Contraception - Female Hair Loss Guide

Birth control pills (commonly known as ‘the pill’) are a very popular form of oral contraception which is taken by millions of women everywhere. The main reason for this is their ease of use and convenience but like any form of medication they are not without their side effects, one of these being hair loss.

Many women are unaware of this side effect but it is important to be aware of this so that you can take steps to minimise this risk. A positive aspect of this is that any hair loss tends to be temporary.

Why does a birth control pill cause hair loss?

The answer to this is oestrogen: oestrogen is one of two female hormones and is responsible for secondary sexual characteristics as well as regulation of the monthly menstrual cycle.

Oral contraceptives contain varying amounts of oestrogen which lead to changes that include hair loss. This oestrogen affects the hair growth/loss cycle in two ways:

  • These pills increase oestrogen levels in the body which extends the hair growth stage (as part of the 3 stage hair growth cycle). These stimulated hair follicles produce extra hair which is thicker as well.

    However, the cycle proceeds as normal which means that the follicles enter the resting stage. Hair growth is reduced in this stage as the follicles have chance to recuperate before encouraging new hair growth.

  • The third stage of the hair growth/loss cycle is the shedding stage but this too is accelerated. So we have hair growth which is greater than normal and hair shedding which is also, greater than usual.

    As a result of this, old hair is not immediately replaced which leads to a thinning of the existing hair.

Basically, it’s the high levels of oestrogen which increase cell turnover and speeds up the hair growth/loss cycle which then leads to hair loss.

Hair loss caused by the introduction of oestrogen via the contraceptive pill is called ‘telogen effluvium’. This is classed as a medical condition but treatment isn’t required as hair growth restarts once your body adjusts to the increased oestrogen level.

As your body accustoms itself the follicles move beyond the accelerated resting stage and hair growth continues. In other words normal service is resumed in regard to the hair growth/loss cycle.

If you are experiencing this then don’t stop taking the pill. This condition usually lasts no more than 6 months so bear with it until this time has passed. Your hair should re-grow after this period of time.

But, if the hair loss is severe or doesn’t stop even after 6 months then speak to your GP. He/she may advise switching to a lower dosage pill.

Can I reduce hair loss caused by hormonal changes?

Yes. One way is to switch to a contraceptive pill with a lower dose of oestrogen but if this is not an option then there are still a few options available.

These include:

  • Take extra care of your hair by using a mild shampoo and avoid chemical based treatments such as hair dyes.
  • Avoid brushing your hair too harshly or hair styles such as dreadlocks or braiding.
  • Boost your diet with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure that your follicles get enough zinc and Vitamin A. These help promote hair growth and ensure that the hair growth cycle behaves as normal.

It may not seem like it but hair loss as a result of oral contraceptives is a normal occurrence. Just be patient and allow your body time to adjust to the increased levels of oestrogen and you should see new hair growth again.

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