PCOS, Infertility and hair loss
This blog is about one of the most personal subjects I’ve ever spoken about; my own hair loss, and the journey that took me to where I am today.
My clients often comment on my hair, telling me how lovely it is, and how lucky I am to be blessed with thick, lustrous hair. But the truth is, until recently, my hair was being covered with extensions, toppers, and thickening fibres and because I’m good at my job, I managed to hide my thinning hair extremely well!
My hair was thinning because I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) at a young age.
PCOS is an endocrine disorder which affects the ovaries, and it can also produce symptoms like:
• Having irregular periods or no periods at all.
• Difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
• Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks.
• Weight gain.
• Thinning hair and hair loss from the head.
• Oily skin or acne.
• Hormonal changes
For me personally, I didn’t suffer with acne, but my hair started thinning and I also had excessive facial hair to deal with; not exactly what you want at any age, never mind when you’re young.
Why does PCOS cause hair loss?
Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens (male hormones). One of the androgens, a hormone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) binds to the hair follicles, making them go into their resting phase sooner than they should. This means that as the hair enters each growth phase, it becomes progressively thinner, as it does in cases of Androgenic Alopecia (Female pattern hair loss.) If your hair follicles are particularly sensitive to androgens, the reduced hair growth on your scalp will be met with increased growth of the hair on your body.
Treatments for hair loss caused by PCOS
There are topical treatments and anti-androgens available that can help to prevent hair loss and restore growth, but they aren’t guaranteed to work for everyone and they need to be used sooner rather than later if they’re going to have any chance of success.
My battle with infertility
For me, my thinning hair was the least of my problems. I managed to disguise it so well, but what I couldn’t hide was my desire to have a baby.
Over the past five years, I’ve put myself through four soul destroying rounds of IVF treatment. Because of the PCOS and other issues with my fertility, there was no possibility that I would conceive naturally, so IVF was my only option.
For those of you who are not familiar with what’s involved when you have IVF, there’s a course of harsh injectable drugs you have to self-administer, as well as long courses of other medicines that play havoc with your hair and skin. While you’re having the treatment, and for months before and after it, you’re advised not to use any topical hair loss solutions or take any hair growth vitamins, as these can potentially cause hormone imbalances. The hormone imbalances that are present during IVF could also cause acute Telogen Effluvium, which is the same as post-partum hair loss (also known as baby shed). So during those five years, I couldn’t take anything to give my hair a helping hand, all I could do was hope that it would get better on its own.
As well as the IVF, my body had to contend with the steroids I was taking, namely Prednisolone, to suppress my immune system. Steroids have an effect on the sex hormones and can cause imbalances between oestrogen and testosterone. This can cause hair thinning and loss in people whose hair follicles are sensitive to hormone imbalances... So aswell as the hair loss from the PCOS I also had to fight with the Telogen Effluvium, which luckily for me only affected my 4th round of IVF.
Enough is enough
This year, I made the decision to stop the IVF treatment, because I could no longer take the financial, emotional, and physical strain. It has given me the chance to concentrate on restoring my hair and other health issues and I’ve noticed a huge difference already!
Six months later, I rarely need to wear my topper any more. I still wear extensions, but only because I believe that my hair growth cycle won’t allow my hair to grow healthily past shoulder length. The extensions give my hair an amazing thickness that my own hair never even had before I was diagnosed with PCOS.
I’ve combined protein supplements with a topical hair solution to nourish my shrinking hair follicles, plus I’ve been following a balanced diet designed to specifically benefit women with PCOS; and I’ve never looked back.
This is my story, but everyone who suffers from hair loss is on their own journey. Some are at the beginning, and some are nearing the end, and no matter how confused, upset, or uncertain you might be that there’s anything that can help you, I want to tell you that there is.
Are you suffering from hair loss? Contact us to book a consultation to discuss your needs in a private, welcoming and understanding environment.