By Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC
Postpartum hair loss is a normal and temporary postpartum change that is unrelated to breastfeeding. Most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle between 6 and 12 months after birth. Many new moms notice hair loss sometimes quite dramatic around three months postpartum. This is a normal and temporary postpartum change that is unrelated to breastfeeding. All hair has a growth phase, termed anagen, and a resting phase, telogen. On the scalp, anagen lasts approximately 3 years, while telogen lasts roughly 3 months, although there can be wide variation in these times between individuals. During telogen, the resting hair remains in the follicle until it is pushed out by growth of a new anagen hair. from by Elizabeth CW Hughes, MD Normally, around 85-95% of your hair is in the growth phase at any point in time, but the hormonal changes during pregnancy stimulate an increase in the percentage of hairs in the growth phase. As a result, many women enjoy thicker hair during pregnancy, as more hairs than normal are growing and fewer than normal are resting/shedding. With the birth of your baby (and the hormonal changes that accompany birth), a larger number of hairs than normal enter the resting phase. Since the resting phase is followed by hair shedding (and regrowth), new mothers will experience greater than normal hair loss once the resting phase ends. Postpartum hair loss commonly starts at around three months after birth.
The amount of time between childbirth and the onset of shedding corresponds to the length of the resting phase of hair growth (between 1 and 6 months, with an average of three months). The hair loss can seem more extreme if your hair grew much more than normal during pregnancy, or if you have long hair. Most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle within six months, or between 6 and 12 months after birth. If you feel that your hair loss is greater than the norm, or if things are not back to normal by the time your baby is 12 months old, then see your doctor. Excessive hair loss can be caused by common and easy-to-remedy postpartum conditions such as (low thyroid hormone) or iron-deficiency anemia. What can you do while you wait for your hair to return to its normal growth cycle? Get a good haircut. Some moms choose this time to get a shorter haircut or one that requires less care. Experiment with different hairstyles. A good quality shampoo and conditioner may help. Try different styling products, such as mousses or texturizers that bulk up the appearance of your hair. Avoid using a brush or comb that pulls or stresses the hair. Lynfield YL. В. В The Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1960) 35, 323в327; doi:10. 1038/jid. 1960. 127 As your due date draws near, youвre probably looking forward to losing your big belly and extra baby weight. But thereвs one thing you may not look forward to losing: Your thick, shiny pregnancy locks.
Itвs not your imagination. Most women find that pregnancy makes their hair thicker. And itвs not the stress of having a newborn thatвs making your hair fall out! Hereвs whatвs up with your pregnancy hair, what you can expect postpartum, and what you can do about it. During pregnancy, your hormones change dramatically. One of the first to spike is human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. Thatвs the hormone your pregnancy test measured and its rising levels indicated that you were pregnant. Pregnancy also causes several other hormone levels to rise, including estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, and prolactin. Your blood volume also rose during pregnancy, to as much as greater volume than normal by your due date. Immediately after your baby is born, several of your hormone levels drop quickly, including estrogen and progesterone. Those hormones will be almost back to normal levels within 24 hours after birth, although prolactin will stay high as long as youвre breast-feeding. Your blood volume also decreases, but its drop is more gradual. It gets back to normal a few weeks after your baby arrives. Hormones are the biggest reason for your pregnancy hair changes and postpartum hair loss. During pregnancy, your high levels of estrogen prevented your usual rate of hair loss. Normally, your hair falls out in small amounts every day. During pregnancy, your hair loss decreases.
The effect is compounded by your increased blood volume and circulation, which also causes your hair to fall out less than normal. So after your baby arrives and your hormone levels drop, your hair makes up for lost time by falling out in much bigger clumps than it normally does. The total volume of your hair loss probably isnвt more than you would have lost over the last nine months, it just seems like it because itвs happening all at once. Postpartum hair loss can set in any day after your baby arrives, and it sometimes continues as long as a year. It usually peaks around the 4-month mark, so if your baby is a few months old and youвre still losing clumps of hair, that doesnвt mean itвs time to panic! Itвs normal for your hair to thin out after pregnancy. If itвs not worrying you, you donвt need to do anything to treat it. And, unfortunately, there is nothing that has been shown to prevent or slow postpartum hair loss. But if your hair loss is bothering you, there are treatments you can try to make your hair appear fuller and healthier. 1. Skip the styling Heating your hair with a dryer or curling iron may make it look thinner. Try to hold off on fancy styling and let your hair air-dry till the thinning tapers out. Brushing too hard can also cause your hair to fall out in bigger clumps, so be gentle when brushing and donвt brush more than once a day. You can use the extra time to cuddle your baby or catch up on sleep! 2.
Eat well Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins in your diet is the best way to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. Foods that are suggested by some to improve hair health include dark leafy greens (for the iron and vitamin C), sweet potatoes and carrots (for the beta carotene), eggs (for the vitamin D), and fish (for omega-3s and magnesium). 3. Take your vitamins Vitamins shouldnвt be a substitute for a varied diet, especially when youвre a new mom with a baby to take care of. But they may help as a supplement if your diet is not well-balanced. While no specific vitamins have been shown to affect hair loss, they are important for overall health. It is often recommended to continue your prenatal vitamins after your baby is born, especially if you are breast-feeding. 4. Use volumizing shampoo While thereвs no evidence for it, conditioning shampoos sometimes weigh your hair down and make it look thinner and more limp. Volumizers may add body to your hair and help you maintain a lustrous look. Is your postpartum hair loss normal? In most cases, your postpartum hair loss is totally normal and not anything to worry about. If youвre still seeing clumps in your hairbrush after your baby hits their 1st birthday, you may want to talk to a dermatologist to make sure there isnвt an additional cause for your hair loss.