Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss is one of those things – like the after-pains of labor – that 'they' forget to tell you about as you eagerly await the birth of your baby.
That is why so many of us are truly shocked to find ourselves losing hair – sometimes in a alarmingly copious amounts – when our babies are around three months of age.
As a mom of five who has experienced postpartum hair loss with each and every new arrival, I'm here to tell you that
- it's perfectly normal
- despite assurances that "you won't go bald" the hair loss can be so dramatic that it can leave your hair looking very thin
- it's temporary (but can continue until your baby is around 12 months of age… sometimes even a little longer than that)
- there ARE ways to hide it!
Please note: This information should not be seen as medical advice. If you have any concerns about postpartum hair loss, please speak to a medical professional. You should also seek a professional opinion if you are breastfeeding and considering taking any kind of supplement.
What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?
Think back to when you are pregnant – did your hair look more abundant and feel thicker than usual?
Probably – and that's because your estrogen levels were higher, which prolonged the stage where your hair was growing. In turn, this reduced the length of the 'resting stage', meaning that fewer hairs were actually falling out each day.
But all good things must come to an end… and when your little one was born, your estrogen levels took a nosedive. As a result, a lot of hair follicles entered the 'resting stage', which is rapidly followed by the (eek!) falling out stage!
Postpartum hair loss often starts when baby is around 3 months of age
And once all this 'extra' hair starts falling out, panic can really set in… many of us seem to lose HEAPS of it in the shower, find it all over our pillows, in our hair brushes, and so on.
The way in which the hair falls out can vary from one person to another...
...the hair loss can be 'diffuse' (all over the head), or it can fall out in clumps. Some women notice the thinning around the hairline in particular.
Postpartum hair loss shouldn't affect the eyebrows, nor should it cause scarring to the scalp. If anything seems unusual about your hair loss, please do speak to your doctor.
Fortunately, though, the hair loss DOES stop as your hormone levels normalize, usually at some point from 6 to 12 months.
But that doesn't take away from the fact that losing your hair after giving birth is alarming, downright depressing and an absolute pain to have to deal with on top of everything having a new baby entails.
So here's my list of 'dos and don'ts' to follow if this is an issue currently affecting YOU! (Actually, I've listed don'ts first… always best to end on a positive!).
Postpartum Hair Loss – What NOT To Do
- Don't rush to have a short haircut, as some parenting websites advise. Short hair is NOT always easier to maintain, and often requires (gasp) STYLING… something there's little time for in the first few months following your baby's birth! It's easier to simply tie long hair back, out of the way.
- Don't be drawn into spending a fortune on hair loss 'remedies', even those suggested by other new moms who have been in the same boat! The simple truth is that postpartum hair loss doesn't require a 'remedy' – yet some treatments or pills have been given the credit for stopping a type of hair loss that would have stopped by itself anyway.
- Don't put extra stress on your hair. Yes, tying it back is handy, but tie it loosely. If you've got the type of hair (like mine) that springs out all over the place if it's tied loosely, use a soft, wide, fabric headband to cover all the 'sticking out' bits!
- Don't subject to your hair to more damage from dyes and perms at this time… treat the existing hair as gently as you can.
- If you do decide to change your hair color, don't rush to go darker. If your hair has got really thin, it will make the visibility of your scalp even more obvious.
- Don't sleep with your hair tied back in any way – again, it causes unnecessary stress on the roots.
- Don't stop breastfeeding just because you've heard that nursing makes postpartum hair loss worse – no studies have proven this and breastfeeding has so many benefits to you and your baby that would be lost. Besides, many mothers who DON'T breastfeed still experience thinning hair.
- Don't wrap your hair in a towel after washing it. A wet, heavy towel puts tremendous stress on the roots of your hair… the LAST thing you need right now. Let your hair hang free and cover your shoulders with the towel instead.
- Don't let this get to you. It's temporary and you have far more important things to think about right now, such as enjoying this precious first year with your gorgeous new baby.
Postpartum Hair Loss – What You CAN Do
- Do try styling your hair differently to hide the loss.
- Do try out a few products that pump up the volume. My FAVORITE product when I experienced postpartum hair loss for myself was Batiste Dry Shampoo. Not only does it save you having to wash your hair as often, it adds VOLUME to the hair too, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
- Do try a product like Joan Rivers Great Hair Day® if your hair gets so thin you can see your scalp. It's easy to use, very effective and great as a temporary fix.
- Do maintain a healthy diet. Your body has supported the development of your growing baby (and is STILL supporting it if you're nursing), so your levels of the nutrients needed for healthy hair growth – such as iron and zinc – may be low. Furthermore, you may be skipping meals or grabbing convenience snacks because there is little time to prepare meals. So try to have plenty of wholesome food on hand that takes little preparation, such as fruit, nuts, yogurt, oats etc. You might want to ask your doctor to check your iron levels, too, just to be on the safe side. You may also like to check out this list of foods that are good for the hair.
- Do use a detangler spray. Yanking a comb through knotted hair can cause even more hair loss – a detangler makes things easier and quicker.
Something to be VERY aware of if you experience postpartum hair loss is the risk of your baby getting one of your hairs wrapped around a finger or toe.
Known as a 'hair tourniquet', this is VERY serious. Aside from the intense pain it causes (characterized by unexplained and continuous crying) it can cut off the circulation to the affected body part and has led to the loss of fingers or toes in some infants.
Check your baby's hands and feet regularly to prevent this happening. A very tightly wrapped hair can be difficult to remove, but some emergency rooms use a hair remover like 'Nair' in this situation, because the hair simply dissolves. Obviously a product like that isn't generally recommended for use on a baby's skin – but when the alternative is the potential loss of a finger or toe, the unsuitability of the product becomes less important.
When the Postpartum Hair Loss Stops…
…You would think your troubles would be over. Alas, however, you may find yourself with loads of wispy new hairs all around your hairline... and even some sideburns to go with them!
Again, this is temporary, but bothersome. Use wide bands to cover those annoying wisps and sideburns, or consider having bangs (a fringe) cut in to disguise them.
On the plus side, all those short hairs add a LOT of volume!
I hope you found this page helpful. If you've experienced postpartum hair loss and would like to share any advice, comments or concerns, then please do so using the form below!
I look forward to hearing from you.
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