By Ria Newman
THIS WOMAN says her hair fell out, leaving her with a patchy bald head after she went on the contraceptive coil.
Accounting assistant, Faith O’Kelly (35) from Wiltshire, UK, grew up with long, thick hair, but after giving birth to her second daughter Summer in 2008 she started to notice bald patches.
She was devastated to be diagnosed with alopecia areata, which targets the scalp, and covered the patches with hats until her hair grew back within a year.
But in 2017 her hair fell out again – this time in large patches, with Faith estimating 70 per cent of her hair falling out over the course of two years.
She found the change upsetting and didn’t want to even leave the house and face stares in public, feeling unfeminine and unattractive.
Her husband Paul (52) constantly told her she was beautiful, but her confidence took a knock and she felt down about herself.
Faith took to Instagram in July 2020 to share a bald picture and was overwhelmed by the influx of supportive comments she received.
Her confidence grew and she worried less about hiding her alopecia, buying a bright red wig to make a statement.
Her family has embraced her condition too, with Summer (12), daughter Kyah (16) and stepson Fynn (15) even chopping off parts of her remaining hair.
In late 2019, Faith read an article online linking hair loss with the contraceptive mirena coil – which she had implanted in December 2016.The hormonal contraceptive is a small plastic device that is put into the womb and releases the hormone progesterone.
Her doctor confirmed the link, which only occurs in rare cases, and after removing the coil in August, Faith’s hair has grown back. Areas that had been completely bald for two years are now covered in small hairs, and her patches are shrinking dramatically.
Although she hopes her hair will entirely grow back, Faith’s true triumph has been accepting her appearance – hair or no hair.
“There was no history of alopecia in my family and I had lovely long, thick hair as a child,” she said.
“The first time I noticed a bald patch was shortly after my second daughter, Summer, was born in 2008.
“I was diagnosed with alopecia areata and was devastated. Wigs were nowhere near as good as they are now, so I felt very self-conscious every time I left the house.
“Having two young children meant that I couldn’t just hide away, so I wore lots of hats to try and cover the bald patches.
“But my hair started to grow back and all I had were a few patches over the next nine years. Then in 2017 it started to happen all over again, but this time it was a lot more hair falling out.
“I lost around seventy per cent of the hair on my head over the course of two years, but luckily didn’t lose any body hair.
“I didn’t deal with it well at all. I used to get really upset and didn’t want to leave the house in case people noticed.
“The hardest part was not feeling feminine or attractive anymore. My husband Paul was absolutely amazing and was constantly reminding me that I’m beautiful with or without hair, but it was how I felt about myself that was the issue.”
Faith decided to share her story on social media in July 2020, starting an alopecia-related Instagram account and posting a wig-free snap of herself.
“I began following some other ladies who have alopecia and they were so open about it and weren’t afraid to show the world who they really are,” she said.
“I remember wishing I had the confidence to show everyone my patchy head, and after speaking to them I felt so much better about my alopecia.
“They were so supportive and encouraged me to open up about it. I created my page, Rocking Alopecia, and received so much love and not a single negative comment.
“It was a huge turning point for me. The support was incredible, it was such a relief.
“I bought a bright red wig as a bit of a statement and, although I don’t go out in public without a wig, it’s fun to try different styles.
“I love sharing new wig photos and reviews to help other women choose decent wigs. It’s so much fun choosing a different hairstyle to go with different outfits.
“It took me a while to get used to wearing wigs but I have a huge collection and love mixing things up. It’s probably confusing to the other parents on the school run.”
After reading an article online that linked the contraceptive coil to hair loss, Faith consulted with her doctor.
“I had no idea that it could be to blame and was never warned before trying it,” she said.
“I booked in to have it removed and the doctor who took it out confirmed that the mirena coil can cause hair loss, although it is quite rare.
“Since having it removed in September, my hair is starting to grow back – I’m over the moon.
“I don’t want to get my hopes up too much in case I lose it again, and I would be sad to not be a part of the alopecia community anymore as I have made so many new friends.
“Areas that have been completely bald for over two years are covered in small hairs now and my patches are shrinking dramatically.
“But I know now that, either way, my hair does not define me, and it’s comforting to know that thousands of other people are going through the same thing.
“Alopecia has actually boosted my confidence. I’ve always been shy but I just don’t care what others think of me as much as I used to. Once you’ve been at an all-time low, the only way to go is up.”
For more, see @rocking_alopecia