A new study of the popular injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera shows that teenagers bone density recovers after they stop using the drug. Several previous studies have linked Depo-Provera to bone loss, raising concerns about its use among teens, a population in their peak bone-building years.
"These findings are reassuring for those concerned about future risk of fractures," said Delia Scholes, PhD, senior investigator at Group Health Cooperatives Center for Health Studies and the studys lead investigator. "This information can be useful in helping young women balance the need to avoid unintended pregnancies with the need to build strong bones."
Scholes study, which appears in the February 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, is the first to show that teen-aged Depo-Provera users bone loss appears to be reversed once young women stop taking the contraceptive. The findings come less than three months after a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a black box warning on Depo-Provera. The warning states that the drug is associated with bone loss that "may not be completely reversible."
Once the Depo-Provera users stopped getting the injections, however, they gained a significant amount of bone density compared to non-users for the same period. For example:
Uts not clear from studies to date whether other hormonal methods of birth control might affect bone density, Scholes said. She and her colleagues are currently conducting a study of the effect of oral contraceptive use and discontinuation on womens bone density.
Scholes noted that a recent U.S. Surgeon Generals report on bone health and osteoporosis provides a number of steps that teens and young women can take to improve or maintain bone density. The 2004 report recommends:
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