Understanding Postpartum Hair Loss
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 18, 2019 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Hair Loss
Many women know that pregnancy causes a lot of changes. Aside from the obvious, the hormones, diet changes and increased vitamin intake can cause positive changes in our shape, mood, skin and hair. But while great, luscious hair is common during pregnancy, the opposite effect is quite common after giving birth.
The American Pregnancy Association states that between 40 and 50 percent of all women will experience some hair loss after pregnancy. Fortunately, postpartum hair loss is almost always temporary and should reverse itself over time as the body regulates back to a pre-pregnancy state.
Here are some basics to understanding postpartum hair loss, as well as a few tips on how to manage it until your hair begins to grow normally again.
Why postpartum hair loss occurs
Postpartum hair loss occurs because the increased levels of estrogen present during pregnancy extend the natural life cycle of hair. This means that fewer hairs than normal are entering the resting stage and falling out, which is why so many pregnant women have thick, beautiful heads of hair.
However, once pregnancy ends, estrogen levels drop rapidly. Thus, many hairs on your head will enter the resting stage at one time, rather than gradually. This may occur a few months after the baby is born, or after the mother stops breastfeeding.
When this occurs, you might notice that your hair is falling out in clumps and your hair looks much thinner and limper than it did before. Some women may think that they are losing all their hair because of how quickly hair is being shed. You should not experience bald spots, but you may notice a significant decrease in the volume of your hair.
It takes time for postpartum hair loss to regulate, but it will eventually go back to normal once hormone levels have been balanced within the body. For most women, hair requires around 6 to 12 months to fall back into its normal growth and shedding cycle. It may not look as thick and healthy as it did during pregnancy, but it certainly will stop shedding en masse.
It’s nearly impossible to prevent some form of postpartum hair loss because the hormone imbalances and hair life cycles are just a normal part of pregnancy. However, the amount of hair you will lose and the length of time it takes to regulate hair growth and loss can vary wildly between individuals.
How to manage postpartum hair loss
Although postpartum hair loss rights itself eventually, managing thinning and excessively shedding hair can be difficult for some women. Thankfully, it may be possible to speed up the process by filling your body with hair-healthy vitamins and nutrients.
Make sure to get lots of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, vitamin B12 and vitamin E in your diet, since these are important for healthy hair growth. You can also take nutrient-rich supplements designed to help with stable hair growth to slow hair loss and give your body the tools it needs to keep hair life cycles in check.
Additionally, the appearance of thinning hair can be hard on some women and damage their self-esteem, particularly in the delicate months following childbirth. There are a number of ways you can try to hide thinning hair.
- Use volumizing shampoo: To manage the look of flat, thin hair, use volumizing shampoos designed for fine or thin hair. These add body to the hair roots, so your locks don’t look so lifeless.
- Get a cut: If you have long hair, thinning will likely be more noticeable as you lose volume and body. Cutting your hair and trying out a new style can help camouflage the look of thin hair. Shorten your ‘do to a bob, add bangs, increase the layers framing your face or crop hair to flatter your face shape and draw attention to your eyes and smile.
- Change your part: Switching the way your hair is parted can help hide thinning sections of hair and also add more body in a new way, so your hair doesn’t seem so flat.
- Avoid excessive pulling: Because hair is more than ready to fall out after childbirth, pulling on the hair can force hair to fall out even faster. Avoid wearing tight hairstyles like braids or ponytails and be gentle when combing hair after a shower.
- Add accessories: Donning a bandana, hat, scarf or other hair accessory can help mask the appearance of thinning hair.
Managing excessive hair loss can be challenging, especially during such a stressful time as immediately after having a baby. But, remember that the hair loss is temporary and that your hair will grow back in just a few months.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan