Thicker, shinier hair is one of the best perks of pregnancy. However, just like pregnancy itself, the hair improvements seen during pregnancy are temporary (darn!). In fact, many new mothers notice that their hair becomes thinner and sheds more than usual following the birth of their child.
While postpartum hair loss is common and perfectly normal, it can certainly be an alarming surprise. In this article, we’re going to clear up some of the most common questions and concerns about postpartum hair loss. Here’s what you need to know.
Why does postpartum hair loss happen?
Normally, between 85 to 95 percent of the hair on your head is actively growing, while the remainder is in a “resting” stage. Every two to three months, the hairs in the resting phase fall out and are replaced by new hair growth. The average woman loses about 100 hairs a day, which is not enough to be noticeable.
When a woman is pregnant, rising hormone levels (namely, oestrogen) cause more of their hair to stay in the growth phase, leading to fewer hairs falling out each day. This accounts for the fuller hair many women experience during pregnancy.
After giving birth, the stress of pregnancy combined with falling oestrogen levels cause many hair follicles to enter the resting stage (all at once!). Since the resting phase is followed by hair shedding (and then regrowth), new mothers often experience more hair loss than normal in the months following childbirth. This process, which affects between 40-50 percent of women in the months following childbirth, is known as telogen effluvium—although you might simply know it as “clogged shower drains.”
Is postpartum hair loss permanent?
If you’re pregnant or currently experiencing postpartum hair loss, take heart—it’s not permanent. Postpartum hair loss usually begins about three months after childbirth. While the increased shedding can last as long as 18 months, most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle by their child’s first birthday or sooner.
Is postpartum hair loss related to breastfeeding?
Because postpartum hair loss tends to occur during the same time that many new moms are breastfeeding, people have developed the false belief that breastfeeding causes hair loss. Thankfully, correlation is not causation. Experts say that breastfeeding has no proven effect on whether or not a woman will have increased hair loss following birth.
Is postpartum hair loss preventable?
While postpartum hair loss is not completely preventable, you can reduce postpartum hair loss by maintaining a healthy body and mind during and after pregnancy. Here are our top tips for reducing hair fall post-pregnancy:
1. Eat a nutrient-rich diet
Like anything that grows, your hair needs the right nutrients to thrive—and that starts with what you eat. Focus on eating real, whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, and seeds.
2. Manage your stress
Since the physical and mental stress of pregnancy can contribute to postpartum hair loss, it’s in your (and your hair’s) best interest to find healthy ways to manage your stress. You could partake in gentle exercise (approved by your doctor, of course), practice deep breathing or meditation, or take a nice, warm bath with essential oils. Whatever relaxes your mind and soothes your nerves, do that!
3. Take vitamin supplements
As much as we’d like to be able to get all of the nutrients we need from diet alone, that’s not always possible. Taking a carefully-balanced hair growth vitamin is a great way to fill in nutritional gaps, ensuring that your locks have everything they need to look and function their best.
As with adding anything new to your pregnancy or postpartum routine, it’s always recommended to check in with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
4. Be extra gentle with your hair
During pregnancy and postpartum, be extra gentle with your hair. Wash it only when necessary, use scrunchies to tie your hair up (instead of rubber bands or hair ties), use a wide-tooth comb to minimise tangling, avoid pulling your hair into tight ponytails, and minimise the use of heat tools. You can also improve the health of your hair (and body!) by switching to using natural hair care products.
The bottom line
If you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, don’t panic! It’s a normal, albeit frustrating side effect of bringing a new life into this world. For some women, hair loss is so mild they don’t even notice it, while for others, the loss can be quite significant. Either way, take heart in knowing that it’s only temporary. To minimise your postpartum hair loss, do your best to apply as many of the tips in this article as possible and try to have patience—your beautiful hair will be back in no time.