Hormonal Changes - Female Hair Loss Guide

Hormone changes and hair loss are discussed in our contraception, menopause and pregnancy sections. These are all female specific areas in which hair loss occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the body.

Hair loss in women is usually hormonal but fortunately this is a temporary state of affairs. And it is relatively easy to treat as well.

So how do hormones cause hair loss?

Hormone function

Hormones are secreted by the body’s endocrine system which is responsible for most of the major functions in the body. This system regulates our metabolism, growth and development, sexual and tissue functions.

The endocrine system is comprised of a series of glands, for example, the adrenal glands, which release hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones control or regulate various organs and systems of the body, for example, brain activity. One hormone in particular – testosterone regulates the function of the reproductive organs but is also responsible for hair loss.

If testosterone combines with another hormone, 5-alpha reductase to form an end product called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) then hair loss occurs as male pattern baldness. And this occurs in both men and women.

What happens is that DHT affects the hair follicles by attaching itself to special cells within those follicles which affects the normal hair growth cycle. It reduces hair growth during the anagen stage whilst increasing the length of time during the telogen (resting) stage.

Hair is shed as normal but new hair growth is restricted which means that hair eventually thins and falls out which leads to baldness.

If DHT is not the problem then other hormones such as oestrogen or progesterone could be at fault.

One of the most common changes which cause hair loss is that experienced during pregnancy. Oestrogen levels tend to rise during this time, usually the last few weeks in preparation for the birth. Hair loss dramatically increases during this time and many women report that their hair has grown longer, thicker and fuller than before. In other words they have a shiny, healthy head of hair.

This is all due to increased hormone production but this over-compensation is followed by a fall in hormone levels once the birth has taken place.

This then impacts upon the hair growth/loss cycle by increasing both the shedding and resting stages. Hair is lost but is not replaced by new growth which then leads to temporary hair loss.

This is discussed in more detail in our Pregnancy section.

Another time of change is that of the menopause. This is the time when a woman’s levels of oestrogen and progesterone decrease which signals an end of fertility. This change also affects the normal functioning of the hair follicles and disrupts the hair growth cycle.

This is discussed in greater detail in our Menopause section.

Oral contraceptives such as the pill can affect hormone production as can hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

And medical conditions such as an over or under-active thyroid disturb hair growth to the extent that new hair growth is stopped whilst the follicles enter a prolonged resting stage.

Whatever the reason, we understand that it is frustrating or upsetting to lose your hair because of hormonal changes but help is at hand. Most of these incidences are temporary in nature and hair growth will resume its normal pattern once the condition has been treated or the body has returned to its normal state after childbirth.

But, if your hair has not grown, even though your hormone change has balanced itself or your body is functioning again as normal then it is time to see your GP. He or she will arrange a series of tests to see what is causing the problem before deciding upon a course of treatment.

There are a range of treatments available for hair loss which is discussed individually in our Treatment section.

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