Progesterone related cellular change in the uterine cervix with particular reference to progesterone-only contraceptives.
This study examines the effect of progesterone-only injectable contraceptives, and medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera) in particular, on the cells of the uterine cervix. Cervical and vaginal smears were taken before commencement of therapy and at 3 and 6 month intervals thereafter on 79 asymptomatic women attending a family planning clinic. Results of hormonal and cellular measurements before and after therapy were compared. menstrual cycling was also studied. The effect on Methods used were hormonal maturation indices, image analysis measurements and microscopic observation of cellular . features. The latter included anisocytosis, anisokaryosis, karyomegaly , plaque formation, cytoplasmic wrinkling, nuclear grooving, hypertrophy, atrophy, cytoplasmic moulding and density, retarded maturation and nuclear protrusions. Squamous, endocervical and metaplastic cells were examined. Analysis of the results showed that progesterone-only contraceptives produce all of the above to a greater or lesser degree resulting in an increased relative nuclear area which may be confused with intraepithelial neoplasia. This is due to the production of a folate deficiency at target organ level which interferes with cell division and slows the maturation process. This effect enabled further observations to be made leading to the establishment of the origin and content of the nipple-like protrusions which occur in endocervical cells in response to hormonal activity. Physiological effects included amenorrhoea and irregular menstrual cycling. Most women showed evidence of interference with normal cycling to a varying degree. The documented cellular changes were shown to modify the expression of common inflammatory and neoplastic conditions of the uterine cervix. These included trichomoniasis, herpesvirus cervicitis, human papillomavirus infection, folate deficiency, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and invasive carcinoma as well as multiple pathologies. The potential for diagnostic error was examined. New diagnostic criteria were formulated based on the comparison of cellular features found in the presence of the contraceptive with those found under normal conditions. It is anticipated that these criteria will facilitate the cytological diagnosis of pathological conditions of the uterine cervix in users of depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), leading to increased accuracy and improved and better directed patient management.