I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if birth control and hair loss go hand-in-hand. I know there are many women out there who think that it could definitely play a part. This is long, so I warn you now; feel free to skip to the end of this to get my final take on it. I started on birth control pills (Ortho Tri-cyclen) when I was 17 years old, with the purpose to help control my acne. Pills have ALWAYS been hard for me as I can’t swallow them, so almost immediately I started taking them every two days (doubling up the dose as if I missed one); still the thought of taking them made me extremely anxious so I started looking for alternatives. My campus health clinic recommended started Depo Provera (“the Shot”) and since there wouldn’t be any pills and I might not get a period, I loved the idea (birth control and hair loss were certainly not on my mind). I had only been on the pill for a year, or a maybe even a little less, and I wasn’t noticing anything strange going on in the hair department at the time of the switch. In fact, I was rocking some pretty kick-@ss bangs at the time!
Birth Control and Hair Loss Were NOT on My Radar Back Then!
I switched to the Depo and didn’t have any side effects that some women have – no breakthrough bleeding, no weight gain, etc. About a year and a half into being on the shot (and after growing out the bangs), I noticed that I constantly had to wear my hair behind my ear on my left side. If I didn’t, it would hang funny in my eyes. I just chalked it up to my hair being thin, since it always had been, and didn’t think much about it. This was in 2001 or so. To this day, I have to wear my hair behind my ears, except now I can see that while I have a front hairline, the hair immediately behind it is drastically reduced.
In total, I was on Depo from 2000-2007 or so. I had the annoying “hair behind ear” problem and noticed my hair was super-fine, but it all happened so gradually that I just thought I had bad, fine hair. I didn’t think that birth control and hair loss were correlated. Both my parents have fine hair. As of today, my Dad has normal male-pattern hairloss and my Mom’s hair is thinning ever-so-slightly. But, she’s 56, and it doesn’t look any different than her peers, just finer. There was a time when I felt my thinness matched hers, but that ended a few years ago when I realized I was drastically surpassing her in my 20s. I went off Depo in 2007 after all the studies came out that long-term use can cause osteoporosis (or something like that) and decided to try another method. I knew that it could take a long while for the body to regulate after being on it, so I thought I was a good time to go off as my husband and I knew we wanted to start a family soon.
I’m not sure all the pills/methods I tried after the Depo. I know I tried Seasonique (which I bled the whole time) and the Ortha-Evra Patch (which I can’t remember why that didn’t work for me –sorry!) as well as maybe another pill or two. I remember I had a lot of abnormal bleeding using all of them, particularly the pills. I think this is when I started to notice that my cycles were as wonky as ever…or maybe they had always really been, I was just masking it with birth control. I knew they were crazy when I was younger, but I thought it could take a few years to regulate so I really didn’t put two and two together. I ended up using the Nuva Ring for a few months (which I liked, a lot!) and then went off birth control to get pregnant in 2010. I got pregnant in May 2010 and that’s when my hair loss went completely haywire.
Prior to getting pregnant, my hair was indeed slowly thinning but it was hard to notice since it was gradual. Plus, I don’t shed like most women with hair loss do. My hair apparently just miniaturizes to the point where the follicle dies and a new follicle doesn’t replace the old one. This is part of the reason why I didn’t realize there was a problem for so long – there just wasn’t much physical evidence that I was losing my hair. In the year leading up to getting pregnant, I started using concealers, but not every day. Just if I needed a little help. Once I got pregnant, it turned into an everyday occurrence.
I lost a ton of hair up until I was 20 weeks pregnant, and then magically, it stopped. I was devastated, but I thought that maybe since I hadn’t retained the hair that most women boast of during my pregnancy, that I would be spared the post-partum shed. Nope, I got that in full-force about four months after I had my son. Whereas I thought the shed that I experienced in my early pregnancy was bad, this was OFF THE CHARTS. Maybe it was a normal post-partum shed for most women, but for someone already at a deficit, it was heartbreaking. My husband would take pictures of me with my son and all you could see was my scalp. That shed lasted for about two months and then slowly began to recover.
Do I think Birth Control and Hair Loss are Related?
I was nursing, so I was off birth control for a long while. Once I got my period back, that’s when I noticed that my cycles were super-long and I wasn’t ovulating. I also tried to do something about my hair loss so I went on Spiro, which caused me to bleed every two weeks or so, so I coupled that with the Nuva Ring. All was fine in the cycle department, but Spiro caused the big “dread shed” which basically led me to almost where I am today.
I’m sorry if you were expecting some medical research about if birth control and hair loss are related, but, I’m not a doc and can only share my story with you. For me, I feel this: I think initially being on birth control triggered something in me. I think either being on “fake hormones” either told my body to start rejecting my hair, or being on those “fake hormones” made my body dependent on them to the point where it cannot function hormonally without them. I hope that makes sense…I think it went one of those two ways. I’m not 100% sure that my hair loss is genetic, either, which is why I think birth control played a part in accelerating it. No one in my family really has hair loss, at least no women.
I’ve always had a touch of PCOS, I think. My acne started at about 10 years old (just one here or there, but often times it would be cystic). While I didn’t get my period until I was 13, my flows were always very heavy. My cycles were also very erratic, with anywhere from 28-50 or so days between them. My acne increased as I got older (and then, for sure, a lot of it was cystic) but I never experience excess hair or hair loss until later in life.
I’d love to hear about your experiences and if you think being on birth control and hair loss affected your hair. I definitely think it had something to do with mine! Every day I am SO grateful for my concealers.