Many women report having thick and lustrous hair during their pregnancy. And it’s all down to their pregnancy hormones (mainly oestrogen, which prolongs hair’s growing phase). However, this isn’t everyone’s experience during pregnancy.
While some women have thicker, shinier hair, there are others who end up with thinner, lacklustre hair. Pregnancy hormones can be implicated here as well. But there are other factors that also affect hair health during pregnancy.
Sometimes, it can also happen due to an underlying nutritional deficiency or illness. So, you shouldn’t always dismiss this type of hair loss as a hormonal issue. In this guide, you’ll learn more about what hair loss during pregnancy is and what you can do to deal with it.
What Causes Hair Loss During Pregnancy?
Hair loss during pregnancy can occur due to stress, hormonal imbalance, medications, nutritional deficiencies, and health problems.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.
According to a study published in JAMA Network, even with the use of supplements, pregnant women aren’t taking enough of the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
The list also included minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, etc.
A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology even reported that 5-50% of pregnant women experience vitamin D deficiency.
Aside from its negative effects on birth outcomes, vitamin D deficiency can also affect hair growth during pregnancy.
Bear in mind that vitamin D helps in the absorption of some minerals and even helps in the making of keratin protein in your hair.
Like vitamin D, many other vitamins also play an important role in promoting hair health, so you need them.
However, if you’re deficient, which can happen during pregnancy, its effects can start showing up on your hair.
Here, it should be noted that excessive nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (Hyperemesis gravidarum) can also cause vitamin deficiency. And in turn, it can lead to hair loss during pregnancy.
A literature review published in the Saudi Medical Journal found that globally, 52% of pregnant women are affected by iron deficiency. And one symptom of iron deficiency anaemia is hair loss.
One explanation for why this happens is that your hair isn’t able to get enough oxygen to grow normally.
During pregnancy, the volume of blood increases and because of that, more iron is needed to make red blood cells. And keep in mind that it’s these red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body.
Since it’s amount can stay the same, it can be another cause of hair loss during pregnancy.
Thyroid problems (particularly hypothyroidism – underproduction of hormones) can also commonly occur during pregnancy.
The hormonal imbalance triggered by these disorders can trigger a type of hair loss known as telogen effluvium.
In this, most of the hair is pushed into the resting (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle. As a result, you may end up experiencing hair loss 2-3 months after the stressful event (it’s a spread-out, diffuse hair loss).
Since that can happen while you’re still pregnant, it can be another reason why you’re losing hair during your pregnancy.
Another important thing to note here is that levothyroxine – a medicine for treating hypothyroidism, which is safe to take during pregnancy (according to the NHS) – can also cause hair loss.
The hormonal changes triggered by the pregnancy itself can “shock” your system. And that can also trigger telogen effluvium hair loss.
Additionally, the stress of the pregnancy may further exacerbate your hair loss. The result can be diffuse shedding months after the hormonal shift starts.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that you can develop while you’re pregnant. The result is high blood sugar, which can affect both your and your baby’s health.
Since there’s the involvement of placental hormones here, that may also trigger the telogen effluvium type hair loss.
Is Hair Loss Normal During Pregnancy?
While hair loss is not common during pregnancy, it’s not always considered abnormal.
For instance, the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy are normal. And so, the hair loss resulting from that can also be considered abnormal.
Hair Loss During Pregnancy First Trimester
The first trimester usually refers to the first 3 months of pregnancy.
During that time, you can experience hair loss due to the hormonal changes resulting from the pregnancy or even the stress of the pregnancy itself.
Keep in mind that telogen effluvium can take 2-3 months to show, so you might not have the first loss in the first month. It can happen later on in the first trimester.
Hair Loss During Pregnancy Second Trimester
Hair loss at the beginning of the second trimester may also be a result of telogen effluvium.
But keep in mind that your hormone levels are still changing during the second trimester. Oestrogen and progesterone will increase while a human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone will decrease (it helps maintain early pregnancy).
And as mentioned above, hormonal fluctuations alone can cause hair loss.
Hair Loss During Pregnancy Third Trimester
During the third trimester of your pregnancy, your oestrogen levels will hit an all-time high.
Now, in some women, this very hormone helps improve hair growth, but in others, the hormonal changes can end up causing hair loss.
How To Avoid Hair Loss During Pregnancy?
Due to the hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy, you won’t be able to prevent hair loss entirely.
However, you may be able to avoid exacerbating your hair loss during pregnancy by doing the following:
- Using a gentle shampoo and conditioner.
- Wearing loose hairstyles (to avoid traction alopecia).
- Avoiding excessive use of heat-styling tools and hair dyes.
- Eating healthy and having a healthy lifestyle (good rest or exercise cleared by your doctor).
How To Stop Hair Loss During Pregnancy?
To stop hair loss during pregnancy, it’s important for you to understand the underlying cause of your hair loss.
Telogen effluvium doesn’t really require any treatment. And according to the British Association of Dermatologists, medicines don’t speed things up.
Still, normally, some people take medication like minoxidil for this. However, its use is considered unsafe during pregnancy, which is why you should avoid it.
This hair loss is temporary and usually reversible, so your hair should start to grow back.
On the other hand, if your hair loss is due to vitamin or iron deficiency or thyroid problems, your doctor may first order some blood tests to pinpoint the exact cause.
Following that, you might receive treatment as medication or supplements, which, in turn, may help stop your hair loss during pregnancy.
And lastly, if you’re losing hair due to the stress of your pregnancy, you can try stress management (meditation, mindfulness, rest, etc.) to control your shedding.
When many women are told that their hair should be thicker and not thinner during pregnancy, excessive shedding can be a bit alarming.
It’s not exactly common, but it can happen due to normal pregnancy-related changes in the body. But, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, hair loss during pregnancy can occur due to nutritional deficiencies or even health problems.
For this reason, if you’re losing an abnormal amount of hair, make sure to consult a qualified medical professional. They’ll prepare a suitable hair loss treatment plan for you.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Hassan Soueid
Is hair loss common during pregnancy?
Hair loss is not a common occurrence during pregnancy. In fact, it’s more common after pregnancy. Still, some women do experience it.
What’s the best shampoo for hair loss during pregnancy?
In general, the best shampoo for hair loss during pregnancy is one with a gentle formula. Even so, you should ask your doctor about it because some ingredients might not be safe for your baby.
Can you experience body hair loss during pregnancy?
There are some anecdotal reports of women experiencing slow body hair growth during pregnancy. However, you should get yourself checked for any health problems. For instance, thyroid issues can cause hair loss on the legs.
What does the NHS say about hair loss during pregnancy?
The NHS does state that skin and hair changes are common problems in pregnancy. But it doesn’t say exactly how the hair is affected.
Is hair loss a sign of pregnancy?
While hair loss can occur due to pregnancy, it’s not considered a sign of pregnancy itself. There are many causes of hair loss other than pregnancy.