Postpartum Hair Loss: Losing Hair After Pregnancy

tired woman with black hair holding newborn baby

Many women seem to experience some amount of hair loss after giving birth, and for some it can be quite severe. The unpleasant surprise of sudden hair loss after childbirth may be perfectly normal, but it is not well understood by science. Peer-reviewed studies note that there is a lack of high quality scientific research on the topic of postpartum hair loss. Because of this, there are conflicting understandings about the causes of postpartum hair loss and the ideal postpartum hair loss treatment. In this article, we will discuss theories about what causes postpartum hair loss in order to identify possible solutions for women.

What is Postpartum Hair Loss?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Postpartum hair loss is a condition that involves hair shedding and hair falls that occur within a few months after a woman gives birth. It’s believed that hormonal changes after childbirth are what causes postpartum hair loss. The hormonal changes that new moms experience after their baby is born can have an impact on the hair growth cycle.

Pregnancy Hormones Changes Affect Hair

blood sample tube on medical checklist paper with checkmarks next to hormones

When a woman is pregnant, her body will experience physiological changes, including the increased production of so called, “pregnancy hormones” like progesterone and estrogen. The dramatic increase in hormone production can affect a woman’s hair during pregnancy – sometimes even leading to extra hair growth. Some women report having hair grow after and fuller during pregnancy.

 

However, after giving birth, these hormone levels will often dramatically decrease. While this postpartum change in hormone production is totally normal, it may be what causes excessive shedding of hair for some new moms.

Pregnancy Stress and Hair

The physical and emotional stress of pregnancy and childbirth can also lead to thinning hair. Stressful experiences cause our bodies to produce more hormones that are associated with the fight or flight response. When hormonal changes from stress are combined with those associated with childbirth it’s no wonder why some women experience postpartum hair loss.

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?

Hair shedding after childbirth is typically most severe during the first few months postpartum and then gradually subsides. The dramatic hormonal changes can make postpartum hair loss start as soon as childbirth occurs, or sometimes weeks or months afterwards. This shedding phase can last for 3-6 months before new hair growth begins to replenish the lost hair. However, for some women postpartum hair loss is not temporary and can lead to chronic hair loss.

Postpartum Hair Growth Cycle

Postpartum hair loss occurs when hair follicles get stuck in their telogen phase (also known as their resting phase). While the resting phase is a normal part of the hair follicle life cycle, it is usually shortly followed by the anagen phase (or growing phase), which is when new growth occurs, and the hair follicle develops long hair. When hair follicles fail to enter the catagen phase, which is the transitional phase between the resting stage and growing stage, new hairs will fail to develop, and the hair remains as a small vellus hair.

Postpartum Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that is associated with childbirth and other stressful events that can lead to hormonal changes. Symptoms of telogen effluvium include thinning hair and shedding. The good news is that this type of hair loss is usually temporary, and hair will typically return to its normal thickness.

 

If you’re concerned about telogen effluvium, talk to your doctor. They can help you manage your stress levels and recommend other treatments if necessary.

Pregnancy Can Lead to Nutrient Deficiencies

happy pregnant woman eating salad in bed

Pregnancy can lead to nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to poor hair health. Common deficiencies include iron, zinc, and vitamin D.

 

You may be more likely to develop a deficiency if you’re pregnant with twins or triplets, have a history of anemia, or don’t eat a balanced diet. Typically, doctors will perform blood tests on expecting mothers to identify any nutritional deficiencies such as low vitamin levels.

How to Prevent Postpartum Hair Loss

There are a number of things you can do to prevent or minimize postpartum hair loss, including taking supplements, eating a healthy diet, and reducing stress levels. You may also consider If you’re concerned about hair loss, talk to your doctor. They can help identify any underlying causes and recommend the best course of treatment.

Supplements for Postpartum Hair Loss

wooden spoon on neutral background holding a few types of supplements

There are a number of different prenatal vitamins and supplements that may help with postpartum hair loss, including:

 

Iron supplements: Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of hair loss. Taking an iron supplement can help replenish your stores and promote healthy hair growth.

 

Biotin: Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that’s closely linked to hair health. It’s thought to help with cell growth and the production of fatty acids, which are essential for healthy hair.

 

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps keep your hair healthy. It also helps your body absorb iron, which is important for hair health.

 

You can learn about more in this guide to vitamins for hair growth.

Shampoos for Hair Loss After Pregnancy

There are a number of different shampoos that may help with hair loss after pregnancy. There are volumizing shampoos that contain ingredients to make hair appear thicker and fuller. While a volumizing shampoo may visually hide thinning hair, it doesn’t necessarily treat the root of the problem.

 

There are also conditioning shampoos, lightweight conditioners, intensive conditioners, and other hair care products that contain active ingredients like minoxidil that are designed to prevent hair loss. Topical minoxidil products like these have even been shown to stimulate new hair growth in some women.  However, topical minoxidil products do have potential side effects – you can read this article to learn more.

Strategies to Minimize Postpartum Hair Loss

woman holding flat iron looking surprised and upset at the ends of her long hair

Curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers can all damage hair. For this reason, women with postpartum hair loss should consider reducing the use of these hair care tools. All of these tools can cause your hair to become dry and brittle, which can lead to breakage and hair loss. In addition, these tools can also create excessive heat damage, which can further exacerbate hair loss. If you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, it’s best to reduce the use of these tools as much as possible until your hair has fully recovered.

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