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Injectable contraceptives

Injectable long-acting contraceptives offers users convenient, safe, and reversible birth control as effective as surgical sterilization. These are appropriate choices for women who prefer the convenience and high contraceptive efficacy of methods not requiring frequent administration and thus compliance. Given the advantages, such as reversible, better compliance and convenience of use, injectable contraceptives are certainly gaining popularity. According to the Earth Policy Institute (, hormonal injections have recently become more popular in Africa and lower-income Latin American countries. They are now the second most prevalent contraceptive method in Africa, chosen by almost 30% of women using modern contraception. For e.g. in Malawi, the percentage of women using injections increased from 1.5% in 1992 to 26% in 2010[1].

Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), under the brand name Depo-provera®, was developed by Upjohn Company in 1960s, followed by introduction in several countries in the late 1970s[2].  Administered as a 1ml dose  containing 150mg DMPA, this aqueous formulation is given every 90 days (or 3-monhtly) intramuscularly. Subsequent to this, several other injectable contraceptives were developed and tested, among which norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN), developed by Schering under the brand name, Noristerat®, gained widespread use. Contrary to DMPA, NET-EN is an oily preparation given with a dose of 200mg given every 60 days. The primary differences between the two preparations are the duration of action and side-effect profile.

[1] Adetunji, J. Rising popularity of injectable contraceptives in Sub-saharan Africa. African Population Studies, 25, 2 (2011).

[2] Kaunitz, AM. Injectable long-acting contraceptives. Clinical obstetrics and gynaecology, 44, 1 (2001): 73-91


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