Having a baby comes with some hairy side effects—some of which are more welcome than others. “Typically, 85-95 percent of a woman’s hair is in the growth (anagen) phase while 5-15 percent is in the resting (telogen) phase,” says Robert Dorin, DO, a celebrity hair care expert and restoration specialist practicing in the northeast U.S. During pregnancy, however, Dorin says that heightened levels of estrogen and progesterone cause an increase in the percentage of hairs in the growth phase. The result? Enviably thicker locks to complement your budding bump.
After your baby is born, the unusually high number of anagen hairs abruptly shifts to an unfortunately high number of telogen hairs, Dorin explains. “This ultimately ends in shedding before the hair follicle begins to generate a new hair shaft.” In other words: Sparser strands are to be expected.
Wait it out
“Postpartum hair loss is a normal physiologic occurrence,” assures Dorin, who notes there are no documented ways to effectively treat it. “It seems to be noticeable in about 50-60 percent of women and usually becomes evident three to six months after giving birth.” By baby’s first birthday, your tresses should return to their normal volume.
Eat to treat
The best way to lessen the impact of the shedding period is to be as healthy as possible—both during and after pregnancy —by consuming a well-balanced diet. “Eat the rainbow!” encourages Dorin. Piling your plate with an array of fruits and vegetables provides a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, he says, which helps your body support your developing child and ensures your hair recovers to its baseline. Taking daily prenatal and postnatal vitamins will help, too.
Don’t be fooled by the myth that breastfeeding contributes to hair loss. “This is just not true,” says Dorin. In fact, nursing may actually lessen the impact of the rapid hormonal changes that cause shedding. If your hair hasn’t returned to normal within 12 months of delivery, see your physician. Dorin notes ongoing hair loss could be a sign of hypothyroidism, thyroiditis, iron-deficiency anemia or other postpartum ailments.