Postpartum Hair Loss: Why am I losing my hair?

Many new moms are surprised to find themselves shedding more hair than usual in the first few months after giving birth, but it’s perfectly normal. There is no need to panic, you will not go bald. In fact, your hair should be back to normal by your baby’s first birthday.

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The Science Behind Pregnancy Hair Changes

Here is what’s going on. Normally, about 85 to 95 percent of the hair on your head is growing and the other 5 to 15 percent is in a resting stage. After the resting period, this hair falls out often while you are brushing or shampooing it and is replaced by new growth. An average woman sheds about 100 hairs a day.

During pregnancy, increased levels of estrogen prolong the growing stage. There are fewer hairs in the resting stage and fewer falling out each day, so you have thicker, more luxuriant tresses.

This is a temporary phase. In the normal cycle of hair growth, some hair is lost every day. But during pregnancy, the increased levels of estrogen in your body freezes hair in the growing (or “resting”) phase of the cycle. Hair that would normally fall out stays put, resulting in thicker hair. After you give birth and your estrogen levels decline, however, all that hair that was resting starts to fall out. This usually starts the third or fourth week postpartum and ends by six months. But some women say it can last for a year. This temporary hair loss does not mean you are deficient in nutrition or vitamins. It is simply hormonal.

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Sometimes hair falls out all over your head. Or clumps may come out when you brush it, or in the shower. However, often women just lose a lot around their hairline, so that their hair looks very fine in the front, or as if they are going bald.

Postpartum Hair Loss: What to Expect

After you give birth, your estrogen levels take a tumble and a lot more hair follicles enter the resting stage. Soon you will have more hair coming out in the shower or on the brush. This unusual shedding will taper off and your hair will be back to its pre-pregnancy thickness about six to 12 months after you give birth.

By the way, not all women notice dramatic changes in their hair during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Among those who do, it tends to be more obvious among women with longer hair.

You will not be able to stop the hair from falling out, but you can experiment with different hairstyles or products (such as hair thickeners or mousse) to give your hair a fuller look during this transition period.

Here are some great tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your hair healthy by eating well and taking a prenatal vitamin supplement.
  • Be extra-gentle during your shedding season to prevent excess hair loss after pregnancy. Shampoo only when necessary (Ha! As if you had time to shampoo at all!), and use a good conditioner and a wide-toothed comb to minimize tangling. Use scrunchies or barrettes to put hair up, instead of rubber bands — and don’t pull hair into tight ‘dos.
  • Skip blow dryers and curling and flat irons if you can (again as if you had time to use them!), and put off any chemically based treatments (highlights, perms, straightening) until the shedding stops.
  • Talk to your health care practitioner if your hair loss is excessive. When it is accompanied by other symptoms, hair loss after pregnancy could be a sign of postpartum thyroiditis.
  • Keep hair moussed and moist. Using the right products can give the illusion of fullness. Look for a volumizing mousse at the drugstore or salon. Also, always use a conditioner or a leave-in hair moisturizer after shampooing.
  • Try color. Coloring your hair is always a great way to give it body. If you feel that your hairline is receding and you have dark hair, highlighting the front can act as a camouflage. Or try glossing, a treatment that gives hair all-over shine.
  • Change the part. If you normally part your hair in the middle, a side part can disguise thinning hair at the temples.
  • Add texture. Sleek, straight hairstyles make thinning hair more obvious. If you usually blow out your curly or wavy hair, now may be the time to go with your natural curl. If you have straight hair, try using Velcro rollers or a curling iron to give your locks some oomph.
  • Wear hair ornaments. Headbands, scarves, and bandanas are fun and stylish ways to disguise hair loss. They’re especially popular with new moms who have little time to devote to hair care!

Important Note for New Moms with Long Hair

Many moms, tired of scooping hair out of shower drains or sweeping strands off the bathroom floor, find that now is a good time to go for a short cut. Plus, a short, wash-and-go hairstyle can be easier to take care of when you have a new baby in the house and you’re strapped for time.

A note to new moms with long hair: Strands of hair can end up tightly wrapped around your baby’s tiny appendages, including his fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, and penis. This is called a hair tourniquet, and it can be quite painful for your little one. If you find him crying for no apparent reason, check carefully for tight bands of hair.

Coping with Emotional Changes After Giving Birth

While hair loss after pregnancy is a temporary and normal phase, new moms may also experience emotional changes that can be difficult to cope with. It is common to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and emotional in the weeks and months following the birth of your baby. Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and adjusting to your new role as a parent can all contribute to these feelings. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are things you can do to help yourself feel better.

Here are some tips for coping with emotional changes after giving birth:

  • Talk to someone: Sharing your feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported and understood. This could be a partner, family member, friend, or a healthcare provider.
  • Take care of yourself: Self-care is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Try to eat well, get enough sleep, and make time for activities you enjoy.
  • Join a support group: Talking to other moms who are going through similar experiences can be a great source of support and encouragement. Look for local groups or online communities.
  • Seek professional help: If your feelings of anxiety or sadness are interfering with your daily life, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional.

Remember that it’s okay to ask for help and to take time for yourself during this time of transition. Taking care of your emotional wellbeing will help you be a better parent to your new baby.

Postpartum Hair Loss and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a common concern among new moms who are experiencing postpartum hair loss. Some women worry that hair loss may be due to a lack of nutrients or vitamins from breastfeeding. However, this is not the case. Postpartum hair loss is primarily due to hormonal changes, not breastfeeding. It is safe to continue breastfeeding during this phase, and it will not affect your hair growth or loss.

However, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding can impact your body’s nutrient needs. Be sure to maintain a balanced diet and talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you have about your nutrient intake.

The Role of Genetics in Postpartum Hair Loss

While postpartum hair loss is a normal phase for most new moms, genetics can play a role in how much hair is lost and how long it takes to grow back. If hair loss runs in your family, you may be more likely to experience more significant hair loss after pregnancy. Additionally, some women may have an underlying condition that contributes to hair loss, such as thyroid issues or anemia.

If you are concerned about the amount of hair you are losing or the length of time it is taking to grow back, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.