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Depo Provera Increases Chance of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea

Women who use the injected contraceptive Depo-Provera have a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases, U.S. researchers [National Institutes of Health, UNC, and Johns Hopkins Univ in Baltimore] reported. This holds true even when behavior and other factors are taken into account.

It is possible that Depo-Provera itself causes a susceptibility to STDs [Charles Morrison of Family Health Int’l in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who led the study]. “We did adjust for differences in condom use, differences in multiple partners, differences in the number of sexual coital acts,” Morrison said. Inner-city and younger women also had a higher risk of STDs, but using Depo-Provera added to the risk, the study found.

Morrison said the researchers were especially concerned because Depo-Provera or its generic equivalent are being increasingly used in Africa, where STDs such as the AIDS virus are very common.

He said women who use Depo-Provera to prevent pregnancy should take extra care if they are in relationships in which either they or their partner have sex with other people. Like birth control pills, Depo-Provera provides no protection from an infection such as syphilis, gonorrhea or the AIDS virus.

“For sexually active women not in a mutually monogamous relationship, limiting the number of partners may also help to reduce the risk,” Morrison added. [Abstinence from all sexual activity would eliminate the risk, provided people also avoid IV drug use.]

The researchers studied about 800 women age 15 to 45 using two clinics in the Baltimore area — one urban, serving mostly black women, and one suburban with a client base of white, college-age women. Most were single. The women chose whether they wanted to use Depo-Provera, contraceptive pills, or a non-hormonal contraceptive method.

After a year, 45 women had become infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea. The women using the injected contraceptive were three times as likely to have one of the STDs, the researchers said.

Because there were different numbers of women in each group, the researchers calculated risk of infection by “women-years” — how many women became infected in the space of a year. The risk for women taking oral contraceptives was 3.9 infections per 100 women-years, 13.7 infections per 100 women-years in the Depo-Provera group and 6 infections per 100 women-years in the women using condoms, diaphragms or other non-drug birth control methods.

Morrison said although it appeared from looking at the bare numbers that the pill group had the lowest risk, in fact when other factors were considered, their [the pill group] risk of STDs was about the same as the women who did not use hormonal contraception.

Depo-Provera is made by Pfizer Inc. and last month Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. won U.S. approval for a generic version [Reuters].
[Comments: This is actually the second time contraception promoters — who dismiss chastity supporters as “unrealistic” and even “dangerous” — have found that artificial contraceptives have led to more STDs. In the 1990s, nonoxynol-9, a spermicide that was also widely used in condoms, was given to African prostitutes as part of an AIDS study and researchers were surprised when this actually increased the chances of getting AIDS. Not surprising, since the drug often causes vaginal irritation and thus makes it easier to contract an infection. (See “AIDS Study Prompts New Look at Prevention Nonoxynol 9”, online at:

In addition and despite this article’s defense of the birth control Pill, there is evidence that even the Pill may increase STDs, especially if it causes vaginal thinning. (See: “Do Hormonals Affect STI Risks?”, online at:
 All of this is not good news for Planned Parenthood and other groups promoting abortion and contraception whose support of “sexual freedom” is based on the alleged ability of technology to prevent pregnancy and disease. [N Valko RN]  [ Sept. 1, 2004 WASHINGTON; September 04 issue journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases]