Women who use oral contraceptives might be surprised to learn that hair loss is a common side effect of the pill.
The pill has been available since the 1960s and is one the most popular forms of birth control on the market. It’s also used by many women to keep menstruation cycles regular, to alleviate acne, and to decrease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While there are many benefits to taking the pill, it does not protect individuals against sexually transmitted diseases and it may cause hair loss.
The pill’s primary function is to suppress ovulation. This is achieved by using the hormones estrogen and progestin to arrest fertility. Since hormones are also the primary trigger for hair loss, the pill includes a risk for inducing alopecia, which is the medical term for hair loss. Some women are predisposed for hormone related hair loss and have a greater likelihood of experiencing alopecia as a side effect of taking the pill.
Hair loss triggered by the pill varies. In some cases, the loss is minimal. Other times, it can be drastic. Hair loss may not occur until after a woman has stopped taking the pill. While oral contraceptives are safe and effective, women whose family histories include hair loss need to be forewarned that taking the pill could cause them to lose their hair. Knowing this, women can make better and more informed decisions about how to approach birth control.
There are a number of different oral contraceptives available. Those with low androgen index are less likely to cause hair loss. Women concerned about the possibility of hair loss as a side effect of using oral contraceptives should ask their doctors about low-androgen index pills and non-hormonal birth control methods.
The American Hair Loss Association has published a list of birth control pills ordered by lowest androgen index to highest. If you feel you are at risk for hair loss, ask your doctor about getting on a pill that is low-androgen or talk to your OB-GYN about other methods of birth control.