Pregnancy can cause a whole host of unexpected symptoms and side effects. Whilst many of them are unpleasant, one side effect that many people actually welcome and enjoy during pregnancy is thicker, fuller hair.
Of course, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Once your pregnancy is over, your hair will eventually return to its pre-pregnancy condition. For your hair to return to its original state, your body will shed all the extra hair that it has been holding on to.
This excessive shedding experienced by people after they have had a baby is known as postpartum hair loss.
In this article, we will find out more about what postpartum hair loss is and explore tips for dealing with it.
Pregnancy causes huge changes in your body’s balance of hormones. Even minor changes in the body’s hormone levels can cause a variety of different symptoms including mood swings, fatigue, bloating, irritability, palpitations, and changes to the hair growth cycle.
One such hormonal change that women experience during pregnancy is an increase in their estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and oxytocin levels. This change in hormone levels, particularly the high levels of estrogen, can disrupt the body’s normal hair growth cycle, causing the body to keep growing more new hair than it usually would and hold onto more hair, rather than shedding strands.
This often results in women enjoying hair that is thicker, fuller, and shinier than ever before during pregnancy.
However, after the birth of a child (postpartum), hormones begin to return to their normal levels. It is this rapid drop in hormone levels that causes many new mothers to experience postpartum hair loss, also sometimes referred to by its medical term, telogen effluvium.
Finding large clumps of hair in your hairbrush or the plughole can be alarming, especially after many months of minimal shedding. It’s important not to panic as in most cases this type of hair loss is completely normal, only temporary, and many women have excess hair to lose if their hair became thicker and fuller during pregnancy.
Postpartum hair loss can start at different times for different people. Hormone levels will begin to rapidly return to normal in the days after birth, except for levels of prolactin, which will stay high for as long as the mother breastfeeds.
This rapid decline in hormone levels can cause some women to begin experiencing postpartum hair loss just days after birth, but most people don’t notice it until a couple of months after birth. Usually, hair loss peaks at around four months postpartum, but this varies from one person to the next.
For most people, postpartum hair loss won’t last for longer than a year after the birth of their child. In fact, many people find that hair loss has stopped and their hair has returned to normal before their child’s first birthday.
If you’re wondering how to stop postpartum hair loss, unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the problem. Postpartum hair loss is normal and natural and will usually stop by itself once your hormones have balanced back out. Most women find that this happens sometime between six and twelve months after giving birth.
If hair loss continues past those twelve months, then you may wish to consult your doctor to make sure that no other underlying problems are causing the hair loss to continue.
Postpartum hair loss can be upsetting, but it is also a very common and completely natural process.
Because postpartum hair loss is the body’s reaction to the rapid decrease of hormone levels, it is not possible to completely prevent it from happening.
There are however some steps you can take to look after yourself and your hair in the days, weeks, and months after giving birth to help to minimise postpartum hair loss, encourage healthy hair growth, and look after the condition of your scalp and hair during this time, which we’ll take a look at next.
Hair regrowth happens quickest when the body is healthy and nourished, so living a healthy lifestyle and taking extra special care of your body postpartum is the best thing you can do to encourage healthy hair regrowth.
Here are our top tips for encouraging natural hair regrowth postpartum.
Live a healthy lifestyle – After giving birth, many women find that caring for and adjusting to life with a newborn is all-consuming and leaves very little time for looking after themselves. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to try to strike a balance and care for yourself too. Accept as much help as you can from friends and family to help you to rest, get more sleep, get some gentle exercise, and eat well. A healthy body means a healthy scalp and hair.
Eat a healthy and balanced diet – Your body is working hard to recover and restore itself postpartum, so it’s extra important that you make sure you’re fuelling your recovery with a healthy and balanced diet. Postpartum recovery is tiring, and so is looking after a newborn baby. If you’re breastfeeding you’re likely to feel especially hungry as your body is also working hard to make nutritious milk for your little one. Make sure you’re eating enough and that what you’re eating is nutritious to help your body restore itself.
Incorporate hair-boosting foods into your diet – As well as eating a nutritious diet, you can boost the condition of your hair by incorporating plenty of the following foods into your diet:
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy green vegetables
- Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, soy, beans, peas, peanuts)
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruits
All these foods help to encourage the growth of stronger, more hydrated, and healthier hair.
Take your vitamins – Postpartum your body may be depleted of many important vitamins and minerals. As well as eating a balanced diet, taking vitamin supplements can help to nourish your body and promote hair regrowth.
Use natural hair care products – As well as taking care of what you’re putting into your body to help encourage hair growth, you should also take a good look at what ingredients you’re putting onto your hair.
Haircare products containing man-made ingredients and chemicals can be harsh on hair at the best of times, so should be avoided at all costs when your hair is shedding and needs extra special care.
Avoid harsh ingredients like sulfates (SLS, SLES), parabens, bad alcohols, and silicones. These ingredients can weigh down, dry out, and damage hair, worsening the appearance and condition of hair that is already fragile.
Choose natural hair care products that are free from chemical nasties, and gentle and nourishing on your hair.
Wash your hair less frequently – Keep hair washing to a minimum when experiencing postpartum hair loss to reduce the rate at which your hair sheds. Wet hair gets tangled, knotty, and damaged very easily and removing these knots can cause hair to shed faster. Vigorously toweling your hair dry can also cause hair to shed faster, so when you do wash your hair, try gently patting it dry with a soft, microfibre towel instead.
Skip the heat and styling – If you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, avoid using heated styling tools on your hair to slow down the rate at which your hair falls out. The less you mess with your hair during this time the better.
Take it easy – Welcoming a new little person into the world is all kinds of wonderful, but it can also be a tough transition and very tiring. Remember to take it easy and avoid putting any additional pressure on yourself for these first few months. Keeping the unnecessary stress in your life to a minimum should help keep your mind and body healthier. It can also help your body to regulate your hormones, which is beneficial to your hair.