Can stopping birth control trigger hair loss?

A TikTok user who nearly went bald after stopping hormonal birth control has put the spotlight on this common side effect.

Maija Kappler 5 minute read June 22, 2022
hair being pulled from a brush

Hair loss has far-reaching implications, including lowering self-esteem and causing depression and anxiety. GETTY

TikTok can be a place to find many shocking things: people buying DIY facial filler, people attempting “at-home tooth straightening kits,” people drinking coffee with breast milk. But a recent viral post, of a women who says she lost nearly all her hair when she stopped taking hormonal birth control, is causing people to rethink their relationship with the pill.

The video, posted by a 25-year-old user named Chancey Sessions, now has 1.5 million views. She shows video footage of clumps of hair that had apparently fallen out. The culprit, she says, was birth control.

Sessions started taking oral birth control when she was 13, starting on a low dose to regulate her menstrual cycle, and gradually increasing the dosage over time, she told BuzzFeed News.

‘I had no idea I would almost go bald’

When she eventually decided in her 20s that she wanted to stop taking the pill, “I did my research… and went to the doctor and gyno, but both claimed nothing would happen,” she added. “Since I had taken birth control for so long, I knew I would likely experience some side effects going off it, but I had no idea that I would almost go bald.”

When her hair first started falling out, many people told her it must be due to stress, even though she says she didn’t feel stressed at all. She finally got answers at a dermatologists’s office, where she found out that the “hormonal shock” her body experienced after she stopped taking birth control had led to her hair loss in some way.
While Sessions’ case is extreme, post-birth control hair loss isn’t uncommon, Dr. Mona Gohara told Shape. “Any physiologic or emotional shift can affect our bodies,” she said. “And an increase or decrease [in hormones from birth control] can certainly shift the hair cycle toward shedding or growth depending on the scenario.”
The hormone progestin is one possible reason, since it contains androgens, “which are the hormones that make the hair enter the shedding phase and stay in this phase, ultimately causing birth control hair loss,” obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Jessica Shepherd told Shape.
It’s similar to the post-partum hair loss that about half of new moms experience. While pregnant, the body produces higher-than-normal estrogen levels to help the baby develop. But after giving birth, hormone levels re-adjust, and estrogen production goes down, which can often cause hair to fall out.
Sessions, for her part, told BuzzFeed that she finally got answers when the dermatologist ordered blood tests and a biopsy. The results showed that the hormonal shock she experienced after stopping the Pill was so extreme than it triggered alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith also has a form of alopecia, a fact just about everyone knows after the 2022 Oscars. She’s spoken about how scary it was when she started losing her hair.
“I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, am I going bald?’” Pinkett Smith said on a 2018 episode of her show Red Table Talk. “It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking in fear. That’s why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it.”

Losing her hair, she said, felt like losing part of her identity.

“My hair has been a big part of me,” she said. “Taking care of my hair has been a beautiful ritual and having the choice to have hair or not. And then one day to be like, ‘Oh my god, I might not have that choice anymore.’”

Sessions, too, said the impact on her life was significant. “I truly felt like my life was ending,” she told BuzzFeed. I knew something was up before it got bad, but no one around me would take me seriously.”
Studies have shown that alopecia can lead to low self-esteem. Most respondents said their hair loss negatively impacted their quality of life, and 40 per cent said they were unhappy with the way their doctors responded to their hair loss.
And hair loss isn’t the only debilitating side effect of hormonal birth control. Many women and non-binary people complain they aren’t told about possible side effects including depression, weight gain, moodiness, nausea, acne, headaches and lower sex drive. In some rare cases, side effects can be dangerous, including blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and higher risk of gallbladder disease and liver cancer.
Dr. Saru Bala told BuzzFeed that she hasn’t seen a lot of studies about hair loss as a possible result of stopping birth control — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
“My own clinical experience along with the experience of other providers tells me that hair loss after stopping birth control can be quite common,” she said.

Maija Kappler is a reporter and editor at Healthing. You can reach her at mkappler@postmedia.com
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