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Woman dealing with postpartum hair loss

How to Get Through Postpartum Hair Loss

why it happens and how to manage it

Throughout pregnancy, your body went through many changes. Your sense of smell intensified, your hormones were all over the place and you probably earned a few stripes (own those, girl!). You also probably had thicker hair than you might have ever had in your life. For those of you with thinner hair, it was a blessing; to those of you with an already hefty mane, it was a curse. And now, you’ve had the baby and that postpartum hair loss is hitting hard.

Sure, you’re used to shedding, but not this much. What’s that about?

We talked to two OB/GYNs—Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a physician at Baylor University Medical Center and the founder of Her Viewpoint, as well as Dr. Christi Kidd at Baylor Scott & White McKinney—about how to handle this slightly strange change. (And to cover the concern we already know is at the top of your mind: No, you can’t go bald from postpartum hair loss.)

How much hair should new moms expect to lose after giving birth?

Kidd says you can expect to lose up to 30% more hair postpartum than during other times. “It’s more noticeable after pregnancy because of the decrease in hair loss during pregnancy,” she notes.

In fact, the process has its own name: telogen effluvium (say that five times fast). It can happen after birth, during stressful periods and with significant weight loss.

How long should the hair loss last?

Both Shepherd and Kidd say to expect it to become noticeable about two to three months postpartum. “[It] may continue for several months; most women will notice a return to normal around 8–12 months,” says Kidd.

But the duration of hair loss could be shorter. Shepherd says it could be as quick as six weeks. “The time of onset and duration of postpartum hair loss is variable,” she notes. “This is because there is a decrease in the percentage of anagen hairs during the postpartum period. Regrowth is seen typically in four to six months.”

But why does this hair loss happen? 

Shepherd credits the many endocrine and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and postpartum. “This [can be] different for each woman depending on many factors, including hormone levels, possible conditions such as thyroid, diabetes and stress.”

It’s actually typical for many women to notice an improvement in their hair during pregnancy. “All hair goes through cycles of growing, resting and shedding,” Kidd notes. “During pregnancy, the hair cycle remains in the resting phase longer, and the shedding does not happen at the same rate. You may still lose hair during pregnancy, but it’s not generally significant.”

So how can you manage it?

Kidd and Shepherd both suggest making sure your diet includes certain nutrients. Shepherd lists vitamin B complex, biotin (orally and appropriately, she warns), vitamin C, vitamin E (as long as the amount does not exceed the recommended dose) and zinc (again, if used orally and appropriately).

She also suggests eating a lot of fruits and vegetables that contain flavonoids and antioxidants; these can provide protection for the hair follicles and encourage new hair growth.

Kidd recommends continuing your prenatal vitamins and getting good amounts of iron and protein as well.

Then there are ways to treat your hair outside of your diet. For example, Shepherd says to use shampoos and conditioners that contain biotin and silica. She also recommends avoiding braids, pigtails, cornrows, hair weaves and tight hair rollers that can pull and stress the hair. (Lay off strong chemicals and repeated heat too.)

But overall, Kidd says the best solution is patience and time. “If you feel that the hair loss is significant or notice changes (abnormal patterns), you can discuss it further with your OB/GYN or see a dermatologist.”

And you can’t really do anything to make it worse.  “Hair loss during the postpartum period is normal and will generally run its course,” Kidd says. “Like all things postpartum, you have to accept what you can change and what you can’t. Be patient with your body as it recovers … Remember, your body just did an amazing thing!”

Image courtesy of iStock.