Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Hair Loss, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.
It can be worrisome, looking at the hair collected in your hairbrush or in your shower drain. Your body is getting back to its normal self after you have had the baby, but now it looks like you are shedding hair at the same rate as your golden retriever. What is going on?
Not every woman experiences hair loss after pregnancy, but it happens to up to half of new mothers. Hair loss, even a lot of hair loss, is normal after a pregnancy. That normalness—and the fact that the problem is temporary—may be the only good things about it.
As with pretty much every other change in your body since you got pregnant, you can thank hormones for your loss of hair. But it helps to also understand the way human hair grows and the way that this growth pattern interacts with the hormones of pregnancy.
The Phases of Hair Growth
Hair is produced by hair follicles, which are specialized tiny organs in your skin that produce an individual hair. Each individual hair grows in three phases. In the anagen phase, the hair follicle starts to produce a hair and that hair grows at the rate of about half an inch a month for anywhere from two to six years. About 85% of your hair is in the anagen phase. Then the hair follicle enters the catagen phase, which is sort of a transitional phase where growth stops. From 1% to 3% of your hair is in this stage at any given time.
After a couple of weeks in the catagen phase, the hair follicle goes into the telogen phase, a resting stage for a few months at the end of which the hair is shed. About 10% to 15% of your hair follicles are in the telogen stage, and these are the hairs that end up in your hair brush. A healthy human being sheds up to 100 hairs a day. The hair follicle then goes back into the anagen phase and the cycle repeats.
How Pregnancy Affects Your Hair
While you are pregnant, pregnancy hormones cause more hair follicles than usual to go into the telogen resting stage. This means that that you are being set up for a period of time after your pregnancy when the telogen phase ends and all these hairs fall out. Many women notice that their hair is thicker and shinier during their pregnancy, which makes the fall out afterward feel even worse.
The worst hair loss usually happens about three months after delivery, but it can start earlier or later. But in a few weeks or months, your hair growth will start cycling back into anagen stage and your hair will start growing back in. Also, be aware that the hair loss is due to the normal changes of pregnancy – it is NOT caused or worsened by breastfeeding!
Most women do not lose more hair than normal during their pregnancy, but it can happen. If you are experiencing significant hair loss, or if you develop bald spots, talk to your doctor. This is very unusual and may be related to some other condition.
If you do lose some hair after your baby arrives, here are some things you can do to help:
- Avoid tight ponytails, corn rows, or braids, which can pull on the hair and cause more breakage.
- Use a good quality shampoo and conditioner.
- Don’t over brush your hair or brush it while it is wet. Use a wide-toothed comb to comb your hair while it is wet.
- Supplement your diet with vitamin B complex, biotin, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.
- Talk with your hair stylist. A new haircut can help disguise some of your hair loss.