January 16, 2014

My Journey on Depo Provera, Part 3 of 3

August 7, 2013

I'm a month and a half late for my birth control shot, and accidentally making babies is heavy on my mind. I'm spotting and crampy, though for some reason my breathing has become a bit easier in the past two weeks. I've been frantically searching the internet to find out whether my level of panic is on par with the level of risk that my birth control is no longer functioning. "Please oh please oh please no babies no babies no babies..." I was thinking as I skim the first few websites.

Planned Parenthood gives me this chipper information: "Safe! Effective! Lasts three months!"

WebMD tells me: "99% effective!" (Yay!) But they add in this piece of information that gives me pause:

Don't use if you have:
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding 
  • Liver disease 
  • Breast cancer 
  • Blood clots
"Hmm..." I think, pondering why this medication may make these conditions appear or worsen.

And then, several links down, I come across this warning for the first time:

Women who use Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection may lose significant bone mineral density. Bone loss is greater with increasing duration of use and may not be completely reversible... Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection should not be used longer than 2 years unless other birth control methods are considered inadequate.

I'd been on it for almost 4.

Know what else causes bone loss? Menopause. Which is a lot like being on Depo...

When I finally got in to see my new doc, I asked him about this, and he assured me I'd be fine. "Take your calcium, you're not at risk," he said as he grabbed an assistant to give me my shot.

Oh, okay. Of course. I will be the magical exception, I believed. I pulled down my pants, relaxed my butt, and took that shot in my ass for what would be the upending, final shot of my life.

I run my race that weekend. I cough and hack and pout and hug my boyfriend and make it through that beautiful, lung-breaking run, and spend the rest of the weekend doped up on antihistamines.

A few days later, my guy starts to put all the clues together.

August 12, 2013

"Honey, come here! Look at this chart! I think I know what's wrong with you!"

It's 1:00 am, and my beloved is steadfastly researching what has been keeping me in bed the past few days, wrestling with my collapsing lungs, hives, and bewildering insomnia. I crawl out of bed and into the living room, where, on the screen on my love's computer, I see a chart of every single symptom I have been experiencing for the past few years, one piled on top of the other as time passed.

"Jesus!" I try to scream, but my throat is too swollen shut for anything more than raspy squeaking. "It's me, it's all me!"

"Honey, I think you have histamine intolerance."

"Yeah, but... why?"

A couple of days later, Jeff has my answer.

August 15, 2013

"Honey, when did you start your birth control?"

"My Depo? Pffft, pshht, there's no connection there. This started way before my Depo."

"Oh, hmm, okay, well, it may contribute because there's something here about a connection between estrogen and histamine and it could be key to your cause."

I guffawed a few more times, and then after several more sleepless nights, foodless days, and near-breakdowns at work, I start to wonder if my memory isn't quite serving me right. Thanks to the fact that the past few years of my life are fully documented on Facebook, email, blogs, Twitter, and various other online services, I start to piece the timeline of my cough together. And I suddenly realize, "Holy SHIT. He's RIGHT!" My cough had started within days of my Depo, but because of an inconveniently timed broken rib, I'd never made the connection.

And I'd just had my damn shot.

Fall, 2013

My brain has fallen apart. Between coughing and a new histamine-related side effect, insomnia, and the anti-histamines I'm taking to counteract the coughing and GI issues and endless symptoms, I come to work seeming, at best, gassy and somewhat drunk; at worse, suffering from sudden early-onset dementia.

"I swear I'm not drunk," I keep telling my new boss, praying that her alternative conclusion isn't that I'm simply kind of dumb. I'm working in Chinatown and have thus far avoided eating during the entirety of the work day. The one time I break down and get lunch, my throat, lungs, lips, and tongue swell up so badly that I almost stop breathing.

That night I direct the Children's Autumn Moon Festival, whispering to my volunteers across the shrieks of screaming, blissful children. Thanks to the last-minute, machine-like support of my amazing co-workers, the festival goes off without (many noticeable) issues, but I'm physically drained and sleep for most of the next few days.

According to the National Institute of Health, the half-life for Depo Provera is 50 days, with a peak of 3 weeks and exponentially decreasing until being undetectable after about 200 days. I begin my countdown to freedom.

My release date from my body is early March, 2014. 

Winter, 2014

Miraculously, my healing seems to be on track. My symptoms are getting less intense as time goes by, though I still have a hard time breathing when I walk, and my lungs often sing to me in a soft whistle as I sit at my computer and type. I'm still exhausted, feel bloated and dizzy after meals, have days, weeks, where it's hard to concentrate, but the full-fledged anaphylactic reactions are ebbing. My research has turned up a lot of connections between histamine and Depo, and I suspect that my endocrine system has been shot from years of hormonal suppression from my birth control.

My new gynecologist, or as I like to call her, My Hero, agrees with my Depo-Histamine theory, and I could kiss her lovely, fashionably bespectacled face for 1.) listening to me without visible judgement, and 2.) verifying that all of the connections I've made are completely plausible.

"Depo is my last choice for birth control, ever. There are horrible side effects." You can say that again, lady doctor.

Getting my endocrine system back on track is going to be a much longer and messier bodily-prison sentence, entirely.

*If you have had side effects from Depo, or have successfully come off of it and want to give me some pointers, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. Support from others who've gone through this (and the support of my guy) help get me through this.


  1. I only had two shots and got a fever blister every week for nine months. Tell me there's not a connection thee.r

    1. So many weird side effects! I hope you're feeling better now. Depo is such a huge health gamble.

  2. I'm so sorry you went through all of that! I did suffer side effects, but nothing like that. Good news is that after a little over a year, it was all out of my system. Best wishes!

    1. That's great news!. So glad that you're feeling better!

  3. hi there

    i had the deep in april this year and had another in july - i have had the worst intolerances to almost everything until now - its been 6 months since my last injection and i am certain that it was the deep that caused my high histamine intolerance. i am going for an allergy test in the uk where i live on the 20th of jan - but i am hoping that within the year ---my symptoms will subside - i was hoping that you might be able to advice on some histamine reducing food supplements ? did you take them? i am back on the pill which i think is still heightening my levels of histamine - but am getting the coil on friday this week - that depo is truly terrible !

    1. Hi Carol Grace!

      I'm so sorry to hear that you aren't well. Hopefully I can offer a glimmer of hope: My last shot was the summer of 2013, and every single month I get weak and sick around the time of my period, only to bounce back a bit stronger every time. By this past summer, I was biking 30 miles round trip to work and back, and last week I ran my first 10k after years of barely slogging out a couple of miles--if I was lucky enough to even be able to get off of the couch.

      I will say that birth control pills also gave me a bad reaction: itching, cloudy head, eye twitch, emotional roller coaster, insomnia. At the time I thought it was related to stress from living in the Middle East and my brother developing schizophrenia. Looking back, I realize the onset of symptoms directly correlated with getting on/off the pill. If only I'd realized back then that my body does NOT handle hormonal birth control!

      About your question, I wish I could offer some magic solution. I never did find a supplement that worked well for me; I just had to wait it out until my endocrine system recovered from the hormonal H Bomb I dropped on it. However, I've read that people with mast cell disorders have had great luck with Khlella extract, or Cromoglicic acid:



      Check out this gal's page for lots of suggestions:


      I sure do hope you're feeling better soon!!!


I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!