The Multinational Monitor

FEBRUARY / MARCH, 1985 - VOLUME 6 - NUMBERS 2 & 3


T H E   C A S E   A G A I N S T   D E P O - P R O V E R A

Victims

Experiences of Some Women Who Took Depo-Provera

"In early 1974 my doctor asked me to try a new contraceptive -- a shot every three months. I agreed to try it, and he gave me the shot. The nurse told me the name of the drug, Depo--Provera. Later, when I didn't have a period, I was concerned and called the doctor's office. The nurse said that this happened sometimes. When I went back to receive the second shot, I asked the doctor about not having a period. He said it wouldn't hurt me; I was never told that this is a normal effect of the drug.

"After the second shot, though, I started experiencing what seemed like symptoms of pregnancy-a swollen stomach, nausea, and nervousness. I went to the doctor, but he said not to worry and gave me some tranquilizers.

"I then went to see a psychoanalyst because of the depression I had started feeling along with the other symptoms. He told me that he thought Depo--Provera was experimental and that it caused sterility. When I asked my doctor about that, he said, `Well, you don't want children anyway, do you?'

"I received one more shot, but because the symptoms were continuing, I decided not to take the drug any longer. When I asked the doctor about another form of birth control, he said that I wouldn't need it, since I was probably sterile.

"In January 1976, I had not taken Depo--Provera for almost a year. During this time, I hadn't had a period or used any birth control. I began to experience symptoms of pregnancy, but the doctor told me it was impossible since I had taken Depo--Provera up to the year before. I went to another doctor who confirmed that I was pregnant. When the pregnancy was three or four months along, I started to bleed heavily. This doctor was afraid I'd have a miscarriage, so he gave me Provera pills. The bleeding stopped. Then when I was about seven months pregnant, I started to bleed sporadically, and my doctor told me to resume taking the Provera pills.

"When my baby was born in October 1976, she was bleeding from the vagina as if she was having a period. Her breasts were enlarged and she had a brown line from her umbilicus to her vagina, just like a pregnant woman sometimes gets. Since then her breasts have decreased, but she still has a trace of the brown line.

"Today, I'm still not experiencing a normal menstrual cycle. If I had known that the drug caused cancer in animals or that it wasn't approved for contraceptive use by the FDA, I would never have taken it. I feel like I was used as a human guinea pig

- From a statement of a 27-year
old California woman, in an affidavit
taken by the Institute for the
Study of Medical Ethics

"I suppose I'm lucky to have two children, but I wonder, if I'd never had an injection of Depo--Provera, whether by now we would have the four children we always wanted.

"Our first child, a boy, was born in 1968. In 1970 we had a girl. We had previously decided to have two children at first, and to have two more when the first were about six and four years old. In 1972, after several bouts with vaginal yeast infections, my doctor suggested that I stop using oral contraceptives and instead take Depo--Provera. (He knew full well our family wasn't complete.) After two injections at three-month intervals, I decided not to use it anymore, since I didn't like the idea of not having a period (I didn't menstruate for nearly 11 months), and since I was gaining too much weight.

"After those two injections we used no form of contraceptive, and began planning for a third baby. But weeks, months, and then eventually years went by, and still I couldn't get pregnant. In 1974, after a year of very heavy, almost continual bleeding, I was referred to a gynecologist who suggested a dilation and curettage. This was carried out. At the same time, a sperm test from my husband came out positive, and a check for blockages in my tubes was negative.

"In 1975, 1 was admitted to a hospital for another D&C. By this time, my gynecologist, judging by the results of the D&C and my very enlarged uterus, suggested that my chances of becoming pregnant were extremely slim, and that I should have a hysterectomy to stop the painful bleeding. The hysterectomy was carried out when I was 29 years old."


"I am now enjoying good health for the first time in six years, after just having had a hysterectomy.

"I went on Depo--Provera after the birth of twins. I had been refused a tube tie, even though I already had four children. When I took the Depo--Provera. I wasn't told about any side effects; I had the injection simply because I couldn't afford any more children.

"For the three years I was on the drug, I never had a period-not even spotting. I was advised to stop taking it because of weight gain and serious depression. Then the bleeding started. If I bathed, ran, swam, had intercourse. or in any way exerted myself, extremely heavy bleeding would follow. When the bleeding stopped, I would get infections. I practically lived at the doctors', and had many internal examinations-which showed nothing.

"I was then prescribed hormones, and had a D&C, which helped for a few weeks. But then the bleeding and infections started up for another 12 months. When the problem became worse, I was finally placed on a waiting list for a hysterectomy, which I had five weeks ago. I am 26 years old. At the hospital I was told that there was no reason I should have been having these problems -it was simply that my brain's signals to the ovaries were messed up. "w

- Both adapted from letters from
New Zealand women to the
Campaign against Depo


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