Many women dread the onset of menopause and at least in part, that’s because they worry about the possibility of menopausal hair loss.
So, what are the risks and what, if anything, can be done to mitigate them?
Until recently, this subject was rarely openly discussed. Fortunately, times are changing and there is now a lot of information and helpful advice for women facing this ‘change of life’.
Menopause is a natural transition from a fertile to non-fertile (or reduced fertility) stage of a woman’s lifecycle development.
In evolutionary terms, its purpose is unclear. There are various completing and largely speculative theories to explain it, including:
- it protects older women from suffering the rigours of late-stage pregnancy and childbirth (activities associated with high mortality rates in our distant ancestors). This benefits the species because it allows older women to be released from childbirth to allow them to help younger women in their family groups raise their children (sometimes called ‘the caring grandmother theory’).
- it only arises because since before recorded history, humans have provided unique surroundings to permit older males and females to survive, meaning that menopause is not adapting to create evolutionary advantage but is simply a never before seen symptom of old age.
As far as science knows, human females are highly unusual in that their reproductive system ‘shuts down’ in this fashion, although there is some evidence suggesting that certain whales may also experience menopause. The area has not been widely researched.
Menopause is usually defined by medical professionals as reaching a state where the woman concerned has not had a period for 12 months.
Menopause is most commonly reached between the ages of 47 and 55, though there can be very significant differences between individual women and between ethnic groups. Again, the reasons for this are not clear, though they’re assumed to be genetic.
To make matters more confusing, before menopause itself many women experience “perimenopause”. That is where they’re starting to experience symptoms when still having periods – even regularly. Perimenopause has been known to last for anywhere between 6 months to 10 years.
During this time, women’s bodies may be experiencing a huge number of symptoms, which may be severe, relatively mild or highly variable. It is impossible to predict.
- mood swings;
- hair drop/hair loss/hair thinning;
- hot flushes;
- heavier bleeding and increasingly unpredictable cycles;
- a loss of libido;
- painful sexual intercourse (even if the libido is maintained) due to increased dryness, shrinkage and a loss of elasticity of the vagina;
- the so-called ‘brain fog’, meaning difficulty in concentrating and reasoning;
- joints and general musculature aches;
- difficulties in controlling emotional extremes.
Of course, not all women suffer all of these symptoms. There are also treatments that can help alleviate them in many cases.
What causes menopausal hair loss?
During perimenopause, the levels of the ‘female’ hormones oestrogen and progesterone begin to decline. One of their many functions is to stimulate thick hair growth.
To make matters worse, their decline seems to generate an increase in androgens – male hormones. These are well known as being a potential cause of hair loss in men and of course, as their levels rise in women, the same may be true.
It’s also worth noting that menopause may arise early for any one of several medical reasons, such as conditions requiring a hysterectomy, where hormonal flows have been changed. That in turn might help create earlier hair drop in women.
What can be done for hair drop during menopause?
The first thing is to take professional advice from a hair care expert. It’s quite common for women to assume their hair thinning is due to menopause when in fact, it is due to another cause entirely.
The expert may have a range of hair care treatments that might well help.
In some cases, they may refer you to your doctor for additional advice and guidance on things such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) etc.