Plenty of new moms have experienced that moment in the shower (the warm, relaxing place where you’re supposed to find solitude during the newborn haze) when it begins: A few strands here, a few strands there; you start to realize it’s not your mind playing tricks on you … yep, you’re losing a lot of hair.
I had that moment in the shower, and then again when using a hairbrush, and again when I woke up to find hair all over my pillow and sheets. It just kept falling out and was frightening to witness not knowing when, or if, it would stop. Would it grow back? Would my new hair be the same? There was a lot I didn’t know about hair shedding after baby, mainly to anticipate it in the first place because it’s simply part of the postpartum period (though it’s an unfortunate side effect, there’s no argument there).
To help make sense of postpartum hair loss, we tapped Aimee Paik, MD, SVP of Dermatology at Hims & Hers on what to expect and options for treatment.
Why does it happen?
Postpartum hair loss (or telogen effluvium) is physiologic, meaning it’s normal and all women will experience it after delivering a baby due to fluctuating hormone levels. Hair follicles have a natural growth cycle consisting of an active growth phase (anagen), a transitional phase (catagen), a resting phase (telogen), and then a phase where the hair falls out (exogen)—this then repeats itself. During pregnancy, however, hair follicles are kept in an abnormally prolonged growing phase, which is why hair may feel or appear thicker during pregnancy.
How long does it last?
Typically, about two to four months postpartum, hair reverts back to its normal hair growth cycles that were experienced pre-pregnancy. This is usually the time when hair shedding is the most noticeable, as all the hair that was kept in the prolonged growth phase during pregnancy falls out.
It’s a common misconception that postpartum hair loss happens in specific spots or around the hairline simply because it’s more noticeable there. In actuality, new mothers experience shedding throughout the entire scalp.
Typically, postpartum hair loss will resolve within six weeks to six months. If your hair loss is severe or persists more than one year, I’d consider treatment and would recommend seeking advice from a dermatologist or other healthcare professional.
Can it be prevented?
There is nothing that can be done to prevent postpartum hair loss, as it’s a normal physiological response to changing estrogen levels and other pregnancy hormones. But hair loss can also be caused by certain vitamin deficiencies (namely iron and vitamin D) or thyroid abnormalities, which can commonly be triggered by pregnancy. I would recommend taking a prenatal vitamin regularly and following up with your doctor if you notice prolonged dry, brittle or thinning hair on your scalp and body, as these are symptoms of thyroid disease. When left untreated, thyroid conditions can cause hair loss.
What are the treatment options?
The treatments that could help with postpartum hair loss and regrowth include over-the-counter products like Minoxidil and Biotin gummies/vitamins. Postpartum hair loss can sometimes unmask a predisposition to female pattern hair loss (a genetic form of hair loss) making it more evident. In the event of long-standing hair loss, prescription hair loss treatment with oral spironolactone may be helpful.
In the meantime, practicing general hair care (gentle brushing, less styling with heat, etc.) and eating a balanced diet will help strengthen your remaining mane. Deficiencies in nutrients can negatively affect healthy hair, so aim to consume foods high in protein, biotin, vitamins A, C and D, iron and zinc. For the first few months at home with your baby (or years, no judgment) you’ll likely be rockin’ a mom bun, but you can also try switching up your hairstyle to create the appearance of thicker hair if that’s not your style. (Bonus if it’s shorter, as we know babies have firm grips.) And try to remember that this too shall pass, mom, so keep your head up—no matter what’s on top!
By Lauren Lisle