Birth Control and Hair Loss

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.

7 thoughts on “Birth Control and Hair Loss”

  1. I always associated bc with more radiance but, when i got off the IUD ( had mirena for 3 1/2 yrs and copper one for 1-2ys) i noticed my hair was thinning (I never had really thick hair, but it did grow very long and with some mousse i felt like rapunzel haha). Mind you, all this hair loss started when i turned 30 (im about to turn 34 ) and i had been on birth control since i was about 16. I got pregnant a couple months ago, miscarriaged and now back on birth control pils- cant to the IUDs anymore…too invasive, convenient yes but…
    I have this deep desire that going back on birth control will aid in some way. Like you Lauren my hair falls out slowly, heavier for me sometimes around times of stress and my period, and there’s just no signs of regrowth. Its as though im in a hair frost, or hair strike if you will. I keep thinking there has got to be something i can do to activate, stimulate the scalp and convince the hair to grow. I keep thinking i have to nourish the scalp…aloevera?

  2. Hi Lauren,
    Can I just say how happy I am to have found your Blog..
    I have been in denial for quite a while about my hair loss and only in the past few months have I actually acknowledged how bad my thinning is on the top of my head is and am now trying to find solutions.
    I have seen a few doctors and they all say the same thing, that it is to do with my PCOS.
    The funny thing is, I did not start to lose hair until I stopped taking the pill and that was in 2007 just before I got married.
    I had been on the pill from age 13 (due to having really heavy flow and extreme pains) till I was 30 and I had always had thin hair but a tonne of it so never any fear of seeing my scalp.
    I honestly think that stopping it is what triggered my loss, I have since gone back on the pill after having my son but the damage has well and truly been done and cannot see my hair growing back anytime soon (or at all) so to find your blog and how you work around it with the Toppers/Wigs has given me the motivation to try them myself.
    I look forward to your future posts about your different hair purchases.

    Thanks Heaps Sally

  3. Hi Lauren and all, I’ve had the opposite experience…being on the birth control pill makes my acne and hair thinning better (not cured, but better). If I go off the pill both get much, much worse. Actually the pill is supposed to have this positive effect for women with PCOS as it reduces the amount of testosterone produced by the ovaries, but of course everyone’s biochemistry is unique and it sounds like it isn’t a solution for everyone. I take a tri previifem with ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate

    • BC has helped my skin in the past (on some BC) but I think because I don’t actually shed (it just doesn’t grow back), my hair loss is just different. Boo.

  4. Hello, I couldn’t help but put in my experience with taking birth control and having hair loss. It’s not very common for women to take birth control and experience hair loss. I was shocked when I started seeing that happen to me. I was on 3 different pregnancy pills and I still was having my hair fall out. I had no choice but to see a hair doctor in my area at ohiohairloss.com. At first I was very embarrassed to tell him about what I was going through but once he was able to explain how he could help I was more at ease and comfortable. Now I have my hair back and I don’t take birth control anymore.

  5. Hi Lauren,
    I’ve heard this suspicion in women so many times since joining Reviews and I think I always feel a sense of relief inside of me that I have not had this experience. Not that it helps. But my hair loss started 6 years before BC, and it started to get better awhile after I started taking because of meds and stuff (not BC I don’t think). What triggered it for me was stress and traction (is that the right word), pulling or whatever. Thanks for sharing your experiences here. I’m really fascinated with your blog posts and writing!

Leave a Comment