Postpartum Hair Loss & Solutions

Any new mother will tell you that giving birth to her child is one of the most life-changing, happiest moments of her life.  The feeling is indescribable when holding and laying eyes on your baby for the very first time.

While giving birth is indeed a wonderful experience, the hormonal changes that take place in a new mother’s body both during pregnancy and after the delivery don’t always follow suit.  It will take time and effort to get back to looking and feeling normal again.

One of the common changes that no one may have told you about after the baby arrives is the thinning or excessive loss of your hair.

Before we proceed, remember that:

  • It’s normal
  • It’s hormonal
  • It’s temporary

Postpartum Hair Thinning – It’s a Thing

It is certainly unsettling to brush through a once full and healthy head of hair to find noticeable overall thinning or even bald patches on the scalp.  It can be frightening to suddenly discover that your hair has drastically changed and may also be falling out in clumps.

Some common concerns and questions are:

  • Why is this happening?
  • Will the hair grow back?
  • How long does it take?
  • Is there anything that speeds up the process?

An expectant mother is typically advised by her doctor to take prenatal vitamins.  This is to make sure both mom and baby are getting all the vitamins and nutrients needed for maximum growth and development of the fetus and to keep both mother and child healthy throughout the gestation period.

You may even notice that your hair has never looked better than while you were pregnant.

However, once the baby arrives and hormone levels plummet, hair thinning and loss is quite normal.

Why is this Happening?

The reason an expectant mother’s hair looks so thick, shiny and beautiful during pregnancy is primarily due to the increase in estrogen hormone levels.  Estrogen is the female hormone that, during pregnancy, takes over some of these responsibilities:

  • Growth of the uterus and the health of the uterine lining
  • Increased blood circulation and flow (healthy glow)
  • Activate/regulate production of other key hormones throughout pregnancy

Because of this increase in estrogen activity, a pregnant woman may experience faster hair growth.  A healthy head of hair, especially ramping up in the 2nd trimester, is due to hair growing faster, but falling out less.

On average, the loss of approximately 100 individual strands of hair per day is normal.  Typically, about 90% of your hair is in some sort of growth stage, while about 10% is in a “resting” stage.  It’s at the end of the resting stage, typically every 2-3 months, that hair falls out and is replaced with new hair growth.

That figure goes down significantly during pregnancy, as most hairs on your head enter either a growing or static “resting” state.

Postpartum hair loss is caused by a drop in estrogen levels, which are elevated during pregnancy.  The scientific term for this condition is known as postpartum alopecia.

The postpartum stage can also trigger a condition known as telogen effluvium, or temporary hair loss.

Approximately 40% to 50% of women experience postpartum alopecia or telogen effluvium, which shows up as escalated hair loss, anywhere from 1-5 months after delivery.

After delivery, a large number of individual hairs on the scalp can be triggered to go into the “telogen phase,” the normal resting/shedding phase of the hair loss/growth cycle.  When there is more hair than usual entering the shedding phase, it takes the hair follicles time to catch up and replace the lost hair.  This results in the increased loss or thinning of the hair because there is an imbalance between the amount of hair falling out and the rate at which it can be replaced.

Will My Hair Grow Back?

After the stress placed on the body after delivering a baby, it can cause the hair follicles to enter a dormant phase and then approximately 3-4 months after the stressful event, hair can shed or thin out rapidly.  Typically, hair begins to grow back within 6 months and a full head of pre-pregnancy hair is fully restored within a year.

How Long will this Take?

While this can be an unsettling development, remember that it is temporary and in almost all cases, starts to correct itself within a few months.

If it really bothers you and you need reassurance, discuss your concerns with your doctor, who may recommend you supplement your diet with vitamins to help combat any potential deficiencies.

Postpartum Recovery Process

After giving birth, hormone levels drop and you may experience postpartum depression, weight gain and to top it off, hair loss.  It’s because your body is trying to regulate your hormones that you may experience these and other less-than-pleasant symptoms of recovery.

It’s because of these hormonal shifts which are part of the healing process that you should not panic if you notice more hair in the shower drain, in the brush or feel like you are constantly picking loose strands off your clothes.  It’s a normal response.

Common Areas for Thinning Hair

The most common areas of noticeable hair loss, thinning or even bald patches can occur anywhere on the scalp, but is usually most noticed on the “part” of your hair (down the middle or off to one side).

The texture of your hair may also be noticeably different.  You may notice a frizzier texture or split ends seem to appear out of nowhere.  The hair may take on a rough texture when pre-pregnancy tresses were smooth.

Keep in mind that your hormones have just helped you create, carry and give birth to a little human being and your body has been operating on high hormone levels.  With a little time, some patience and extra care, you can be back to normal in no time.

Hair Thinning Solutions

By now, you can understand what is happening on the inside of your body but want to know how to get your physical appearance back in order as quickly as possible.  There are a lot of products on the market today, making claims of quick and significant hair growth, whether the claims have been scientifically-proven or not.

If you attempt to sift through all this content, it can leave you more confused due to information overload.

In most cases, the short answer is that postpartum hair loss generally corrects itself in time.  In the meantime, there are some things you can do to make this waiting period a little more bearable.

  • Try a new shorter hair style. This will eliminate split ends, refresh your look and save hair styling time as a new mother with new responsibilities.
  • Pretty it up. Take this opportunity to wear pretty headbands or barrettes to hide thinning hair in style.
  • Be kind to your hair. Keep hair styled loosely, not tied in tight ponytails or buns which put extra stress on already weakened hair.
  • Gentle scalp massages. Stimulate the scalp with a bit of luxurious pampering.  Use a fragrant botanical shampoo to stimulate the senses.
  • Hair Masque. Treat yourself once a week with a healthy, nourishing hair masque or leave-in conditioner.  There are volumizing products to thicken and give hair more body, in addition to restore or preserve smoothness and shine.

Focus gently on your health and recovery.  Remind yourself that you just had a baby and it will take time to get back on track.  Did you know it takes a woman’s body approximately 6 to 8 weeks for the hormones to settle down and regulate themselves after delivery?

Be kind to yourself by:

Hair and Scalp Health

According to the American Pregnancy Association, vitamins that will help restore your thick mane and maintain your health include:

As a precaution, be sure to touch base with your doctor before proceeding with your vitamin supplement plan.

Natural is the New Black

During the postpartum days, be mindful of products that may cause setbacks in the hair’s appearance.

Steer clear of products containing alcohol or harsh cleansing ingredients, which can be extremely drying and damaging to your hair.

Instead, choose all-natural products like clarifying shampoos, as well as soothing and hydrating products which repair and rejuvenate mind and scalp.

Choosing simple, natural ingredients and/or organic, botanical (plant-based) products are much healthier, better for your skin and can help to stimulate hair turnover and growth.  Be on the lookout for hair care products that contain good-for-scalp and follicle ingredients like vitamins, peppermint or even kelp.

You and Your Hair – On the Same Team

Working with instead of fighting against thinning hair can help you feel more confident while you are waiting for your hair to return to its original state.

By simply changing the way you part your hair or wearing natural waves instead of straightening can really help get you through the lean times.

Despite raging hormones, try to keep your sense of humor and perspective.

You’ve Got This!

While changes in hormonal levels can cause stress and worry about your thinning hair, remember that it is more than likely a temporary situation that will resolve itself given a few months to reset and re-grow.

Providing gentle self-care and nourishment can help you feel better and make the time go faster until things get back to normal.

Remember how you got here in the first place.  Resolve to focus more on enjoying your new baby instead of worrying too much about things that will ultimately turn themselves around without any additional stress or worry for you.

By
Kathy Watson

Over her 10-year career as a journalist, Kathy has worked as a columnist and reporter for both print magazines and digital publications. She started as a beat reporter for her college newspaper covering biosciences and general science. Kathy holds a B.A. in political science. Reviewed by Collective Laboratories' Medical Advisory Board