Send to

Choose Destination
Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Feb;133(2):332-341. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003089.

Side Effects and Health Benefits of Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate: A Systematic Review.

Author information

University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California; the Office of Population Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, Maryland; Social Solutions International's USAID Global Health Support, Initiative-III, Arlington, Virginia; The Ohio State University, College of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology, Columbus, Ohio; and Atlas Research LLC, Washington, DC.



Counseling about potential side effects and health benefits of contraceptive methods could facilitate continued method use and method satisfaction, yet no evidence-based compilation of side effects and benefits exists to aid such counseling. Among contraceptive methods in the United States, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) injectables have the highest discontinuation rates, and most discontinuation is attributable to side effects. This review examines the side effects and health benefits of DMPA to inform counseling.


We searched PubMed, POPLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, Campbell Collaboration Library of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Center Register of Controlled Trials, and


We included English-language studies published from 1985 to 2016 that enrolled healthy, nonbreastfeeding females aged 13-49 years at risk of unintended pregnancy, compared intramuscular or subcutaneous progestin-only injectables to a contemporaneous comparison group, and addressed at least one key question: 1) What side effects are associated with progestin-only injectable contraceptive use? 2) What health benefits are associated with progestin-only injectable contraceptive use? Study quality was assessed using criteria from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.


Twenty-four studies met inclusion criteria. None were randomized controlled trials. There were 13 prospective cohort, five retrospective cohort, four case-control, and two cross-sectional studies. Studies of moderate or high risk of bias suggest an association between DMPA use and weight gain, increased body fat mass, irregular bleeding, and amenorrhea. Inconsistent evidence exists for an association between DMPA use and mood or libido changes. Limited evidence exists for an association between DMPA use and decreased risk of cancers and tubal infertility.


Higher-quality research is needed to clarify DMPA's side effects and benefits. In absence of such evidence, patient-centered counseling should incorporate the available evidence while acknowledging its limitations and recognizing the value of women's lived experiences.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center