The Truth About Postpartum Hair Loss

Experiencing postpartum hair loss? You’re not alone, and this is normal. Here’s why postpartum hair loss happens, and what you can do about it.

Feel like you’ve suddenly started to lose a lot more hair a few months after giving birth? Here’s the good news – you’re not alone, and this is normal for new moms. It’s known as postpartum hair loss. Here’s why postpartum hair loss happens, and what you can do about it.

What is postpartum hair loss?

4-6 months after your little one arrives, you might notice that you’re abruptly losing lots of hair, sometimes in  big clumps.

Interestingly, dermatologists don’t consider postpartum hair loss to be “true” or “traditional” hair loss. Instead, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) describes it as “excessive hair shedding.”

And for new moms at this stage of motherhood, postpartum hair shedding is completely normal – no matter your hair type.

What causes postpartum hair loss?

Hormones – mainly estrogen – cause postpartum hair loss.

Usually, your hair grows in a cycle: it grows, then stops growing (rests),  then sheds, and then starts growing again. 

But while you’re pregnant, the higher levels of estrogen cause your hair to keep growing and growing, without ever entering the shedding part of the cycle. This often makes your hair thicker or fuller than usual.

4-6 months after your little one arrives, though, your hormones will be back at the same levels as before pregnancy. This hormone drop signals that it’s time to play catch-up – and shed all that extra hair. 

Nurse Dani of Intermountain Moms shares more on postpartum hair loss, hormones, and the phases of hair growth: 

Since your hair has grown so much during pregnancy, you’ll shed more hair than usual during this postpartum period. This is your body’s way of resetting – you’re just losing the hair you gained!

Is there a way to treat postpartum hair loss?

Although there’s no way to stop postpartum hair loss, there’s no need to worry. Postpartum hair loss only lasts for about 3 months. After that, your hair growth cycle will start over and your hair will start growing again. 

By the time you celebrate baby’s first birthday – or possibly even sooner – your hair should be back to its pre-pregnancy fullness.

 

How to take care of your hair during this time?

Even though you’ll need to wait it out until your hair loss stops, there are ways to make this time more manageable – and your hair loss less noticeable. 

Try to stick to these dos and don’ts for a healthier hairdo:

Dos

  • Eat a healthy diet, with a focus on veggies and fruits. The vitamins and minerals in healthy foods encourage healthy hair!
  • If your doctor recommends it, continue to take prenatal vitamins.
  • Use a gentler shampoo.
    •  If it’s suitable for your hair type, you may want to consider volumizing shampoo, to make your hair look fuller.
    • You might also consider a shampoo that’s more moisturizing.
  • Use a lighter (mild) conditioner, so it won’t weigh your hair down. 
    • One good rule of thumb is to look for formulas designed for finer hair. 
    • Skip any products that say “intensive conditioning,” and skip the “conditioning shampoos.” These can lead to limp-looking hair.
  • Style your hair in lighter styles. 
    • Try using a scrunchie or gentle barrettes.
    • You could also opt for a loose bun – this style works for all hair types.
    • For coily hair (natural hair), choose loose and low-manipulation protective styles, like flat twists.
  • Be very gentle when you wash, brush, and style your hair. 
  • If you wish, mix things up with a shorter hairstyle. Getting the cut may make your hair look fuller – and might also help you feel more confident. It can also help hair regrowth blend in well. Plus, a shorter cut is harder for baby to pull at!

Don'ts

  • Don’t apply heat to your hair. (Skip the blow dryer, curling iron, and/or flat iron).
  • Don’t pull your hair into a tight ponytail or other tight hairstyle. These types of styles put strain on your hair and scalp. This means saying no to rubber bands, headbands, and tight ponytail holders, too.
  • Don’t use any hair accessories that could pull or snag your hair.

Don’t over-brush or over-shampoo.

  • Don’t mess with your hair too frequently – and don’t let your child(ren) tug or pull too often. Try your best to keep your little one’s hands out of your hair.
  • Don’t use any chemicals on your hair. Put off the chemical straightening treatments, perms, highlights, and hair dye sessions until your hair gets back to normal.

When to be concerned about postpartum hair loss?

Very rarely, a strand of hair that you lose could get wrapped around baby’s finger, toe, or other body part. This is known as a hair tourniquet. While very rare, it could be dangerous for baby, as it could lead to an infection or cut off circulation. 

If you notice a hair tourniquet, you’ll need to remove it as soon as you can:

  • Find a loose end and gently unwind it.
  • Or, if you can’t find a loose end, gently cut the hair with scissors or a smaller knife. 
  • If the hair is too tightly wound (or meshed deeper into baby’s skin) and you can’t remove it, call your doctor promptly to remove it, or take your little one to the emergency room.

Also, if postpartum hair loss seems especially excessive, or your hair growth and fullness isn’t back to your pre-pregnancy normal after baby has had their first birthday, you’ll need to talk to your doctor. 

These could be signs of postpartum thyroiditis, anemia, or another condition, when accompanied by other symptoms. 

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All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  

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