Pregnancy and childbirth are miraculous, but they’re taxing on the body too. Sometimes, this shows in the most unexpected ways. Like in your hair.
Postpartum hair loss, or postpartum telogen effluvium, is a common phenomenon in which the hair of a recently pregnant woman comes out in clumps and then grows back short and tufty.
Caused by falling estrogen levels, postpartum hair loss typically occurs 6-12 weeks after childbirth. The American Pregnancy Association estimates that 40% - 50% of American women experience postpartum hair loss.
While some clinical trials using a serum derived from horse placenta have reported success, there are no scheduled medical treatments available for the condition. However, medications and cosmetic treatments can lessen or disguise its effects and a consultation with one of our specialists can help you to choose the correct course of action.
It would be more accurate to call the condition ‘postpartum hair shedding’, says Dr. Joseph Chappelle, an obstetric scholar at Stony Brook University in New York. Hair follicles stay on the head for 3-5 years and have a four-stage life cycle. The growth, or anagen phase, lasts for 2-4 years. At any given time, 85%-90% of the hairs on a person’s head are in this phase.
The catagen, or transition phase, begins when the hair’s growth begins to slow down and eventually the hairs shrink. It lasts for approximately 10 days. 5% of your hairs in this phase at any given time.
Next is the telogen or resting phase. In this phase, hairs have stopped growing but have yet to shed. It lasts about three months, and approximately 10%-15% of scalp hairs are in this phase.
Finally, hairs go through the exogen or shedding phase. Lasting 2-5 months, the scalp sheds 50-100 hairs daily.
For many women experiencing pregnancies for the first time, surprises abound. Morning sickness, water retention, enlarged and tender breasts, and frequent urination are some of the most common and well-known symptoms of bringing new life into the world.
There is a reason why pregnant women are said to ‘glow’. Hormonal changes during this period increase metabolism, causing more blood to flow to the skin, and stimulating nail and hair growth. After childbirth, hormone levels stabilize and many of these changes are undone. For many women, chief among these changes is hair loss.
Heightened estrogen and progesterone levels during pregnancy prevent hair loss, inhibiting hair follicles across the body from shedding their hair. Consequently, luscious head hair experienced during pregnancy is often accompanied by excessive body hair growth. Because of the body’s hormone levels during pregnancy, hairs do not move into the exogen phase.
As the body produces less and less estrogen and progesterone following the birth, the thicker, extra hairs die and are not replaced in the hair follicles. The extra hairs come out in clumps, and the hair that replaces it may appear thinner in comparison.
1. Change the shampoo you use: the chemicals you put on your hair have a significant impact on the life cycle of your hair follicles. The American Academy of Dermatology has issued a number of recommendations in this regard, chief among them concerning hair washing is using a volumizing shampoo and avoiding bottles labeled ‘conditioning' shampoo.
2. Change to a new conditioner: The Association also recommends conditioners for fine hair, avoiding intensive conditioners, and applying conditioner only to the ends of head hairs.
3. Avoid styling your hair: styling can also adversely impact hair shedding after childbirth. Blow-drying, curling, straightening, and even brushing too hard can increase hair shedding generally.
4. Embrace natural, loose hair: going easy on your hair by eschewing chemical treatments and tight elastic accessories. In the wake of childbirth and the hormonal upset it causes, hair is particularly sensitive and should be treated gently.
5. Shake it up: Lifestyle factors like exercise influence metabolism and the health of all your cells
6. Take it easy: It might sound ridiculous to tell a new mother not to worry, but stress also plays a role in the health of your hair, as the physiological conditions that are affected by mood also influence the body’s hormones and metabolism.
7. Supplement your diet: the chemicals you put into your body also influence the health and appearance of head hair. Vitamins A, C, D, E, and Zinc are all helpful in reducing postpartum hair shedding. Biotin (vitamin B7), found naturally in milk, eggs, and bananas, is particularly useful for this. Prenatal vitamins contain plenty of these - so keep taking them even after childbirth to lessen the shedding process. Vitamin A, found naturally in sweet potatoes and pumpkins, promotes the production of sebum, the oil that keeps the scalp moisturized, and the growth of new cells like hair and nail cells. Citrus fruits are packed with Vitamin C, which promotes collagen growth. Vitamin D, which you can get in plenty from the sun, has a direct correlation with hair growth. Indeed, alopecia sufferers usually have low levels of this vitamin. Vitamin E and Zinc, which also promote cell and follicle growth, can be found in spinach, lentils, and many seeds.
8. Experiment with natural remedies: some DIY treatments include egg whites and coconut milk. Diet is always important for the quality of life, but for pregnant women and new mothers, nutritional supplements are vital.
Many women experience postpartum hair shedding alongside other symptoms, and many women report this has an adverse effect on self-esteem.
Seasoned dermatologist Dr. Alan Brauman has highlighted the “emotional burden” of this condition and urged other practitioners to take this into consideration. There has been a recent move amongst celebrities and the public to cast aside the feelings of shame associated with postpartum shedding and comorbidities like depression and weight changes. Actress Olivia Munn recently spoke about it in an interview, and model Ashley Graham made numerous posts about it on Instagram. A woman in England shaved her head and launched a social media campaign and charity drive to raise awareness of postpartum hair loss and raise funds for a local baby bank.
These small acts of bravery and radical self-acceptance are invaluable in normalizing and destigmatizing postpartum hair loss. Along with our eight tips and exceptional professional hair loss consultation service, you can regain your lustrous locks and focus on the joys of being a new mom.