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How Does Medroxyprogesterone Work?

Medroxyprogesterone is a synthetic form of progesterone, a progestin hormone. It works by replacing progesterone when the body is not making enough of it.
When medroxyprogesterone is given for several days and then stopped, vaginal bleeding occurs. This bleeding is called "withdrawal bleeding" because it happens in response to the withdrawal of progestin.
Withdrawal bleeding usually occurs three to seven days after the medroxyprogesterone is stopped. The drop in progestin levels causes the uterine lining (the endometrium) to slough off and bleed. This can help restore regular periods in women who have been having irregular periods or no periods at all.
Giving estrogens without a progestin to postmenopausal women can increase the risk of cancer of the lining of the uterus. This only applies to women who still have a uterus (who have not had a hysterectomy). Medroxyprogesterone use helps to decrease the risk of uterine cancer by preventing an overgrowth of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), which may lead to cancer.
Injectable forms of medroxyprogesterone are used to prevent pregnancy primarily by preventing ovulation (a release of an egg from the ovary). When used at the recommended dose, the oral forms do not prevent ovulation.

Can Children Use It?

Medroxyprogesterone is not approved for use in young children, and has not been adequately studied in this group. The injections are approved for use in adolescents who have had their first menstrual cycle. However, the drug may have adverse effects on bone health when used during adolescence and early adulthood. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the particular benefits and risks of using medroxyprogesterone in children.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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