National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

An Analysis of Depo-Provera

BY Jim Cosgrove

April 12-18, 1998 Issue | Posted 4/12/98 at 1:00 AM

 

Depo-Provera is an injectable contraceptive that also has abortifacient characteristics. Its active ingredient is depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone, originally developed for the treatment of uterine cancer in the 1950s. A woman receives 150 milligrams of DMPA via deep intramuscular injection every three months.

Depo-Provera was approved for use in the United States in October 1992. However, in June of 1993, Canada's Department of Heath and Welfare prohibited the use of DepoProvera, saying that the drug does not meet Canadian safety standards as a contraceptive.

The drug is now available in more than 90 countries and is particularly popular in Indonesia, Jamaica, Thailand, Kenya, and New Zealand.

The manufacturer, Upjohn, extensively tested DepoProvera on Third World women before submitting it to the FDA for approval. The World Health Organization (WHO) used Depo-Provera on more than 11,000 women in Kenya, Mexico, and Thailand.

According to Upjohn's information pamphlet, DepoProvera:

l “[has a] contraceptive effect produced by inhibiting the secretion of gonadotropins (FSH, LH), which prevents follicular maturation and ovulation [and]

l suppresses the endometrium [the mucous membrane lining the uterus] and changes cervical mucus.’

Many women's menstrual cycles continue when using Depo-Provera: 43% after 12 months and 32% after 24 months. This data shows that the compound does not completely suppress ovulation in a large percentage of women who use Depo-Provera.

Contraceptive Technology confirms that Depo-Provera has a triphasic (three-way) action. It inhibits ovulation and thickens cervical mucus (which are both contraceptive actions), but it also alters the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) so that its degree of receptivity to the blastocyst (very early developing human being) is significantly decreased. According to Contraceptive Technology, “Other contraceptive actions include the development of a shallow and atrophic [thinning] endometrium….’

When Depo-Provera works in this way, it is an abortifacient. Upjohn's information pamphlet also lists more than 60 adverse reactions suffered by various percentages of women who use the compound.

Women on Depo-Provera report an average weight gain of 5.4 pounds in the first year and 16.5 pounds over six years. Depo-Provera users commonly also experience osteoporosis (loss of bone mass). Some users suffer jaundice, a decrease in glucose tolerance, and convulsions.

In women who have used Depo-Provera for the first time within the last four years, and who are under 35 years of age, the risk of breast cancer increases 129%. There appears to be no increased risk of ovarian, liver, or cervical cancer.

Source: The Facts of Life: An Authoritative Guide to Life and Family Issues, by Brian Clowes PhD (Human Life International, Front Royal, Va.). Reprinted with permission.