Causes of Postpartum Hair Loss and What to Do

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Why You Shouldn't Freak Out When Your Hair Falls Out

Woman staring at hair in a brush
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One of the little talked about postpartum symptoms is postpartum hair loss, sometimes called “postpartum shedding.” I’ll never forget standing in my shower after my first baby and pulling out what felt like a handful of hair. I immediately called my best friend and asked her if I was going bald! She laughed and told me that the same thing happened to her after she had a baby.

Causes

While breastfeeding is often blamed for hair loss, there is no evidence to show that breastfeeding causes or increases hair loss in the postpartum period. Unfortunately, this is a symptom that almost all moms will experience. While this condition can become extreme (called Postpartum Alopecia) some hair loss is normal and a natural part of postpartum. Most moms will experience this symptom somewhere around three months postpartum. It can last a few weeks or a few months, depending on how long your hair cycles last. Often moms forget that they are still considered postpartum by this point and don’t think to relate childbirth to this symptom.

You may have noticed during your pregnancy that your hair looked great – fuller and more vibrant than at other times. One of the reasons is that you are likely taking prenatal vitamins, which help our hair look its best. The other reason is that when you are pregnant your hair goes into a dormant cycle and you lose less hair. This is called the telogen phase. Eventually, your hair will go into the next phase (telogen effluvium) and fall out. Therefore, when you have the baby you start losing all of the hair that you didn’t lose when you were pregnant. The hair loss and regrowth will probably be most apparent in the area above your forehead. If you gained a lot of extra hair when you were pregnant, this can look quite dramatic.

How to Handle Postpartum Shedding

What do you do about it? First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is normal. Next, go to the store and invest in a good static mop. You’ll find it easier to clean up that extra hair off of the bathroom floor if you have a good tool. While you are there, be sure to pick up some cute headbands and hair clips. If you notice significant shedding in one area, try parting your hair in a different place. A zig-zag part can hide a multitude of sins. You may ask your hair stylist to add some highlights or lowlights to add some depth to thinning hair. Also remember to ask your practitioner about continuing your prenatal vitamins, especially if you are breastfeeding.

When your hair starts growing back in

Consider asking your stylist to cut some layers into your hair. This makes it less obvious that you are experiencing hair regrowth. If you notice a new set of “bangs,” grab those headbands and hair clips to keep the smaller hairs out of your eyes at the front of your head. You may take this as a time to add bangs if you didn’t already have them. A new haircut may help if you were feeling a bit frumpy postpartum, anyway! If you find that you have small hairs sticking up all over your head as it regrows, try flat ironing those pieces down. A little bit of styling cream or gel may help with that, too.

When to talk to your practitioner

Usually, by the time your hair begins to thin, you have already had your postpartum check up with your doctor or midwife. If your shedding becomes extreme or you are losing large patches of hair, call your practitioner and mention it. Occasionally hair loss is the sign of other postpartum issues, like hypothyroidism. You want to be sure to rule those out. If you are still losing hair around your baby’s first birthday, call your practitioner. Typical hair loss does not usually continue that long into the postpartum period.

Sources

Gjerdingen, D. K., Froberg, D. G., Chaloner, K. M., & McGovern, P. M. (1993). Changes in women's physical health during the first postpartum year. Archives of Family Medicine, 2(3), 277.

Lynfield, Y. L. (1960). Effect of Pregnancy on the Human Hair Cycle1. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 35(6), 323-327.

Piérard-Franchimont, C., & Piérard, G. E. (2001). Teloptosis, a turning point in hair shedding biorhythms. Dermatology, 203(2), 115-117.

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