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MSU study finds common birth control medication linked to increased blood lead levels

A range of contraceptive methods: DMPA, vaginal ring, IUD, and pills
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

A new Michigan State University study finds a common form of birth control may increase blood lead levels in women.

Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate, or DMPA) is a brand name for an injectable form of birth control.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved DMPA for birth control in 1992, and one in five sexually active women in the U. S. have used it. A single injection provides three months of contraceptive coverage to prevent pregnancy. Worldwide, some 74 million women use injectable contraception.

MSU researchers say women who use Depo-Provera have 18% higher levels of lead in their blood on average than women who don’t.

“We currently do not know how an 18% increase in blood lead levels translates in terms of adverse health effects,” says Kristen Upson, the lead author of the study, “What we do know is that there is widespread scientific contention there are no safe blood lead levels.”

The study finds a side effect of the medication is the loss of bone density. It is estimated that 90% of lead that enters the body is stored in the bones.  The bone loss is the source of the lead.

The study appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

It included 1,548 African American women participating in research to learn more about the development of uterine fibroids, a condition that disproportionately affects African American women.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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