March 23, 2014

My Journey on Depo Provera - HIT, the Aftermath

Hot gooey chocolate pain

It was my birthday, and along with celebrating another year of existence, I was celebrating a milestone of rebirth: My Deliverance from My Depo Due Date.

It has now been 200 days since my last shot of Depo Provera, and the medication should, according to research, be undetectable in my body. But just because a medication is no longer detectable, does not mean that my body has returned to its previous state. Like some cellular typhoon, Depo Provera has devastated me, slashing receptors and cellular walls, wiping away whole neurotransmitter systems and destroying my endocrine infrastructure.

The typhoon has abated, and I am left sifting through wreckage.

One clear example of the aftermath is the way that I still respond to food. It is, thankfully, better than just 6 months ago. I can eat, and regularly, with little more than hives springing across my shoulders and face, and a tightness in my chest that settles down after a couple hours of rest.

But give me some chocolate and my endocrine system is sent into upheeeeeeeeaval.

Sometimes, for the sake of chocolate, I take my risks, especially when that chocolate comes from Hot Cakes. Oh... lord. It is about half an hour of pure Heaven before the nausea hit me. I made it out of the restaurant and around the block before getting PLOWED with histamine.

"HUUUURP! HUUURRRP!" I gasped, trying to stay upright as my chest caved in with each breath. My partner grabbed my hand and led me to the car. We were on our way to do laundry after a full day of birthday snacking, and I spent the car ride with my eyes squeezed shut, trying not to throw up a day's worth of pastry all over my only remaining clean clothes. Every bump in the road, every deceleration of the car, was like being tossed around on a slingshot after downing a bottle of wine in the carnival parking lot.

Less fun, more crying.
And all of it from my baby shots.

You see, Depo Provera is synthetic progesterone, but with a slightly altered receptor in order to make it patentable. When you receive your shot your body is flooded with progestin, tricking the endocrine system into shutting down natural progesterone production and increasing estrogen production in order to maintain hormonal balance. Unfortunately, because of its altered structure, progestins can not bind to other receptors in the body that rely on progesterone in order to properly function.


Medroxyprogesterone Acetat

And what bodily functions, besides ovulation, rely on progesterone?

The nervous system, including synaptic functioning, memory, and seratonin.
Sleep regulation
Pancreatic function and insulin release.
Anti-inflammatory and immune response.
Mucus regulation.
Bronchial widening.
Gallbladder activity (bile production)
Regulating estrogen (this is a whole world of issues, including histamine regulation)

With all of this increased, unregulated estrogen, your body is put into what's called a state of Estrogen Dominance. And one of the more interesting things that estrogen does is make you randy.

Estrogen acts as a major histamine-releaser, which in turn increases lordosis behavior; or Assuming the Position for Gettin' It On. (Read more here!) This is why ladies often find themselves especially randy shortly before their period. And this is why, as someone who probably had low-grade, undiagnosed Histamine Intolerance (HIT) my whole life, I had a bit of a one-track mind. Not my fault, see? (The Low Histamine Chef provided a great explanation of the estrogen-histamine relationship here.)

Git it.

What this also means is that, with histamine levels already higher-than-normal, my body incapable of breaking down excess histamine at a normal rate, and progestins disrupting my liver's ability to break down carbohydrates and lipids (Liew et al, 1985), any excess histamine added to my body (see: food) results in a histamine overload.

"These results may support previous findings of histamine release by estrogens in uterine tissue but may also reflect an elevated histamine formation. The allergic woman excreted constantly increased amounts of histamine and its metabolites, especially when her allergic symptoms became aggravated pre-menstrually."

Since the 1980's, scientists have warned that women should not remain on Depo Provera for longer than 2 years. Unfortunately, that information has rarely extended beyond the pages of scientific publications, barring a small black box warning added to the packaging in 2005.

Never, have I ever, seen my birth control shot's packaging. 

And for that, I have been sick for 4 years. My ability to eat has been drastically altered, I can no longer run without swelling internally, and my unmedicated sleep cycle has been reduced to about 4-5 restless, itchy hours per night. 

It's like getting hives on every surface of your being, on the cells themselves, and your very blood itches and you would carve out your flesh to make it stop. It has been like this for 4 years, and the itching is the least of my concerns (See: cough, aka simulated drowning).

Pfizer is well aware of the complications of its drug, and the dozens of side-effects that women have endured. Yet this shot continues to be given to women. It continues to be spread around the world. And it continues to be aimed at women of color in poor, resource-scarce settings.

And with my every gasping breath, I will continue to fight against it.


  1. Enjoyed your post! Good to learn about the interaction between histamine and estrogen. Nice writing!

    1. Thank you, I'm so glad that you found it helpful! I hope that I can help other women make the same connection if they're suffering the same as I have been the past few years.


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