Since approval by the FDA in 1960, oral contraception (the Pill) has become
one of the most popular forms of birth control used today. Millions of women
are prescribed the Pill each year in this country, but very few are aware that
oral contraceptives are a common trigger of hair loss.
The Pill suppresses ovulation by the combined actions of the hormones
estrogen and progestin, or in some cases progestin alone. Women who are
predisposed to hormonal-related hair loss, or who are hypersensitive to the
hormonal changes taking place in their bodies, can have hair loss to varying
degrees while on the Pill or, more commonly, several weeks or months after
stopping the Pill. (However, the Pill can be prescribed for androgenetic
alopecia - female pattern baldness. See
Many women with hair loss suffer in silence, altering their hairstyle to hide thinning or patches. But the sooner you seek care, the better the chances of successfully treating it, says Mary Gail Mercurio, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.
It's not as uncommon as you may think: As many as 5% of women under 30 and 60% of those older than 70 are affected, she says. At the recent meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Miami Beach, Fla...
The American Hair Loss Association (ALHA) recognizes that for the most part
oral contraceptives are a safe and effective form of birth control. It also
recognizes that the Pill has been clinically proven to have other health
benefits for some women who use them. However, the AHLA believes that it is
imperative for all women -- especially for those who have a history of hair
loss in their family -- to be aware of the potentially devastating effects
birth control pills can have on normal hair growth.
The AHLA recommends that all women interested in using oral contraceptives
for the prevention of conception should only use low-androgen index birth
control pills. Pills with the least androgenic activity include norgestimate
(in Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen), norethindrone (in Ovcon 35), desogestrel
(in Mircette), or ethynodiol diacetate (in Demulen, Zovia). If there is a
strong predisposition for genetic hair loss in your family, the AHLA recommends
the use of another non-hormonal form of birth control. Each woman should decide
based on her own needs in consultation with her own doctor.
The hormonal contraceptives listed below have a significant potential for
causing or exacerbating hair loss. Note that any medication or therapy that
alters a woman's hormones -- including, but not limited to, contraceptives --
can trigger hair loss.
Progestin implants, such as Norplant, are small rods implanted
surgically beneath the skin, usually on the upper arm. The rods release a
continuous dose of progestin to prevent ovulation.
Hormone injections of progestin, such as Depo-Provera, are given into
the muscles of the upper arm or buttocks. This injection prevents
The skin patch (Ortho Evra) is placed on your shoulder, buttocks, or
other location. It continually releases progestin and estrogen.
The vaginal ring (NuvaRing) is a flexible ring about 2 inches in
diameter inserted into the vagina. It releases progestin and estrogen.
Published on March 1, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from the American Hair Loss Association