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Lunelle Birth Control

Updated on March 21, 2011

Lunelle is an injectable form of the hormones estrogen and progestin that was approved for use by the FDA in October, 2000. It contains synthetic progesterone (medroxyprogesterone acetate) and a synthetic form of estrogen (estradiol cypionate) that are in the form of minute micro crystals. These micro crystals dissolve slowly and are absorbed by the body during the month after injection. Lunelle birth control has both the benefits and side effects that oral combination contraceptives do with the advantage that it only needs to be taken once a month.

How It Works

The hormones in Lunelle, estrogen and progesterone, are normally produced by your ovaries. Estrogen can help suppress ovulation; the release of an egg. With no egg, pregnancy won't occur.

Progesterone is produced during the second half of the monthly cycle. It suppresses ovulation by signaling to the pituitary gland that it should not release follicle stimulating hormone (which ripens and egg and allows it to be released) so that pregnancy can't occur. Progesterone also thickens the mucous in the cervix, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg, and causes changes in the lining of the uterus that make it more difficult for the egg to implant

Lunelle can only be prescribed by a licensed medical provider, usually after a complete physical exam is done.

How It Is Given

Lunelle is given during the first five days of the monthly period by injection in the muscles of the arm, buttock or thigh. The injection is composed of tiny crystals of the hormones in suspension that are slowly released during the month, and its effect is immediate after receiving the shot. A woman should receive the injection every 28 to 30 days, and no later than 33 days after the last injection for protection against conception.

If a woman misses her shot by more than 33 days, then she is given a pregnancy test before a new injection of Lunelle is given, and she is encouraged to use backup protection.


Lunelle is approximately 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken monthly. One reason for its effectiveness is that a woman does not need to remember a daily pill or to use a barrier method of contraception, making the failure to use rate lower.

Lunelle, like other hormone methods of contraception, does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia or HIV though.

Once a woman stops taking injections of Lunelle she will normally begin to ovulate within one to two months, although some women will ovulate during the next cycle after stopping it.

Side Effects

The safety and side effects of Lunelle are similar to those of other combination hormone therapies: changes in the monthly period, including irregularity or cessation of the period; weight gain (an average of 4 pounds the first year), depression, acne, breast tenderness, fluid retention, and nausea.

Most side effects lessen after several months, although weight gain in some women continues after the first year.

Like oral combination contraceptives, Lunelle should not be taken by women with a history of heart disease, liver disease, breast cancer, uterine cancer, blood clots, or stroke. Women at highest risk for complications are those who are over age 35 who smoke or have a history of cardiovascular disease.

Some Benefits

When a woman takes Lunelle, periods are usually more regular with a lighter flow and less cramping or chance of anemia from heavy menstrual flow. It also exerts a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. It may also protect against breast cysts and osteoporosis.

Women today have many choices for contraception, and Lunelle is just one out of several options. If you are trying to decide which type is best for you, it is important to discuss your contraception choice with your health care provider, who will help you to evaluate such things as ease of use, cost, reversibility, risk factors, and your unique needs in making this decision.

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