How To Manage Postpartum Hair Loss
As if nine months of pregnancy and childbirth weren’t enough, the body has even more changes in store for women postpartum. Just like the physical evolution undergone in the lead up to labor and delivery, the healing and recovery process after giving birth results in its own array of physical and hormonal changes. One such side effect is postpartum hair loss. After enjoying the best locks of their life during pregnancy, many women experience a precipitous loss of hair after childbirth. Here, The AEDITION outlines everything you need to know about postpartum hair loss and expert advice on how to manage it.
Hair Growth During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, hormone levels fluctuate dramatically. Those hormones are not only responsible for the mood swings, changes in libido, and food cravings, but they also manifest in physical changes. The so-called ‘pregnancy glow’ is a real phenomenon thanks to hormones like progesterone and estrogen, and the pregnancy surges can often elicit stronger nails, clearer skin, and plumped up lips and/or breasts.
The hormonal shifts during pregnancy are also favorable for hair growth because they cause the hair follicles to stay in the anagen (a.k.a. active) stage of the hair growth cycle for a longer period of time. The result? Many pregnant women experience lustrous, thicker manes.
Nevertheless, some strands still fall during gestation. “Despite the overall improvement in hair, most women will still notice some degree of shedding,” says Benjamin Paul, MD, a New York City-based board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specialized in hair restoration. “This is because hair has a life cycle and some hairs will be ready to shed while pregnant. It is normal in pregnancy to shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. If you are shedding more than 100 hairs per day, you should consider seeing a physician to discuss your hair loss.”
Causes of Postpartum Hair Loss
As with most of the physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy, most bodily functions return to ‘normal’ postpartum. This, unfortunately, leads to the demise of the full, glossy ‘do. As estrogen levels decline after giving birth, many women experience hair thinning as it returns to the normal growth rate.
While it may feel unusual, postpartum hair loss is normal for new moms. The good news? The increased shedding is just temporary as the hair growth cycle returns to its natural state. Most women see total hair restoration by their child’s first birthday, with a peak in hair loss around four months postpartum.
“Women experiencing postpartum hair loss, also known as telogen effluvium, should expect it to last for about six months,” explains Amy Spizuoco, DO, a New York City-based board certified dermatologist and founder of True Dermatology. “It occurs three- to four-months after giving birth. The ‘shedding’ will stop at the six-month mark, and the hair loss will return to normal within one year.”
There are, however, women who experience hair loss that lingers longer than six months postpartum. Dr. Spizuoco advises anyone experiencing increased shedding after a year to meet with a dermatologist for further evaluation. “In some cases, there could be an underlying condition not previously diagnosed that coincidentally occurred during pregnancy or thereafter,” she shares.
The reason why some women experience more hair fall than others is not fully known, though previous pregnancies may be an indicator of future experiences. “Some women have more inherent sensitivity to the hair shed that follows pregnancy,” Dr. Paul says. “If a woman has shedding after one pregnancy, it is very common to see shedding after the next pregnancy. Though, for some lucky women, there is full recovery, others describe a stepwise decrease in hair with each delivery. It is truly case-by-case.”
How to Treat Postpartum Hair Loss
From oral and topical medications to in-office treatments, there are many ways to boost hair growth. While thinning locks are inevitable after giving birth, women should not begin any hair loss treatments while pregnant. “The majority of mainstream treatments could negatively impact your growing baby,” Dr. Paul warns. “Women should see a hair doctor for guidance if they experience hair loss in the postpartum period.” This includes women who are breastfeeding. “The ideal time for treatment is once breastfeeding has completed,” he adds.
Hair Restoration Treatments
- Prescription Medication: Finasteride (a.k.a. Propecia), Spironolactone, Oral Contraceptives
- Over-the-Counter Supplements: Nutrafol, Viviscal
- Topical Treatments: Minoxidil (a.k.a. Rogaine)
- Professional Procedures: Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections (PRP)
Successful treatments may include some combination of the options above, and Dr. Spizuoco recommends consulting with your physician to review both your medical and hair loss history before starting any regimen.
Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that improve overall health, which, in turn, can aid hair growth. “Keeping a healthy diet, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep are all ways to maintain health and promote hair growth,” Dr. Spizuoco says, adding that hair color and conditioning treatments should have no bearing on postpartum hair loss. “Anything done to the hair shafts will not affect hair growth or hair loss,” she says. “However, hair weaving, braiding, or anything adding tension to the hair roots will slow the growth process and can lead to further loss.”
The most important thing to remember about postpartum hair loss is that it is totally normal. As pregnancy hormone levels shift back to normal, so too does the hair growth cycle. That change leads to increased shedding for six months to a year after childbirth. While hair loss treatments like supplements and topicals should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding, women are encouraged to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. And, in the meantime, consider incorporating volumizing products into your haircare routine or trying a new haircut.