Hair loss is a significant challenge most women battle after pregnancy – referred to as postpartum hair loss (1). About 30 to 60% of women experience hair loss after pregnancy. You may experience hair loss after pregnancy, and the intensity of this loss may vary. This hair loss triggers worry and concern and may have you asking questions such as, “Will my hair return to its normal form?”
Losing all that thick and lustrous hair you had during pregnancy isn’t a very pleasing occurrence. But unfortunately, although temporary, postpartum hair loss is a regular occurrence. This article shares insightful information on the postpartum hair loss experience.
Pregnancy and Hormones
During pregnancy, your hormones increase tremendously. The pregnancy is detected by measuring the sporadic increase in the hormone – HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) levels. This hormone is usually the first to rise dramatically (2). The estrogen and progesterone hormone levels also increase during pregnancy. These hormonal increments result in various bodily changes, including.
- Increased hair growth
- Glowing skin
These changes may be attributed to estrogen and progesterone’s impact on the body system (3).
Causes of Postpartum Hair Loss
Hair undergoes cycles of growth and rest. At any given time, some hairs are actively growing, while others are in a resting phase. The resting hairs eventually fall off, making room for new ones. However, the daily loss of 50-100 hair strands is considered normal and part of the natural hair renewal process.
However, the increased estrogen hormone level keeps your hair mainly in the active growth phase during pregnancy. With increased blood and nutrient circulation, the hair follicles get all the required supplies, and there is near-zero hair loss. But as your estrogen level depreciates after pregnancy, you lose all that nice hair. It is, however, an accumulation of the resting phase hair, which should have been lost during nine months (4).
Alongside child-bearing labor and birth, the increased hormone levels, including estrogen, take a rapid fall to pre-pregnancy levels. In addition, cortisol levels (stress level) remain increased, and sometimes, the thyroid hormones get imbalanced. This increase and decrease of hormones cause hair follicles to fall out of their growth and resting phases.
The medical term for increased shedding is called Telogen effluvium. It usually begins 1 to 6 months after childbirth and may last 18 months (5). It varies because most women regain the natural form of their hair sooner than that. However, when your hair starts growing again, you may notice some changes, including reduced hair volume, thinner hair, or minimal changes in texture. Your hair will eventually return to typical phases of hair growth.
9 Ways to Prevent and Manage Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss can be disappointing, but no processes exist to prevent it. It is natural and can only be managed to help reduce the severity of hair loss and its emotional stress. Here are nine ways to manage postpartum hair loss until your hair returns to its normal growth cycle.
1. Uphold a very healthy diet
The drop in estrogen levels after childbirth, which contributes to postpartum hair loss, is unavoidable. However, nutritional changes and additional demands on your body’s energy may also affect your hair cycle. When your body lacks the essential nutrients (nutrient imbalance), it toggles the available energy between crucial body organs such as the liver, heart, lungs, and brain. It keeps away from minor functions such as hair growth. These changes prolong and increase the period of postpartum hair loss.
To avoid this, you may supplement your diet with
- Vitamins and minerals
- Fruits and vegetables are healthy and contain antioxidants and flavonoids, which protect your hair and scalp.
- Take food rich in protein, Vitamin C, Zinc, Biotin, Vitamin B, and Vitamin E. They are the best-suited nutrients for your body and ensure a balanced diet (6).
- Consume fish and flaxseed oils – These are rich in fatty acids like omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9, which promote healthy hair.
You may also get nutritional support to help your body get the necessary nutrients. This may include postnatal supplements, which will provide the vitamins and minerals needed to minimize changes to your hair.
2. Minimize Stress, Get Enough Rest
Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones, may actively impact your hair growth. This is in addition to other hormonal changes after birth. Having some “me time” alone may be difficult for a newborn.
However, accepting support from family and loved ones may relieve you of some stress. When you get these breaks, you may engage yourself in activities such as;
- Regular body massage
- Spa day
- Postnatal yoga, a gentle exercise, can also help reduce stress levels.
3. Be Easy on Your Hair, Consider a Change
During this process of hair cycle management, you may consider exerting the slightest pressure on your hair. This means avoiding hairstyles that may be too stressful for your hair. For example, hairstyles such as braids, cornrows, or weaves tend to pull on your hair and cause an extra strain on your scalp, weakening your hair’s follicles (7).
Instead, consider wearing your hair in a loosely tied bun or a wrap-up held firm with a clip. You may also consider changing your hairstyle to something short and stylish. Shorter hairstyles not only help hide thin hairs; they also help when the new hair starts to grow. In addition, new hairstyles will support the more unique hairs, blend with the old strands, and grow out together.
4. Use the Right Hair Products
Hair products may contain harmful chemicals, increasing hair shedding and loss, especially during the afterbirth phase. Always watch out for toxic chemicals in the products you use for your hair.
- You may prefer to use a shampoo that contains silica or biotin. Both elements improve hair health and stimulate hair growth.
- Also, use gentle cleansers and hair conditioners with added ingredients such as baobab and keratin for hydration and fortification.
- Use shampoo that adds volume and texturizing products; dry shampoos can boost your hair volume.
- Use natural hair oils; they boost hair growth and reduce hair loss.
- You may also add essential oils such as peppermint oil to your shampoo, as it increases moisture and improves your hair shine.
- Try massaging castor or almond oil into your scalp, stimulating hair growth.
Consistent use of these products may result in visible improvement in hair growth.
5. Care for Your Hair
Your hair follicles become more delicate in the resting phase and can be easily dislodged. Therefore, be gentle with your hair while washing, drying, combing, and brushing. These activities may help to prevent premature shedding.
- Avoid the use of a thin-toothed comb on your hair. Instead, use a wide-toothed comb. Wide-toothed combs reduce the amount of pulling stress and strain on your hair while combing. This excessive pulling on your hair causes strain and makes your hair fall out.
- Reduce using heated styling tools such as blow dryers, curling irons, hair straighteners, and hot rollers. Such tools dry your hair up and leave no moisture. They also promote hair loss. Instead, allow your hair to dry naturally, or use your hair dryer in a relaxed setting.
- Always sleep with a silk pillowcase, silk scarf, or silk bonnet. This may prevent hair tangling and ensure your hair isn’t pulled out in your sleep.
- Hair is more delicate when wet, so comb and detangle your hair gently or wait for it to dry.
Giving your hair maximum care and being extra gentle allows your hair in the telogen phase (resting phase) to stay in place.
6. Breastfeed Your Baby
Forming a close bond with your newborn is a recommended practice. However, breastfeeding your baby produces hormones in surplus and may help balance the changes your body goes through. Therefore, this process makes you lose less hair and keeps your baby healthy.
7. Change Your Hair Part
If you are familiar with parting your hair in the middle, you may switch to a side part. This seemingly simple change will help disguise thinning hair at your temples while treating it.
9. Be Patient; know that postpartum hair loss is only normal
You lose more hair than you would typically as a result of stress. On average, you may lose about 50- 100 strands of hair per day, while as a new mom, you may shed about 400 hairs daily, but not all at once. Here is the underlying process:
- During pregnancy, you have a high level of estrogen, which is responsible for your beautiful hair growth.
- After childbirth, your estrogen level drops due to the hormonal changes you are experiencing.
- This postpartum hair loss is average and will correct as your hormone levels regain balance.
- This phase requires your patience. It is temporary. Try not to stress and worry exhaustively about it. Your hair cycle will return to normalcy as soon as possible.
If you notice that the rate at which your hair is shedding does not slow down by six months postpartum, you may need to visit your doctor for further examination.
Postpartum hair loss is normal. Although not all women experience it, about 30 to 60% of women experience hair loss after pregnancy. This hair loss is triggered by the rapid increase and decrease of hormones during pregnancy and afterward. Postpartum hair loss is temporary and your hair cycle will return to normal soon afterward.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you go bald from postpartum hair loss?
No, you are not going bald. Postpartum hair loss is a temporary phase. Your hair may go from very thick to extra thin but not completely bald, but your hormonal shift depends on how your hair will grow. Hair loss during this phase is very average, and it shall pass. Your hair will eventually go back to its normal growth cycle.
Is there any way to stop postpartum hair loss completely?
Unfortunately, nothing has been shown to stop or prevent postpartum hair loss entirely. It is accepted as usual for your hair to thin out after pregnancy. If it does not bother you, you don’t have to treat or do anything about it.
Does hair loss worsen with subsequent pregnancies?
Subsequent postpartum hair losses are no different from previous ones. However, other factors may influence hair growth and lead to a visible increment in hair loss with subsequent pregnancies. These factors may include genetic hair loss issues such as female pattern baldness in which your hair thins at the top, which may also be triggered by pregnancy. This type of hair loss may become more evident with each pregnancy.
Does cutting your hair help with postpartum hair loss?
You may consider getting a shorter haircut. This will allow more room for new hair growth and create the illusion of volume. Plus, your hair will not hold as much weight as when it was longer.
What is the average amount of hair to lose during postpartum hair loss?
The average person loses 50-100 hair strands a day, depending on the length and thickness of your hair. You may shed less than that amount if you have shorter and thinner hair. When people with longer and thicker hair have their wash day, they lose about 150-200 hair strands. New moms shed about 400 hairs daily, and by six months postpartum, this loss rate has reduced tremendously.
- “HAIR LOSS IN NEW MOMS” -aad.org
- “What is HCG?” – americanpregnancy.org
- “Hormonal changes during pregnancy” – healthline.com
- “Is your postpartum hair loss normal?” – healthline.com
- “How to Deal With Hair Loss After Pregnancy” – health.clevelandclinic.org
- “Postpartum hair treatments to try” – healthline.com
- “YOUR BODY AFTER BABY: THE FIRST 6 WEEKS” – marchofdimes.org