You’re taking a shower and look down to see clumps of hair swirling toward the drain. You’re brushing your hair and notice the brush filling with strands of your hair with each stroke. Yep…we’re talking about postpartum hair loss. We ladies are prepared to face a lot of things after giving birth, but one thing that’s usually unexpected is postpartum hair loss. (Sorry to all the pregnant mamas who are finding this out for the first time!) Now, different women experience this to different degrees. Yours might be barely noticeable, or you might feel like you’re going to turn into Mr. Clean!! Some hair loss is normal and expected. But sometimes women experience it to an extreme.
Cause of hair loss
Let’s start with a little science lesson (I promise it’s interesting!) Hair has two phases, the anagen phase and the telogen phase. 85-95% of our hair is in the anagen phase, also called the growth phase, at any given time. The rest of our hair is in the telogen phase, which means it’s pretty much at rest until it’s pushed out by a new strand of hair growth in the follicle below. This rest stage lasts several months. During pregnancy, an even higher percentage of hair than usual is in the anagen phase. So, you are not shedding as many hairs as you normally would be. This results in that thick, lush head of pregnancy hair that all your non-pregnant friends are so envious of.
Sadly that full head of hair doesn’t last. Around 3 months postpartum, the hairs that your head had “held on”to during pregnancy begin to shed. Since your head had held on to a lot more hair than usual before, this hair loss can seem extreme. However, it’s just your hair returning to its previous state. It sucks, but the good news is that it will usually go back to normal by 6-12 months postpartum.
One thing that does NOT cause hair loss: breastfeeding! This is a common myth, but breastfeeding has been shown to have nothing to do with postpartum shedding.
When to contact a doctor
If your hair loss seems very extreme, or if it continues past 12 months postpartum, contact your doctor. Sometimes a hormonal imbalance can cause greater than normal hair loss. Two possible causes of extreme hair loss are hypothyroidism and iron deficiency anemia. Both are easy to treat, but require the help of a medical professional!
What can you do to help?
In the meantime, to help your head look “less bald” (for lack of a better word!) there are some tips and tricks you may want to try. Try using volumizing shampoo and conditioner, or mousse or other products that bulk up your hair. Or treat yourself to a new haircut or hairstyle that draws attention away from your hair loss. Highlights or lowlights are great for this (and as an added plus you get some much deserved pampering and will feel amazing with your new hairdo or color!) For a quick fix, pop on a headband. And last but not least, don’t forget to continue to take those prenatal vitamins.
So next time you find yourself wondering if you should start shopping for hairpieces, remember this will pass! It’s all part of the “fun” body changes we go through after birth. Check out my article on 5 Things I’ve Learned in 2 Years of Being a Mom for more.