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Everything to Know about Postpartum Hair Loss
February 23, 2023

Everything to Know about Postpartum Hair Loss

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Everything to Know about Postpartum Hair Loss.
Everything to Know about Postpartum Hair Loss

You might have noticed your head full of thick, luscious hair during the second trimester (thanks to those pregnancy hormones), and while it would be nice to keep it forever, your postpartum hormones have other plans.

If you’re a few months postpartum and noticing your perfect pregnancy hair is starting to fall out, don’t worry. Postpartum hair loss is extremely common, albeit disappointing (and annoying with having to clean your hair brush and shower drain more often). It’s normally not a sign of anything serious, just another shift in hormone levels.

When does postpartum hair loss start?

“Postpartum hair loss usually begins around three months postpartum,” says Dr. Joel Bernstien, board-certified ob-gyn at Kamm McKenzie in Raleigh, NC.

Seeing more hair fall out than usual can be distressing, especially if you aren’t expecting it. But an important thing to know about postpartum hair loss is that it isn’t really hair loss—it’s shedding. That means the hairs will grow back, though maybe a little finer in texture than before.

What causes postpartum hair loss?

Like with most things related to pregnancy, postpartum hair loss is caused by hormonal changes. “During pregnancy, most women enjoy several months of quality hair growth,” Dr. Bernstien says, all thanks to higher levels of estrogen keeping your hair follicles in growth mode. “With the drop in estrogen [after giving birth], the hair transitions from a growth cycle to a shedding cycle.”

Ever since your second trimester, the hair on your head has been growing without experiencing a shedding cycle. With more follicles simultaneously in the growing cycle than ever before, your hair becomes noticeably more voluminous. But once the shedding cycle starts up again, all the hair that would have fallen out over the last several months starts to get released nearly all at once in what’s known as “excessive shedding.”

How much hair loss is normal?

When not in the pregnant or postpartum period, people usually shed about 100 hairs per day. During postpartum shedding, you might lose up to three times more hair than your daily usual.

But how do you know if you’re losing too much hair? No one really expects you to count all of your fallen hairs every day. “It’s hard to quantify how much hair loss is too much,” Dr. Bernstien says. “How would it even be possible to count that?”

To determine if you’re losing more than the expected amount for postpartum shedding, look for other symptoms not typically associated with postpartum hair loss:

  • Sudden loss of large clumps or handfuls of hair all at once
  • Patchy bald spots
  • Noticeable thinning on the top of your head, such as more scalp visible at your part
  • Hair loss on other parts of your body
  • Lack of regrowth (baby hairs) after a few months

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor. You could have a condition other than postpartum shedding.

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

Excessive postpartum shedding thankfully doesn’t last forever. In most cases, it’ll last about three to six months, Dr. Bernstien says. At most, it should stop by your baby’s first birthday.

Even more good news: your hair should go back to (mostly) normal once you’re past 12 months postpartum. It won’t be as thick as your pregnancy hair, though, and you might notice slightly different texture or volume than before. “Some women say their hair is just a little bit thinner after having children.” Dr. Bernstien says.

You’ll likely notice hair regrowth within a few months after the shedding phase has slowed back to normal. Often called “baby hairs,” postpartum hair regrowth might pose some style challenges due to being so much shorter than the rest of your hair. If tiny regrown flyaways are cramping your style, try controlling them with gel, oil, hairspray or styling cream, or hiding them with hats or headbands.

Hair loss after 12 months postpartum

“If hair shedding continues past [your] baby’s first birthday, discuss with [your] doctor other possible etiologies,” Dr. Bernstien says. Outside the postpartum period, hair loss could be caused by heredity, aging, stress or certain medical conditions.

How to treat postpartum hair loss

Since it’s a natural process, there’s no real “treatment” or prevention of postpartum hair loss, Dr. Bernstien says. Your hormones just need to take their natural course as you move from pregnancy through the postpartum period, side effects included.

It is possible to slightly reduce shedding or make it less noticeable by:

  • Using volumizing shampoo and a lightweight conditioner
  • Being extra gentle when brushing your hair (a wide-toothed comb can help prevent excess pulling)
  • Limiting use of heated styling tools like blow dryers, curling irons, wands and straighteners; there are plenty of heatless hairstyles you can try, no matter the length of your hair
  • Avoid styles that pull your hair tight, like tight ponytails or braids

There are also over-the-counter supplements that claim to reduce shedding and promote new hair growth, but you should talk with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you’re breastfeeding or pumping.

How postpartum hair loss affects your baby

Excessive hair shedding may be a nuisance for you, but it can pose a risk to your baby. It’s rare, but loose hairs can form a hair tourniquet by wrapping tightly around baby’s fingers, toes or any other body part and cutting off circulation or causing an infection.

If you notice a hair tourniquet has formed on your baby, you can try to remove it by unwrapping from a loose end or gently cutting it with baby-safe scissors. If you can’t get it to come loose, call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room.

Again, hair tourniquets are rare, but it’s best to be on the safe side and clear any loose hairs away from your baby.

Sources:


Amylia Ryan

Associate Editor

Amylia Ryan is the Associate Editor at Babylist, specializing on the topics of health, wellness, lifestyle products and more. Combining nearly a decade of experience in writing and editing with a deep passion for helping people, her number one goal in her work is to ensure new parents feel supported and understood. She herself is a parent to two young children, who are more than willing to help product test endless toys, books, clothes, toiletries and more.

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