only Contraceptives: Effects on Weight"
- Journal of Clinical and Medical Research: "Prevalence of Documented Excessive Weight Gain Among Adolescent Girls and Young Women Using Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate"
- CDC: Prevalence of Underweight Among Adults