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Depo Provera and Weight Loss

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Q: I’ve been having the Depo Provera contraception injection for the last nine years. Over this time, and despite several diets, I’ve gained 4½ stone. My family planning nurse has told me the weight gain has nothing to do with the injection and I should simply eat less. However, I find it difficult to stick to a diet in the long term as there are times when I feel constantly hungry and I’ve even considered coming off the injection. Should I be trying harder or is the injection a factor?

A: According to the Family Planning Association, the Depo-Provera injection can result in weight gain as the hormone used increases appetite. However, this is not always the case. One study has shown that around two-thirds of women who use Depo Provera contraception gain weight, 20% lose weight, and 10% have no change in their weight. Exactly how much weight is gained varies tremendously but some studies show that almost half of women using Depo Provera gain more than 5lb after one year of use, with some gaining more than 10lb.

Having said this, as your family planning nurse has explained, a continued weight gain amounting to 4½st really can’t be attributed solely to the Depo Provera injection. On average, you have been gaining 7lb a year. It might sound a lot, but in fact, you only need to have 70 calories more than you need each day to put on this amount of weight in a year! And this can easily be done simply by having one biscuit, an extra couple of tablespoons of rice or pasta, a little more muesli or a slightly larger glass of wine each day.

I suggest you use the WLR food diary to record exactly what you are eating and how many calories you’re having each day. After a week, seeing everything listed may help you to work out where you can make some simple changes to your diet – for example, cutting out the odd snack or having slightly smaller portions.

You also need to find ways to control your appetite. The easiest way to do this is to eat regularly and opt for plenty of fibre-rich foods. Choosing carbs with a low glycaemic index will also help to keep blood sugar levels steady with the result that you’ll be less likely to snack.

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