Hair loss is a major 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 normal occurrence. In this article, we share insightful information on the postpartum hair loss experience.
Pregnancy and Hormones
During pregnancy, your hormones increase tremendously. Actually, 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 grows in cycles through the active phase and resting phase. Some hairs on your hair may be growing actively, while others may be in a resting phase. Eventually, hairs in the resting phase fall off and get replaced by new ones. However, this process is negligible, and we lose 50-100 hair strands every day.
However, the increased estrogen hormone level keeps your hair mostly 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 the span of 9 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 in the increased state, and sometimes the thyroid hormones get into an imbalanced state. This increase and decrease in 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 as long as 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 normal phases of hair growth.
9 Ways to Prevent and Manage Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss can be disappointing, but there are no laid out processes to prevent it completely. It is natural and can only be managed to help reduce the severity of hair loss and the emotional stress associated with it. Here are 9 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 level after childbirth, which contributes to postpartum hair loss, is unavoidable. However, nutritional changes and other additional demands on your body’s energy may also affect your hair cycle. When your body lacks the basic nutrients (nutrient imbalance), it toggles the available energy between essential body organs such as the liver, heart, lungs, and brain and 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 – Not only are these healthy, but they also 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 they ensure a properly 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 nutrients it needs. This may include post-natal 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 have an active impact on your hair growth. This is in addition to other hormonal changes after birth. With a newborn, it may not be easy to have some “me time” by yourself.
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, being a gentle exercise, can also help reduce your stress levels.
3. Be Easy on Your Hair, Consider a Change
During this process of hair cycle management, you may consider exerting the least pressure on your hair. This means staying away from 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 making your hair follicles weak (7).
Instead, you may 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 do not only help in hiding thin hairs; they also help when the new hair starts to grow. In addition, new hairstyles will help the newer hairs blend with the old strands and grow out together.
4. Use the Right Hair Products
Hair products may contain harmful chemicals which may increase hair shedding and loss, especially during the afterbirth phase. Always watch out for harmful chemicals in the products you use for your hair.
- You may give preference to using 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.
- Make use of 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; these oils stimulate hair growth.
Consistent use of these products may result in visible improvement in hair re-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 the use of 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 when it is in a cool 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 hairs in the telogen phase (resting phase) to stay in place.
6. Breastfeed Your Baby
Forming a close bond with your newly born 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 does not only make you lose less hair, but it also 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 normally 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 normal and will correct itself 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 6 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 definitely not going bald. Postpartum hair loss is a temporary phase. Your hair may go from being 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 normal, 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, there is nothing that has been shown to stop or prevent postpartum hair loss completely. It is accepted normalcy 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 normal 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 every day, and by six months postpartum, this loss rate reduces 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