If you have just delivered a beautiful baby and are concerned about excessive hair loss, you have come to the right place. Women’s bodies are never the same after pregnancy. After childbirth, you may lose not only the extra weight but also those shiny and thick pregnancy locks.
Yes, pregnancy can also cause changes in your hair – it may become thinner and shed a lot. Do not panic as this post-pregnancy hair loss is normal and a temporary phase. Read on to know everything about postpartum hair loss and how to minimize it.
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What Is Postpartum Hair Loss?
New mothers experience hair loss within a few months of childbirth. For some, the shedding may start immediately after delivery or within a month. This is called postpartum hair loss, postpartum effluvium, or postpartum alopecia, and is caused due to the decreasing estrogen levels in the body.
This is not true hair loss as once the estrogen levels are normal, the hair fall stops. Postpartum hair loss continues for 6-24 weeks and rarely extends for 15 months (1). If you are wondering what causes this condition, find out in the next section.
What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?
- Hormonal Changes: The fluctuating hormone levels may cause postpartum telogen effluvium or PPTE (a type of diffused hair pattern loss). During pregnancy, there is a ninefold increase in progesterone levels and an eightfold increase in estrogen levels. The prolactin levels also increase gradually to a level that is 20 times higher than normal. These increased hormone levels normalize 2-4 days after delivery (2). This variation may cause hair loss.
- Hair Growth Changes: The change in hair stages from anagen to telogen may also cause postpartum hair loss. The hair cycle has different stages – anagen (growth phase), catagen (regression), telogen (resting phase), and neogen (hair fall). During pregnancy, the hair remains in the anagen phase for a longer time (3). After delivery, the delayed anagen phase shifts to the telogen phase, causing hair fall.
- Vitamins And Mineral Intake: Nutrient deficiencies may cause postpartum effluvium. Research shows that zinc, biotin, iron, and folic acid deficiencies can cause telogen effluvium in women after delivery (4).
- Other Causes: Stress, post-surgery stress, and disturbed sleep cycle may also trigger post-delivery hair fall(2).
However, postpartum shedding is absolutely normal.
Is Postpartum Hair Loss Normal?
Yes, it is. In a study involving 98 patients, 88.7% experienced hair loss within 8 to 16 weeks after delivery (5). It continued for 4-6 months, and later, the hair growth became normal.
Although hormonal changes mainly affect the scalp’s frontal area, there is no evidence that it is the primary affected area in postpartum hair loss. The study also found that out of 98 patients, 59.1% experienced hair loss at the back of the scalp, 20.4% throughout the scalp, and only 11.2% had frontal hair loss (5). Now, the question is, how long does it last?
How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?
Hair growth normalizes within a few months of delivery in most cases. However, in some cases, postpartum effluvium is prolonged and may even become permanent (6). Psychological stress and other hair disorders can affect postpartum alopecia (2), (5). If you are experiencing hair loss even after a year of childbirth or have any underlying hair condition, consult a doctor for better treatment.
Treatment For Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss mostly resolves on its own. However, for cases of prolonged hair loss, there are several treatment options like:
- Thyroid supplementation (if there is only thyroid hormone disturbance)
- Topical progesterone and estradiol lotions
- Oral contraceptives (6)
However, there is not enough evidence to support these treatments.
A study showed that shampoo and tonic containing horse placenta growth factor, pumpkin extract, panthenol, and niacinamide improved hair density and thickness (7). The horse placenta is similar to the human placenta and contains many nutrients like growth factors, amino acids, lipids, vitamins, and enzymes. The horse placenta growth factor stimulates the dermal cells to promote hair growth and blood flow and reduces the recovery period for postpartum hair loss. However, a few patients complained of mild pain and itchiness.
Note: Although minoxidil is used in hair loss treatments, it should not be used by pregnant women or nursing mothers to avoid any chances of fetal deformities (8).
Here are a few things you may do to prevent postpartum hair loss.
How To Prevent Postpartum Hair Loss
1. Take Prenatal Vitamins And Nutrient Supplements
Prenatal vitamins are essential during pregnancy, as increased metabolism may cause nutrient deficiencies. The NHS recommends taking folic acid (vitamin B9) and vitamins C and D in prescribed dosages during pregnancy (9). It is also recommended to take calcium and iron supplements.
2. Eating Habits
Your eating habits influence your overall health. Deficiency of vitamins like folate, biotin, riboflavin, and vitamins B12, C, and D can cause hair loss (10). Research shows that zinc, iron, and folic acid deficiencies can cause telogen effluvium in pregnant women (4). On the other hand, a deficit or an excess of vitamin A can cause hair loss. Hence, consult a doctor for the right dosage.
The NHS recommends eating as per their “eat well plate” that shows how much of each food type comprises a balanced diet (9).
If you are a new mother, there is no need to be worried. Postpartum hair loss is a normal part of the childbirth process. Give it a few months, and your hair will get back to being healthy. However, consult a doctor if the hair loss continues even after the first birthday of your kid. Meanwhile, remember to eat and stay healthy!
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can you go bald from postpartum hair loss?
No, you will not. Even if you experience heavy shedding after delivery, the normal hair growth rate will resume after a few months.
Does breastfeeding cause postpartum hair loss?
No. Postpartum hair loss is unrelated to breastfeeding. Some hair growth and fall changes may be noticed, but there is no direct link between lactation and hair fall.
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