Given that you’ve just spent the last nine months growing an actual baby human – a moment please to celebrate how bloody impressive that is – it’s no wonder that your body will go through some changes once you’ve given birth. Whether it’s needing to use the bathroom more frequently (hey bladder control, where did you go?) to seriously sore nipples and yet more hormonal changes, there are plenty of things your body may (or may not) experience during the postpartum period. Yet, something that isn’t talked about quite so much as post-pregnancy mood swings or mastitis, is postpartum hair loss.
Thankfully, with celebrities including Perrie Edwards and Ashley Graham opening up about postpartum hair loss, the conversation around the health condition is growing. With that in mind, we set about finding out everything you need to know about postpartum hair loss, including what causes postpartum hair loss and how to treat it.
What causes postpartum hair loss?
“Pregnancy related hair loss occurs due to changes in our hormones through pregnancy and after birth,” explains Dr Abha Gulati, a consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics. “Our oestrogen levels increase during pregnancy which temporarily reduces hair shedding, resulting in more glossy, luscious fuller-looking hair. However, after the birth of babies, the body’s oestrogen levels fall which can cause increased hair loss.”
Taking a deep dive into exactly what impact hormones have on our hair, Dr Sasha Dhoat, a consultant dermatologist at The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic, adds: “During pregnancy, levels of oestrogen – a hair-friendly hormone – are higher, keeping hairs in their anagen (growth) phase for longer and delaying them from moving into their telogen (shedding) phase. This is why many women find that their hair is fuller, thicker and shinier during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.”
Dr Dhoat went on, “After childbirth, falling estrogen levels cause excessive hair shedding. The stress of having a newborn and/or breastfeeding may also take a toll on your body and hair. Additionally, iron and ferritin levels may drop, because the body will prioritize and divert some of these nutrients to your developing baby.”
When does postpartum hair loss start?
“Many new mothers experience excessive hair shedding around a month after pregnancy, peaking about four to five months after giving birth,” Dr Dhoat tells us.
Is postpartum hair loss normal?
If you’ve suffered with postpartum hair loss, you’ll be relieved to learn that this is totally normal. “Many new mothers see noticeable hair loss a few months after having a baby. This is normal and it is not true hair loss,” notes Dr Dhoat.
As for whether postpartum hair loss is something to be embarrassed about, the expert says: “Absolutely not!” She continued, “It is important to emphasize this is incredibly common, affecting up to 50% of new mothers, if not more. Although it is stressful to experience hair loss at such a physically and emotionally vulnerable time, it is also important to normalize it and for new mothers to be kind to themselves, with the reassurance this largely reverses with time alone.”
When does postpartum hair loss stop?
If you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, Dr Dhoat says that the good news is you should regain your normal hair growth by the time your child turns one.
If this isn’t the case though, it’s best to seek medical advice. “If it has not settled a year after birth, I would advise you see your family doctor to consider other causes that might be contributing to hair loss too, such as thyroid problems or anaemia,” adds Dr Gulati.
How can you treat postpartum hair loss?
“Rest assured, with time, hair mostly returns to normal, without intervention, expensive lotions or potions,” points out Dr Dhoat. “There is no compelling evidence for specific hair oils or serums, although if they provide the confidence pep you need, they do no harm.”
Sharing her “top tips to feel good whilst your hair regains its equilibrium” the expert advises using volume-enhancing shampoo and conditioner, as well as looking for conditioners that are formulated for fine hair – this should be “applied primarily to the ends, to avoid weighing your hair down.” Dr Dhoat also recommends avoiding tight hairstyles and chemical or heat treatments (like straightening your hair) as this adds “further strain”.
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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