There is a case report linking Depo-Provera with pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), a neurological condition that can cause severe headaches, migraines, loss of vision, hearing problems, and blindness.
What is Depo-Provera?
Depo-Provera is a birth control shot that contains depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), a synthetic version of the female sex hormone progestin. Women receive injections once every three months. This helps prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and making it more difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg.
Pseudotumor Cerebri (PTC)
Pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), which means “false brain tumor,” is a also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). The condition occurs when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull, which puts pressure on the brain and optic nerve. It can lead to permanent blindness.
Case Report Linking Depo-Provera and PTC
One of the first studies linking birth control and PTC was published in 1995, when researchers described 56 cases in women on contraceptives containing levonorgestrel (progestin).
In December 2012, a report funded by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSIS) in the U.K. described a case report linking Depo-Provera and PTC:
“A case report suggested a possible association between use of medroxyprogesterone acetate and idiopathic intracranial hypertension in a 23 year old woman. The woman’s only medication was depot medroxyprogesterone acetate which she had taken only one dose of 2 months prior to presenting with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. She discontinued the method and experienced total resolution of symptoms after the 4th monthly visit.”
Headaches are a common symptom of PTC, but they are also one of the most common side effects of Depo-Provera. In clinical trials, 17% of women on Depo-Provera reported headaches, including migraines.
Headaches from PTC tend to be dull, located at the back of the head, worse in the morning or at night, and grow progressively more constant, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Symptoms of PTC
- Headache (migraines)
- Visual changes
- Sensitivity to light
- Problems with balance and spacial awareness
- Short term memory loss
- Pins and needles or loss of sensation in the hands
- Papilloedema (vision damage caused by pressure on the optic nerve)
- Double-vision or blurry vision
- Hearing problems (tinnitus)
- Ringing in the ears