Although hair loss is a health concern for men, women and children alike, female hair loss is a much less-known condition. Female hair loss can result from many causes and can even be the result of the same condition commonly known as male pattern baldness in men. Another common cause of thinning hair in women, however, is the use of certain medications that affect women's hormones, like birth control pills.
Birth control pills are a hormonal method of birth control. The reason birth control pills can result in female hair loss is that they alter the hormone balance in a woman's body. According to the Mayo Clinic, some women experience hair loss when they begin a birth control routine, while others may experience hair loss when they stop taking birth control pills.
Thinning hair is a common side effect of birth control pills among women who have a history of male pattern baldness or thinning hair in their families. For women with a predisposition to thinning hair, the hormone changes caused by birth control pills can trigger varying degrees of hair loss.
Types of Birth Control Pills
The American Hair Loss Association recommends that women who have a history of thinning hair or hair loss in their family use only low-androgen birth control pills such as Desogen, Ortho Tri-Cyclen or Ovral. Women who experience hair loss when using birth control pills may also opt for a nonhormonal method of birth control.
Time Frame for Hair Loss
As is the case in other types of hormone-related female hair loss, thinning hair as a result of starting or stopping birth control pills may be delayed about 3 months. The reason for the delay is that the normal hair growth cycle is about 3 months long, so thinning hair actually reflects changes in the body that took place several months earlier when the number of new hair follicles growing in was not enough to replace the hair falling out.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Even though they contribute to thinning hair, birth control pills may also be prescribed by a doctor as part of a treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website womenshealth.gov, symptoms include thinning hair on the scalp, increased body hair growth and an irregular menstrual period. Women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome often have high levels of androgen, so your doctor may prescribe birth control pills to reduce body hair and regulate menstrual periods along with other hormone treatments or hair growth medications to reduce thinning hair.