Ah, the lovely postpartum hair loss, aka postpartum telogen effluvium. Sounds like a Harry Potter spell doesn’t it?
Any new mom who does a Google search will quickly find out that postpartum hair loss is due to hormonal changes and is a normal part of the postpartum period.
During pregnancy, more hairs enter the growth (anagen) phase which is why many women enjoy thicker hair during pregnancy. The reason why we see more drastic hair loss at about 3 months postpartum is because the hairs that should have fallen out during pregnancy but didn’t, enter the resting (or telogen) phase (followed by shedding) which is about 3-6 months long. Normal hair growth should return between 6-12 months postpartum (which is then followed by the dreaded baby hair/weird bangs phase).
What hormones are involved?
After birth, the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone drop and stay low until a woman’s cycle returns. These hormones are kept low by prolactin which promotes milk production for breastfeeding. Whether you breastfeed or not, however, appears to have no effect on amount of postpartum hair loss one has.
When should you seek treatment?
The following are some situations in which you might want to have some further evaluations done:
- If the amount of loss seems excessive i.e. not a natural thinning of the hair that was gained during pregnancy.
- Your hair does not seem to return to it’s normal growth pattern by the time your baby is 1 year old.
- If you are getting distinct patches rather than a diffuse loss.
What can be done for postpartum hair loss?
If the hair loss seems pathological, here are some things you can consider:
- Getting your thyroid checked with a full thyroid panel, not just TSH.
- Getting assessed for iron deficiency.
- Getting assessed for the autoimmune disease alopecia areata if your hair is coming out in patches.
If you are breastfeeding, doing anything to increase levels of estrogen and progesterone may affect your milk supply, so unless the hair loss seems pathological, your best course of action is to do nothing. If you are not breastfeeding, your hormones will return to their normal state earlier and your period will return earlier, as early as 6 weeks. However, as mentioned before, breastfeeding seems to have no effect on hair loss, so even if you aren’t breastfeeding, direct hormonal intervention is usually not needed.
Both groups of women can, however, focus on remedies to boost general health and gently support hormonal balance to get their hair back ASAP:
- Continue to take your prenatal vitamins for various nutrients that support hair health like B vitamins, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. This is especially important if you are on the mom diet of easy grab ’n go foods.
- Keep protein intake optimal. Try to get about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Protein shakes for the win!
- Try IV therapy to replenish your nutrients and to ensure you are fully absorbing them.
- Manage your stress. See if you can find someone to watch the baby while you catch up on some sleep. Consider taking an adrenal support supplement containing B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola, avena sativa, and ashwagandha.
There are certain volumizing shampoos or haircuts you can try to keep your hair looking fuller but these won’t stop the hair from being shed. For the awkward regrowth phase, I’m afraid all you can do is wait it out. There are plenty of blog posts out there on how to hide the hair loss and regrowth, so I won’t spend much time on that here as we are trying to treat the root cause.
What was your experience with postpartum hair loss? I’d love to hear in the comments!