Pregnancy is a miraculous event in a woman’s life. It is the only time you will experience two hearts beating inside your body, and this will bond you forever with the young life budding within you. However, it is also quite challenging on a biological level, as your organism is flooded by hormones that make it undergo significant changes. Many have probably told you that you are glowing because of the radiating skin and your luxurious hair that has developed during these nine months. However, you’ve also probably been frightened by tales of young mothers who were forced into short haircuts because of postpartum hair loss. Don’t let this throw a wet blanket on your joy. While hair loss can happen after pregnancy, this is a normal process. Moreover, we will tell you what you need to know to prevent it.
Pregnancy & hormonal changes
During pregnancy, women experience a massive increase in female hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These make the uterus become hospitable for the growing baby and help the mother prepare for childbirth and breastfeeding by loosening her ligaments, stimulating the development of her milk ducts, and engorging her breasts.
However, these female hormones also have some neat side effects to compensate for all that morning sickness. They give your skin that special glow that all your girlfriends envy and make your hair grow faster, stronger, and thicker than ever. In some cases, they can even change its texture and appearance, making it frizzier, flatter or simply more unruly.
How do hormonal pregnancy changes affect your hair?
In a nutshell, the following can be a regular occurrence in pregnancy where it comes to your hair:
If you have ever considered letting your hair grow long, this is the perfect time, as it will likely never match this growth speed.
If you’re starting to feel like the star of a shampoo commercial, there is a good reason for that. Your hair is now not only growing faster but also thicker, denser, and stronger.
Changes in texture
Love it or hate it, you may have to visit the hair salon more often during these months, as your straight hair may suddenly become frizzier, your soft locks may turn coarse, etc.
Changes in hair characteristics
New shampoos may be in order, as the previous hair dryness or oiliness may suddenly change as your pregnancy progresses.
Sadly, nothing lasts forever – just like Cinderella at midnight, your beautiful new locks will likely soon go back to the way they were pre-pregnancy through the wicked magic of postpartum hair loss.
What are the causes of postpartum hair loss?
Natural decrease in female hormones
After delivering your bundle of joy, your body will soon no longer have use for the significant additional quantities of estrogen and progesterone produced to nurture your baby in the womb. So they will decline over time, and their effects on your body will subside with them. This also goes for the amazing growth speed, thickness, and strength of your hair. This is when you can start expecting to experience hair loss after pregnancy.
2. The stress of new motherhood
While being able to hold your tiny human is probably the best feeling in the world, nobody can deny that being a new mom is scary and exhausting. During that long first year, sleep can become a distant memory, the learning curve on keeping a baby alive is steep and anxieties can soar high. It is well known that stress goes hand in hand with hair loss, or in your case, with postpartum hair loss.
3. Not getting enough vitamins and nutrients
Running around all day heating bottles, blending apples, and cleaning up messes can leave little time for you to grab a quick bite, let alone put a lot of planning into what it contains. You may also be so anxious to get rid of the baby weight that you get on an extreme diet, causing you to lose weight too fast. Or maybe it’s just the sheer exhaustion that’s doing that to you. Whatever the reason, if you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients, such as Vitamin C, Vitamins B3 and B12, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, or protein, you may be experiencing more severe post-pregnancy hair loss than necessary. The same can happen if you lose too much weight too fast: your locks may become brittle and start falling off at an accelerated rate.
Is hair loss after pregnancy normal?
Experiencing postpartum hair loss is absolutely normal and it happens to most new mothers around the world. It is not the result of breastfeeding and in most cases, it is not a sign of any illness or deficiency in your body.
However, if your hair loss after pregnancy is very sudden or very severe, if it leaves round bald patches, if you notice a rash or scaly formations on your scalp, or if you feel it burning, itching, or just very tender, it is best to call your GP. This is because certain infections or skin conditions (ringworm, psoriasis, eczema, alopecia areata, etc.) can sometimes be mistaken for postpartum hair loss if they occur during this time.
How long does hair loss after pregnancy last?
No need to worry, momma, just like those sleepless nights, hair loss after pregnancy does not last forever. You’re also not going to need to wear a wig to take your toddler to daycare. In most cases, the issue resolves itself in about six months after birth, once all the additional hair grown during pregnancy has fallen out. In some cases, postpartum hair loss can take up to a year, but after that, you should be good as new.
If more than a year has passed since giving birth and you’re still pulling out serious strands from your comb or the bathtub drain, you may want to see a dermatologist. This will help you rule out any other causes for this phenomenon other than postpartum hair loss.
Is there a way to prevent postpartum hair loss?
While there is no way to fully prevent all pregnancy hair loss, because it’s a natural result of your hormones going back to normal, here are some things you can do to make your locks healthier, stronger and diminish the rate at which they fall out:
Postpartum hair loss treatments
1. Live a healthy lifestyle
Make sure you are eating balanced meals each day and favour foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein (Vitamins A, E, B, Iron, Zinc, etc.). These are usually found in fruit, leafy greens, nuts, seafood, and meat. You can also try taking supplements, but know that they are only efficient if you have an active nutritional deficiency, and overdosing on some of these substances (e.g. Vitamin A and E) can have the opposite effect, worsening your postpartum hair loss.
Getting enough rest and avoiding stress can seem like a dream to a new mom, but whenever possible, allow friends and family to help out with chores and childcare and just put your feet up – your hair will thank you!
2. Use special shampoos that prevent hair loss
There are shampoos specifically designed to stimulate hair growth and to prevent your locks from falling out. Caffeine, for example, will prove itself to be a lifeline for your hair just as much as it is for you in general. It reinvigorates your follicles, helping them produce stronger, healthier strands at a faster rate. Aloe vera and argan oil also have very beneficial effects, as they keep your scalp and hair well hydrated and prevent brittleness and easy breaking.
3. Avoid styling
This tip may seem redundant to a busy and exhausted new mom, who barely has the time for the daily messy bun. However, not many women know that it is not only heat-based products, such as electric hair straighteners or hot rollers that can seriously damage your locks, making them fall out faster. It is true that they can cause traction alopecia, a condition where your hair starts to thin due to repeated pulling and heat exposure. However, so can certain very common hairstyles, such as ponytails or pigtails, if they are tied too tightly and worn every day.
4. Hair growth medication
Medication that promotes hair growth, such as Minoxidil (Rogaine) is believed to be safe to use even if you are still breastfeeding if applied topically. However, it would probably be a good idea to discuss this with your doctor first and not make any attempt to self-medicate during this delicate time of your life. A dermatologist should also be able to recommend other treatments as well, based on the specific characteristics of your scalp and hair, so do not hesitate to schedule an appointment.
5. Beware of adorable tiny hands!
Baby fingers are among the cutest things in the world. But as every new mom knows, they can also bring a world of hurt when they manage to grab a fistful of your locks. And they are naturally grabby. The last thing your hair needs right now is more help in coming off. So you may want to consider wearing a hairnet, cap or scarf on your head around the house until your little one grows out of this painful phase. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last (that) long.