In this article, we'll be explaining the importance of birth control, what are the different kinds of birth control pills available, how taking progestin-only birth control could be causing you to lose hair and the different ways you can treat female hair loss in Singapore.
Birth control, otherwise known as contraception, refers to any method used to prevent pregnancies from occurring. These methods can include practicing the rhythm method, using condoms, taking birth control pills, using an IUD or undergoing tubal ligation.
If you are sexually active with your partner, it is vital that you use a method of birth control. In a study done by the National University Hospital (NUH) in Singapore, it was reported that 84% of couples who did not use any methods of birth control got pregnant within the first year, and 92% of them got pregnant within 2 years.
2 different forms of birth control pills are readily available such as the combination pill (Yasmin, Yaz) or the progestin-only pill (Cerazette, Cerelle).
Combination birth control pills prevent pregnancies by using both progestin and estrogen hormones to stop ovulation. They also thicken the mucus within the cervix, preventing fertilization of the egg from occurring.
Progestin-only pills contain only one hormone, progestin. Like combination birth control pills, progestin-only pills prevent pregnancies by stopping ovulation, thickening the mucus in the cervix to prevent fertilization and thinning the uterine lining to prevent implantation of the egg.
When used "perfectly" (taken everyday at the same time, without fail), it is possible for both combination birth control pills and progestin-only birth control pills to achieve a 99% effectiveness rate.
When used "typically" (taken every day at the same time, but there are occasions when the user forgets to take a dose or begin a new pack of pills), combination birth control pills and progestin-only pills still have a high effectiveness rate of 91%.
Besides preventing pregnancies, birth control can also be used for other purposes. Hormonal birth control methods can be used to regulate periods, reduce period cramps and symptoms of PMS and reduce hormonal acne breakouts. Hormonal birth control can also help lower the risk of the user developing uterine and ovarian cancer.
Female pattern hair loss, otherwise known as androgenetic alopecia, is a type of hair loss that is caused by androgen hormones like dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT can be responsible for causing hair loss in women due to a process called "miniaturization". During this process, DHT binds itself to receptors present in hair follicles, weakening and shrinking them until they die. Eventually, DHT-affected hair follicles will stop growing permanently if left untreated.
As mentioned earlier, progestin-only birth control pills contain only the hormone progestin. While this hormone usually reduces the androgen activity within the body, some progestin-only birth control pills contain a synthetic form of progestin that might bind itself to androgen receptors and increase the amount of DHT present.
Birth control methods that increase androgenetic activity are known as having a high androgen index.
If you are particularly sensitive to hormonal changes or are susceptible to hormonal-related hair loss, it is possible that if you take a birth control pill that contains this synthetic form of progestin, you might experience hair loss.
If you've just started taking a new birth control pill and begun to notice your hair thinning or increased shedding, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as you can to determine the root cause of the hair loss.
If your doctor has determined that the root cause of your recent hair loss is due to your birth control, it is likely that you might need to change what kind of birth control pill you take. Your doctor might either recommend choosing a birth control pill that has a lower androgen index or if you were originally on a progestin-only birth control pill, to switch to a combination birth control pill that contains estrogen along with progestin.
It is important that the first step you take is to determine the root cause of your hair loss. Once that has been determined, it will be easier for your doctor to recommend the most effective and appropriate form of treatment.
Besides changing the birth control you are on, here are some other effective treatments to help with female hair loss.
Dietary Changes and Lifestyle Changes
If the root cause of your hair loss is due to significant weight loss or iron deficiency, it is important that you consult your doctor to come up with a dietary plan that includes a healthy caloric intake and necessary macronutrients. While this will not produce quick results, implementing dietary changes will gradually improve both the growth rate and thickness of your hair.
If the root cause of your hair loss is due to stress, the most effective treatment is to implement changes to your life to help manage and minimize the stress. This can be done in multiple ways:
- Regular exercise
- Mindful meditation
- Limiting your intake of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine.
Again, while this will not produce quick results, incorporating strategies to help manage and reduce your stress will help improve the growth rate and thickness of your hair, eventually returning it back to a healthy state.
Saw Palmetto Shampoos
If the root cause of your hair loss is due to your hormonal levels and increased DHT levels, consider using topical hair thickening shampoos that include the active ingredient saw palmetto. It is possible for saw palmetto to treat hair loss and improve hair growth as it works on a hormonal level, blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. This prevents further hair loss and allows the hair to grow back.
A topical medication, minoxidil is an effective way to treat female hair loss. When applied to the scalp, minoxidil can help to stimulate hair growth and slow down hair loss.
Minoxidil works to treat female hair loss by improving the environment that your current hair follicles are in to facilitate improved hair growth. Minoxidil is a vasodilator which improves the blood flow to the scalp, delivering oxygen-rich blood to your hair follicles. It also increases your hair follicle size, which leads to the growth of thicker and stronger hair.
Minoxidil also helps to trigger and lengthen the initial stage of hair growth called the anagen phase. It is during the anagen phase that your hair actively grows to its fullest length. However in order to get it to the anagen phase prematurely, minoxidil shortens the next stage of hair growth called the telogen phase, the resting phase.
This is why when you first use minoxidil you might notice an initial increase of hair loss, as your hair rapidly enters and goes through the telogen phase. However this is completely normal and you should keep following your doctor's instructions to apply minoxidil. Similar to other hair loss treatments, while it can have an immediate effect, you will see noticeable changes after using it for several consecutive months as your hair enters the anagen phase.
Contraception Booklet - Nuh | National University Hospital (Link)