Doc: Heavy period after Provera a normal response

Dr. Roach
To Your Health

Dear Dr. Roach: My cousin is having irregular periods. Her last one was three months ago. She was given Provera for 10 days to help, but after she stopped it, she had a very heavy period. Is that normal?


Dear T.R.: Provera is a brand of a type of progesterone, a female hormone. This hormone is high in early pregnancy: It promotes retention of the thick lining of the uterus, giving the developing embryo a place to develop, and preventing menstruation, the shedding of the lining of the uterus that normally takes place every month (or so) when a woman is not pregnant.

Some women have irregular periods, and this isn’t necessarily abnormal. One test that women’s health specialists do if concerned about irregular periods (after ruling out pregnancy) is to give a patient 10 mg of medroxyprogesterone (Provera) for 10 days, then stop. When levels of progesterone go down, the body “realizes” it isn’t pregnant, and will shed the thick lining of the uterus. That is the normal response. This period may be heavy if the lining had been there for three months.

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 55-year-old woman. I have a leg with atrophied muscles due to having meningitis as a child. Consequently, I fall a lot. I fell and broke my wrist recently, and last year I broke my foot. I had a scan done for osteoporosis, and my T-score was -2.5. The doctor suggested I start medication for osteoporosis. I am hesitant to take such medication due to side effects. Does the number warrant taking medication?


Dear T.C.: The T-score is a statistical measure of how a person’s bone density compares with a normal, healthy young person of peak bone mass. Someone with higher-than-average bone density will have a positive score: A score of less bone density will be negative. A T-score below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis, so you are just at the border. However, that still puts you at greater risk for fractures, and a history of wrist fracture (even with a fall) means more risk of future fracture than someone with the same T-score and no previous fracture. Treatment is appropriate for a score this low, but that does not necessarily mean medication is the starting point for all people.

Initial treatment should include adequate calcium and vitamin D intake. There are few good food sources; vitamin D is mostly made in the skin, and only with adequate sunlight.

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