For many women, one of the unexpected changes that can occur after giving birth is an increase in hair shedding known as postpartum hair loss. As a new mother adjusts to caring for an infant while recovering from childbirth, finding handfuls of lost hair in the drain or on her pillow each day can be alarming and upsetting. However, it’s important to know that postpartum hair loss is quite normal and simply the body’s natural response to hormonal shifts after pregnancy and delivery.
While unsettling to experience, addressing postpartum hair loss begins with understanding what causes this temporary shedding and the factors involved. In this article, we will explore the science behind postpartum hair loss and the hormonal transition of the post-birth period. We’ll look at the telltale signs of this common occurrence and offer tips for gentle hair care that can help manage shedding. Finally, we’ll discuss the hair regrowth process and provide reassurance that this is a short-term change rather than a long-term concern for new mothers.
What is Postpartum Hair Loss?
After giving birth, many new moms experience excessive hair shedding known as postpartum hair loss. It’s a very common occurrence that happens in the months following delivery as hormonal levels change and the body readjusts after pregnancy. While unsettling, postpartum hair loss is generally temporary and the hair will regrow over time. Understanding what causes it and ways to manage shedding can help alleviate concerns during this transition.
The Causes of Postpartum Hair Loss
While exhausting and overwhelming adjustments are happening on many fronts after having a baby, postpartum hair loss stems directly from the hormonal shifts that take place during pregnancy and delivery. Throughout gestation, elevated estrogen and progesterone levels kept hair in the growing phase for longer than normal and suppressed shedding. This led to thicker, shinier hair for many women.
However, once the placenta is delivered after birth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly. This abrupt hormonal change signals hair follicles to enter the telogen or shedding phase all at once. Where normally about 100 hairs fall out each day, postpartum shedding can result in the loss of 200-300 hairs per day. It’s the body’s way of readjusting hair growth cycles to their pre-pregnancy patterns.
The majority of shedding occurs within 2-3 months postpartum, but it may continue up to 6 months as hormonal levels stabilize. Breastfeeding can also prolong the time frame since some prolactin produced while nursing maintains higher estrogen levels than when not breastfeeding. For most women, hair returns to its regular growth cycle and amount within 6-12 months.
Signs You’re Experiencing Postpartum Hair Loss
Some telltale signs that excessive shedding is likely postpartum hair loss and not another type of hair loss include:
- Noticeably more hair coming out in the shower, brushing, or falling on your pillow each day.
- Thinning over the entire scalp rather than specific balding areas.
- Hair is not breaking or changing texture, just increased shedding of normal-appearing hairs.
- History of healthy, thick hair during pregnancy.
- Onset within 3-6 months after delivery.
Knowing these characteristic traits can help differentiate typical postpartum hair loss from other hair issues that may warrant medical evaluation. Most of the time, the hair will regrow as hormone levels stabilize. But if shedding persists significantly beyond 6-12 months, see your doctor or dermatologist.
Managing Postpartum Hair Loss
While there’s no remedy to stop postpartum hair loss since it’s caused by normal hormonal changes, the following tips can help manage and minimize stress during this transition:
- Be gentle when brushing and styling hair to avoid excess breakage of weakened hairs.
- Use a wide-toothed comb in the shower instead of your fingers to detangle knots.
- Consider tailored shampoos for postpartum hair loss.
- Try boosting your nutrition by adding good postpartum hair loss vitamins to your daily routine.
- Massage your scalp regularly with oils like coconut, almond, or castor oil to encourage circulation and hair growth.
- Deep condition hair weekly with a moisturizing mask to add shine and strength.
- Consider protective hairstyles that are low maintenance like braids or buns to lessen daily brushing.
Rest assured this phase is temporary and your luscious pregnancy locks will regrow over the next year.
Some moms also find relief from their anxiety over hair loss with wigs, toppers, or scarves. This allows peace of mind while focusing on the newborn instead of fixating on shedding strands. Being gentle, nourishing your hair, and arming yourself with knowledge are key to reducing stress levels through this transitional period.
Long-Term Hair Regrowth After Postpartum Loss
Have patience, as it can take up to a year for hair to fully recover its pre-pregnancy thickness and volume after postpartum shedding. Over time, hair will gradually transition from the telogen shedding phase back into the normal anagen growth phase as the body adjusts to post-birth hormone levels.
Most moms notice hair looking significantly thicker by 6 months and close to normal by 12 months after delivery. If breastfeeding, hair may regrow at a slightly slower pace than formula feeding as lactation prolongs the hormonal changes. Staying nourished with a balanced diet, managing stress, and giving hair TLC with protective styles and masks will aid the recovery progress.
While unsettling to experience increased hair loss after the physical changes of pregnancy and birth, understanding postpartum hair loss is a natural body response helps ease concerns. Being gentle and nourishing your hair goes a long way during this temporary transition period. With patience, luscious locks will regrow more than ever with the body’s adjustment over the first postpartum year.