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Progestin for Abnormal Uterine Bleeding

Examples

Progestins, synthetic versions of the hormone progesterone, are used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding. They are given either as high-dose progestin pills or in the form of birth control pills.

Oral (pill)

Generic Name Brand Name
medroxyprogesterone Provera
norethindrone Aygestin, Micronor, Modicon, Norethin
progesterone Prometrium

The levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) is also a progestin treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding. This type of IUD continually releases levonorgestrel, a form of progesterone, into the uterus.

How It Works

Progestins prevent overgrowth of the endometrium. This helps prevent abnormal uterine bleeding. (Heavy bleeding is often the product of irregular breakdown of an overgrown endometrium.) In teens and women who aren't ovulating regularly, progestins help restore a predictable monthly menstrual period.

You usually take progestins 10 to 12 days every month.

Why It Is Used

Progestins are used to treat irregular menstrual periods when no other uterine disease is present. They are mainly used to restore hormonal balance and normal menstrual bleeding in teens and women who aren't ovulating. Also, they are helpful for some ovulating women with irregular menstrual bleeding.1

A levonorgestrel intrauterine device (IUD) or a combination estrogen-progestin birth control pill is a better choice for women who want to prevent pregnancy.

How Well It Works

Progestin therapy effectiveness varies with the type of abnormal uterine bleeding treated and the dosage and timing of treatment.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Absence of menstrual bleeding (amenorrhea).
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as irregular spotting to light vaginal bleeding.
  • Abdominal (belly) pain.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Mood changes.
  • Swelling of face, ankles, or feet.
  • Weight gain.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Lobo RA (2007). Abnormal uterine bleeding: Ovulatory and anovulatory dysfunctional uterine bleeding, management of acute and chronic excessive bleeding. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 915–931. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised September 17, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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