There are many ways in which the body of a woman changes during pregnancy and after childbirth. A common change that women experience during pregnancy is their hair becoming thicker and shinier (or greasier).
While that is welcome, the excessive shedding that follows sometime after the birth of the child is certainly panic-inducing, especially in new moms. Fortunately, this hair loss after pregnancy is normal and, according to AAD, not even “true hair loss.”
What Is Postpartum Hair Loss?
Almost 4 months into the pregnancy is when most women notice their hair becoming thicker than usual. The colour and texture of the hair may also change temporarily, although this is rare. However, after giving birth, hair loss can start 2-4 months after. It is also possible for it to start just days after childbirth.
Women usually notice the highest shedding at the 4-month mark. That’s because the telogen phase (to which most hairs convert) lasts for 3-4 months. It’s unlikely that hair loss after pregnancy will make you bald unless there is an underlying condition coexisting with it. Hair loss occurs all over the scalp (diffuse) but can affect the hairline a little more.
This kind of hair loss is quite common. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it occurs in 40-50% of women, and it’s only temporary. Hair loss after pregnancy can last anywhere between 2-8 months, but rarely it can occur for a year.
The majority of women begin to grow their hair 6 months after giving birth. By the time their child’s first birthday comes around, their hair will have gained full strength. Keep in mind that there’s no way to stop hair loss after pregnancy, but you can do a few things to better take care of it.
What Causes Hair Loss After Pregnancy?
Hair loss after pregnancy can occur due to one or more of the following reasons:
The hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy are mainly responsible for hair loss. They’re also the reason why this kind of hair loss is not in the “true” sense. Our hair growth cycle has 4 phases:
Normally, 80% of the hair is in the growing (anagen) phase, while less than 10% of the hair is in the resting (telogen) phase. But during pregnancy, hair loss decreases because the duration of the anagen phase increases. That means more hair stays in it for longer than usual, and you lose less hair. This happens because of the increase in the level of pregnancy hormones, mainly estrogen and progesterone.
However, soon (within 24 hours) after you give birth, the levels of these hormones in the blood drop. That results in the conversion of the anagen hair to the telogen hair. So, you’re only losing that hair that you would have lost earlier anyway had it not been for the pregnancy. But since it’s all happening at the same time, the hair loss seems excessive and alarming.
Decrease In Blood Volume
One reason for the increased hair thickness during pregnancy may be higher blood volume. Because of that, your hair is getting more oxygen and nutrients than it normally would. However, after childbirth, this would not be the case anymore, which can also make you lose your hair.
Other than the stress of parenting itself, there are other stressors perceived by the body, such as the childbirth process or the sudden fluctuations in the hormones. This alone can cause telogen effluvium, which can make you lose as many as 300 hair strands in one day. It can also occur anywhere between 1 and 5 months after pregnancy. You can also experience this kind of hair loss in the following events:
- When you stop taking birth control
- When you terminate a pregnancy (abortion)
- When you have a miscarriage
Does Breastfeeding Cause Hair Loss?
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, breastfeeding has no relation to hair loss after pregnancy. The fluctuation of hormone levels may cause telogen effluvium, but it has no direct relation to lactation. It does not affect the hair growth cycle.
How To Help With Hair Loss After Pregnancy?
There are a few things that you can do to better take care of your hair falling out after pregnancy.
Use the Right Shampoo and Conditioner
Because thinning and density are the problems that women mainly struggle with pregnancy hair loss, a volumizing shampoo can help. However, it’s best to avoid a “conditioning shampoo” as certain ingredients in them can make the hair feel “heavy.”
In the same vein, do not use any “intensive conditioners.” Lighter formulas can help your hair remain bouncy. It’s best to look for those shampoos and conditioners that have proteins, vitamins, and silica in them.
Hair loss in the frontal region can be exacerbated by tight hairstyles. That’s why you should avoid wearing hair in tight braids, cornrows or weaves. It can cause traction alopecia.
Other than that, it is better if you don’t use any hot blowdryers, curlers, or straighteners. These can make your hair look thinner. Also, when brushing, wait for the hair to dry first and then use a wide-toothed comb to not break more hair. If you’d like, you can use volumizing mousse and hairsprays to give a fuller body to your hair.
Eating well during and after pregnancy is important for you and your baby. It’s important to have a balanced diet. You need to consume foods containing the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
You should discuss the safe amounts of these with your doctor. Food like leafy greens, eggs, fish, beans, blueberry, oranges, raspberries, and carrots can help keep your hair healthy. Certain postpartum hair loss vitamins containing biotin, vitamin E and vitamin B are also thought to help. However, you should consult your doctor before taking any.
Get Scalp Massages
It’s a good idea to get some scalp massages after you’ve given birth. Not only can it help with the routine stress, making you more relaxed, but it can also improve blood flow to the scalp. You can try giving yourself one, even as you’re showing, or you could ask for someone’s help. Even a few minutes of it every day can help.
Your doctor may prescribe minoxidil for postpartum hair loss. It can increase the duration of the anagen phase and stimulate blood flow to the scalp. This can help your hair grow. However, it can have some side effects, and it doesn’t work for everyone.
If you have thinning hair for a while, you can consider a few disguises. Wearing caps, hats, and scarves is one if you’re outside. You can also consider wearing hair clips. If not, you can get a haircut that can hide the thinning areas.
For instance, bangs can cover your hairline for a while. Also, shorter hair can make it look fuller. Other than that, you can do side parts so that the mid-part and the hair loss along it is not as visible.
Hair Loss One Year After Pregnancy: What To Do?
If you have hair loss one year after pregnancy, it could be due to an underlying health condition. That’s why it’s best to get yourself checked by a doctor.
It is possible that you may be experiencing a thyroid problem (commonly Graves’ disease) or a nutritional deficiency. Anaemia could be one reason. It can happen during pregnancy if the mother does not have enough iron in the blood to make new red blood cells. Iron-deficiency anaemia can also occur because the baby needs blood cells to grow, which it gets from the mother.
If you’re deficient in vitamins needed for the development of blood cells, then, too, you can end up with this condition. The NHS recommends the intake of 10mcg of vitamin D for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
To Sum Up
Hair loss after pregnancy is a common occurrence. It occurs due to the rapid transition of the hair from the (unusually prolonged) anagen phase during pregnancy to the telogen phase after childbirth. This kind of hair loss is not “true” because the shedding of the hair was merely delayed during pregnancy, so it would have happened anyway.
Nonetheless, it can cause alarm in new mothers who’re experiencing it for the first time. Post-pregnancy hair loss can also occur due to the stress of childbirth and abrupt hormonal changes. It should not persist for longer than a year (it’s very rare for that to happen). If it does, it could be occurring due to another condition or even androgenetic alopecia.
While you’re experiencing post-delivery hair loss, it is important that you take good care of your hair to not exacerbate it. That means you need to switch some haircare products that have lighter formulas, avoid certain hairstyles, eat healthy foods, and get some scalp massages while you’re at it. In addition, since you’ll most likely have to “wait out” this kind of hair loss, you can consider a few disguises in the meanwhile.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.