May 29th, 2022

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Pharmacokinetics of Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate Contraception
Authors:  Daniel R. Mishell, Jr., M.D.
  Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) is an aqueous suspension of 17-acetoxy 6-methyl progestin administered by intramuscular injection for long-term contraception. This highly effective injectable formulation of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) has a prolonged duration of action since the progestin is released slowly from the muscle. MPA is detected in the serum within 30 minutes after an injection of 150 mg. Serum concentrations vary between individual women but generally plateau at about 1.0 ng/mL for about three months, after which there is a gradual decline. In some women, MPA can be detected in the serum for as long as nine months after a single injection of 150 mg. The circulating MPA initially inhibits the midcycle leutinizing hormone (LH) peak, but LH and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels remain in the range of those for the luteal phase of a pretreatment control cycle. Since ovulation is inhibited, serum progesterone levels remain low (<0.4 ng/mL) for several months following an injection of DMPA. When MPA levels fall below 0.1 ng/mL, ovulation resumes. Thus, return to fertility is delayed for several months if a woman wishes to conceive after receiving one or more injections of DMPA. Following an injection of DMPA, serum estradiol levels initially are in the early to midfollicular phase range (mean approximately 50 pg/nL). Serum estradiol levels begin to rise about four months after a single injection when MPA levels fall below 0.5 ng/mL. For women who have used DMPA for several years, serum estradiol levels range between 10 and 92 pg/mL, with mean levels of about 40 pg/mL. Despite these low levels of estradiol, hot flushes are a rare event, and the vaginal epithelium remains moist and well rugated. Women using DMPA for several years do not observe a change in breast size. DMPA causes the endometrium to become atrophic, with small, straight endometrial glands and decidualized stroma. The cervical mucus remains thick and viscid. DMPA is a very effective form of contraception because of its multiple mechanisms of action and slow release into the circulation. (J Reprod Med [suppl] 1996;41:381-390)
Keywords:  depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate; DMPA; contraception; injectable contraception; pharmacokinetics; pharmacodynamics; estradiol; ovulation; fertility
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