Stephanie’s Story – Depo Injection
Back in November of 1998 at the young age of 15, I began receiving Depo Provera injections every 12 weeks in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy. I was an active, high school soccer player who had her whole life ahead of her. If only I had known then what I know now about what was being injected into my body I truly feel my life would be SO different.
Not only did I gain 10lbs in the first year I took the medication, looking back, my personality changed as well. I was anxious, angry, depressed and felt as though I had pretty much lost my mind. With these changes happening gradually and being so young no one ever put the connection together that Depo was making me this way. I spent 7 years of my adolescences destroying my body with a medication I was told was safe to use and came marketed as highly recommended for young, active teenage girls due to the ease of use of the medication and not having to take it every day.
A black box warning was placed on Depo Provera on November 18, 2004 warning consumers that long term use of the medication causes severe possible irreversible bone loss and Osteoporosis especially with long term use of the product. I was 22 years old at the time and had already been taking the medicine for WAY longer than the manufacturers were now recommending. I did not find out about this black box warning until I returned to my OBGYN’s in August of 2006 where it was recommended, I take a calcium supplement. I had already stopped taking Depo since I was no longer sexually active but I had also suffered my first major injury, a fractured Calcaneus heel in a minor car accident.
My next visit to the OB was for abnormal vaginal bleeding after discontinuing Depo. I complained of heavy bleeding for 5 months prior since stopping Depo… My body basically went from having no period at all for 7 years to hemorrhaging blood for 5 months straight.
About 2 years after the injury to my foot I was again hit with another major devastating injury. I decided to play in an adult soccer league. I had played my whole life growing up before I began taking Depo so it felt good to get back on the field. I had never been hurt in the 10 years prior that I had played. Roughly 20 seconds after the game started, I stepped into a small divot in the ground and I heard my leg snap. Three reconstructive surgeries and nine months on crutches later, my fractured Tibial plateau was healing and I was finally back on my feet. Still being so young the connection between my injuries and Depo Provera would take many more years to make.
In 2009, I broke my wrist slipping down one stair from a standing position. The fall was so minor that no one believed my wrist was possibly broken. I waited over 24 hours to go to Urgent Care only to find out I had fractured both my radius and ulna…
My next devastating blow was in September 2016. With absolutely no warning or prior issues at all I bit into a chip that poked a hole in my bottom gums causing unrelenting pain. The next morning, I was waiting at the dentist office for them to open in horrifying pain. After a quick exam and x-rays I was told I needed emergent root canals and was sent to an Endodontist immediately. Once there I found out there was a hole in my jaw bone the size of a thumb. You could basically put your finger through my jaw. Mind you, I have never had anything more than a cavity and braces as a child. I had never had any issues with my teeth, ever! Once it was established I was missing so much jaw bone, I was rushed to a Periodontist. Within seconds of sitting down in his chair I had lost 2 of my bottom front teeth. I would now require multiple bone grafts and surgical implants to have teeth again. I. was. Devastated. How??? How did I just randomly, out of the blue lose my teeth at 34 years old? I then had to have an additional tooth extracted a week later due to the damage before being able to begin the long journey to having teeth again. I spent an entire year missing my 3 front teeth, waiting for the bone grafts to heal before I finally got permanent implants.
In the back of my mind, I have always questioned why do all of these injuries keep happening to me? They have all been so different in nature but the one thing that was common about all of them, they all involved my bones in some way or another. I had never been told to have a DEXA scan or would have even thought it were something I should have done. I was a young otherwise healthy women in her 30’s. Looking back I should have had one right when I found out about the black box warning.
I became pregnant for the first time in 2019 and both mom and baby were happy and healthy until about my 28th week. I am a Registered Nurse and began having issues with what I thought was sciatica in my right leg from being on my feet all day. It was recommended by my OBGYN I see a Chiropractor to help with my back/leg pain. At my third office visit, the Chiropractor yanked my left leg so hard I knew instantly something was really wrong. I was reassured that the pain I was feeling was normal after a chiropractic adjustment and I would feel better in a few days. I was physically assisted out of my appointment and from that point on I could not walk….for the next 6 months.
A few days after my injury at the Chiropractor, I went to an Orthopedic urgent care in excruciating pain, unable to walk and on crutches only to be told it’s all from the weight of the baby and there was nothing they could do for me because I was pregnant. For the next 2 months of my pregnancy, I sat awake in a chair, for 24 hours a day, in absolutely horrific pain and every doctor I went to (which was almost weekly at this point) basically brushed me off and made me feel like it was the weight I had gained and the position of the baby. I had only gained 26lbs and had an anterior placenta. It didn’t make sense but who was I to question all these doctors.
At 37 weeks pregnant, still on crutches I went into labor. I was terrified because I knew my hip was broken even though no one else would listen to me but I also knew I now had to give birth with an untreated, undiagnosed broken hip… Once admitted to L&D, my OBGYN saw that I was still on crutches and ordered an MRI to be performed on my hip as soon as the baby was born. I went on to have an epidural and a successful, vaginal delivery (I just held on to my broken leg the entire time). Almost immediately after my son made his entrance into this world, I was asking for an MRI. I needed answers. What was wrong with my hip?? Why couldn’t I walk?? Unfortunately, my cries fell on deaf ears. I was refused an MRI due to Covid and would have to wait another 6 weeks to find out what was wrong with me. I was then discharged from the hospital 24 hours after giving birth, on crutches, unable to walk, in excruciating pain WITH a newborn and no answers. I was terrified!!
Adjusting to life at home unable to walk, with a newborn was rough but we finally got into a routine. I was successfully breastfeeding my son. He was sleeping a few hours at a time so we could rest but the pain continued unchanged in my hip so again I went to Urgent Care. This would be the first images taken of my hip since my injury 3 months prior. I was told my pelvic changes were due to giving birth and I should begin to heal soon. I went home frustrated and in agony. I waited another couple of weeks and went to another Orthopedic doctor in hopes to finally get some answers. I was then told I have avascular necrosis of my left hip. This meant my left hip joint was basically without blood flow and was dying. I was absolutely SHOCKED!!
I was FINALLY ordered an MRI that day that proved I did not have avascular necrosis but I actually had injuries associated with a fractured acetabulum. My heart sank. Finally, someone listened to me! My leg had been hanging out of the socket for almost 3 months at this point and no one cared. Not one doctor I went to. I had seen 4 different doctors before this all for the same injury. I had also been to my OBGYN almost weekly, unable to walk and in horrific pain and NO. ONE. CARED.
The orthopedic doctor who diagnosed my hip fracture ordered my first DEXA scan. My results were shocking. I had a Z-score of -2.4 in my left femoral neck and showed osteopenia at all other measured sites. So not only did I have a fractured hip but I also now had Osteoporosis and a 6 week old baby.
This sent me on a search for answers. Why did this happen to me?? How did this happen to me? If this happened to me clearly, I can’t be the only one. The information I have found since my search began about the dangers of Depo Provera has been sickening. This poison has injured THOUSANDS of women and yet it is openly administered to young, unsuspecting women daily all over the world.
Who the heck at 15 years old understands what Osteoporosis is or what not having a period can do to your body? Depo Provera was marketed to me as a wonderful way to protect against pregnancy and to be able to not have to deal with my period! What teenage girl would say no to not having a period?? Especially, if it is recommended by their doctor?
Many states participate with the Learned Intermediate Doctrine, which means the manufacturer of a medications job to warn the consumers of the adverse risks of using their products ultimately falls on the doctors that prescribe them. This is wrong in so many ways!! There is so much information that is skewed or mislead to the public, it should be the manufacture who is ultimately responsible for making sure all consumers, prescribing physicians and patients alike, are fully aware of the potential harm their products could do to any consumer. They are the ones who are fully educated on what their product does, how it works and the mechanism of action it takes on the body. The latent day individual does not have that knowledge and they are likely the ones that who would suffer in the long run.
If only I had known then what I know now maybe I would not be a disabled, registered nurse at the young age of 38 years old after becoming a mother for the first time. I feel like I waited my whole life to bring a child into this world only to be devastated by the effects Depo Provera has had on my body, yet again. I may have lost my career and the majority of my physical strength but I have not lost my drive to fight for myself and the thousands of other women who have had their bodies destroyed by this medication!!!
Submitted on December 9, 2021