Picture this: you've finally got a nap schedule down and actually have time and a little energy for a hairstyle other than a messy bun. You jump in the oh-so-needed glorious shower but notice the drain is clogged with hair, and you're losing clumps of hair as you comb your conditioner through.
Sound familiar? You aren't going bald, and you definitely aren't alone. So many women experience postpartum hair loss—also called postpartum alopecia or postpartum telogen effluvium. There's no way to completely prevent postpartum hair loss, but there are things you can do to keep your hair healthy and minimize the fallout.
The good news is, yes, your hair will grow back, but in the meantime, here are the details on why postpartum hair loss happens and what you can do to help.
@drjolenebrighten Did you lose hair postpartum? What helped you grow it back? #hairloss #hairlossremedy #postpartum #postpartumbody #postpartumhairloss #hormoneimbalance #pcos #pcoshairloss #thyroidproblems #thyroidhairloss ♬ Sunroof – Nicky Youre & dazy
What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?
All those lovely hormones that help you grow and nourish your baby during pregnancy are the same hormones that can cause postpartum hair loss. As your hormones change and shift in the months following pregnancy, your whole body—including your scalp—can undergo major changes.
Hair Growth Cycle Stages
The three phases of hair growth are:
- Anagen phase: the period of active hair growth
- Catagen phase: the period when the growth slows down and stops (also the shortest)
- Telogen phase: the resting phase, which ends with hair shedding
A normal healthy hair cycle has 90 to 95 percent of the hair in the anagen phase at any given time, while the remainder is in the telogen phase. At the end of the telogen phase (around 3 months), you lose about 100 to 150 hairs each day.
Hair cycles are especially sensitive to changes in hormones, nutrients, drugs, and stressors. So it's the increases in hormones—especially estrogen levels—that changes your hair cycle during pregnancy. You can thank a longer period in the anagen (growth) phase for that gorgeous, thick pregnancy hair.
But what happens after your baby is born? Hormones start to shift back to pre-pregnancy levels, and so does your hair cycle. As the hair cycle resumes and reaches the telogen stage, you begin shedding all that extra hair you hung onto during pregnancy. The result? You feel like half the hair on your head is falling out.
Luckily, the hair will regrow. The bad news is that it takes time to grow out, so you may have tiny baby hairs flying around your hairline that stick out in a thousand different ways. Frustrating? Yes. But it's also temporary.
When Does Postpartum Hair Loss Start?
Most women notice postpartum hair loss starting around month three or four, but it can happen anytime between two and six months after delivery. Some women will notice it earlier or later, and others may not experience it all.
How Much Hair Loss is Normal for Women
It can feel like you're losing a lot of hair, but the amount isn't necessarily abnormal. So how much hair loss is normal? Most women will especially notice it around the hairline, but there shouldn't be any bald spots or large amounts of hair missing from other parts of the head. If you do see any excessive hair shedding, I encourage you to talk with your doctor or obstetrician to rule out any other potential causes.
How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?
Here's the good news: just like the many phases your baby will go through as they grow, this too shall pass. Generally, postpartum hair loss in women lasts no more than 6 to 24 weeks after it begins. I know this can feel like an eternity, but I promise it will eventually stop, and the hair will start to regrow.
This estimate assumes that other areas of health are balanced and your body receives all the proper nutrients it needs to rebuild. Again if you notice you continue to lose hair longer than expected, it's time for some blood work to check iron and other nutrients, thyroid issues, or other hormones that could be out of balance.
Natural Tips to Manage Postpartum Hair Loss
Before I jump into some natural ways you can manage postpartum hair loss, let's take a minute to remember that you've just gone through a significant physical and emotional event. You've grown and delivered a whole human, and now your body is replenishing while you’re adjusting to your new normal. Please be gentle with yourself. I know first-hand how it can feel to look in the mirror and feel frustrated with the postpartum hair and body changes, but I urge you to practice self-compassion.
Here are my suggestions for natural tips to help with postpartum hair loss in women. Following these can help you get your hair back on track even faster and help maintain the hair you have now.
@drjolenebrighten Ask how can I support you before you ask if she’s bounced back. #motherhood #postpartum #drjolenebrighten #tiktokpartner #learnontiktok #newmom ♬ original sound – Dr. Jolene Brighten
Prenatal Vitamins for Hair Growth
The importance of nutrition doesn't disappear after you give birth. I tell my patients to continue taking a prenatal vitamin for at least six months postpartum.
Any time the body goes through a significant physical and emotional change like pregnancy or childbirth, it needs extra support. As you might expect, pregnancy depletes you, so those essential micronutrients are must-haves for nourishing your body and regaining balance. Plus, you need nutrients for hair growth!
Sometimes people use prenatal vitamins for hair growth because they associate pregnancy hair with prenatal vitamins. While this isn't exactly true, some specific nutrients you need to support healthy hair should also be in your prenatal vitamin.
The B vitamins, including biotin (often touted as a treatment for hair loss), play important roles in hair growth. B vitamins are essential for healthy energy production and metabolism of fats and proteins to keep our cells healthy and functioning optimally.
Zinc is an essential mineral for tissue repair, making proteins and DNA, and regulating hormones (all important for hair growth). Zinc also acts as an antioxidant and helps protect against free radical damage. People with zinc deficiencies experience hair loss that regrows with zinc supplementation.
Iron deficiency is linked to hair loss, so hair loss is usually a big red flag to check for low ferritin and iron stores. Iron helps transport oxygen to cells for growth and repair for all cells, including those for hair.
Vitamin C is needed to form collagen, which helps form the structure of hair and helps your body absorb iron. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that can help protect hair and scalp cells from damage.
Switch Up Your Hair Care Routine
Finding the time to do your hair can feel like a small win when you don't have much time for yourself. But postpartum hair needs a little extra TLC, which may mean changing your hair care routine. When you get out of the shower, make sure you're gentle with your wet hair, as wet strands are more prone to breakage.
If you have a chance to blow dry your hair, keep it off the piping hot setting or try to air dry for a bit and use the cool setting to finish the drying process. And try to keep those hot tools to a minimum. Basically, you want to do all you can to minimize the damage.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Your prenatal vitamin is an excellent insurance policy, but nutrition from food remains the most important way to get all your nutrients. Nutrient deficiencies contribute to hair loss even without the stress of postpartum life and hormones.
If you aren't getting enough, the body is smart and will prioritize essential functions like keeping your heart beating and your brain functioning. Hair growth is low on the priority list compared to these. Plus, think about all the extra nutrients you need for breastfeeding and healing from childbirth.
Aside from essential vitamins and minerals, macronutrients are important too. Carbohydrates from whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies will give you energy. Protein is foundational for repair and hair growth. Essential fatty acids are also needed for healthy hair and skin (plus the other gazillion benefits they offer).
If finding time to make food is overwhelming (and trust me, I get it), take friends up on offering to help or ask your partner to help. Meal delivery services can help some families who just don't have time to meal plan. You can also spend a little time on the weekend chopping up fruits and veggies and grilling some chicken or fish to make it easier to grab during the busy week.
Okay, I know telling a new mom to reduce stress can feel impossible. There's only so much space for so-called self-care and stress reduction amidst the chaos of navigating the newborn stage. But it's absolutely essential for your health and well-being.
I'm not going to tell you to take the day and get a massage or a facial—if you can fit that in, fantastic! But for many people, this type of self-care may not be realistic financially or something you can carve out time to do.
Taking time when the baby is napping, even if that means curling up and getting cozy on the couch or trying gentle movement like yoga or breathing, can go a long way. And if you have a partner, ask for help at the end of the day so you can rest and recharge while they take over baby duty.
Change Your Hairstyle
Along the same lines as the above advice about being gentle with your hair, you may want to change your hairstyle. Hairstyles that pull at your hair or use ties that yank and pull can break weakened hair.
Consider trying a different hairstyle for a while (low buns, half-updos, loose braids/ponytails, etc.) or using hair accessories that are kinder to your strands. This is also often the time that some women chop their hair to make things easier to manage. Whatever feels good and works for you is the way to go.
Sleep With a Satin Pillowcase
A silk or satin pillowcase also supports hair health (and skin). Sleeping on a regular cotton pillowcase can cause friction and breakage, but the smooth surface of satin reduces the tugging and pulling throughout the night. The same goes for satin hair bonnets that protect your hair while sleeping.
If you have dry hair—or, if your hair seems more dry than usual after baby—you may experience breakage on top of the hair loss that happens normally due to hormone shifts.
Consider hair oils and hair masks specifically designed to moisturize your hair. You can even slather your hair with coconut oil from your pantry and let it sit for 30 minutes up to several hours before you wash. Be careful though, it can make your shower floor slippery!
Final Thoughts on Postpartum Hair Loss
To sum it up, postpartum hair loss is not necessarily preventable. Still, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects.
Taking vitamins for postpartum hair loss, including a prenatal and B-complex vitamin, may help with hair growth. A diet filled with nutrient-dense foods will give you the energy you need as a new mom. Reducing stress, changing your hairstyle, and sleeping on a satin pillow help too.
You got this, mama. The postpartum period is a journey, but in time, you will feel like yourself again.
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