How to identify and prevent postpartum hair loss

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
May 20, 2014
Girl curling her own hair

What is postpartum hair loss?

Are you shedding an unusually large amount of hair in the months following childbirth? Losing hair, sometimes in clumps, is common among mothers and is known as postpartum hair loss.

Your hair goes through two stages, a growing stage and a resting stage. Approximately 90% of the hairs on your head are growing at any given time. The other 10% or so are in the resting stage.

After the resting stage, the hair will fall out, most noticeably when you are brushing or shampooing your hair. It is then replaced by a new growth and the cycle repeats. An average woman sheds approximately 100 hairs a day.

brown hair backview
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Now 100 hairs a day does seem like a lot. Keep in mind that these are lost over the course of the day and not all at once. Unless you have longer hair you will hardly notice.

During pregnancy you will have a thicker, luxuriant head of hair, you may even have trouble running a brush through it. Increased levels of estrogen are the cause. Estrogen prolongs the growing and resting stage resting stage. Hair that would normally fall out stays put, resulting in thicker hair.

After giving birth your estrogen levels will drop back to normal resulting in an influx of hair follicles entering the resting stage. Soon after you will have more hair coming out in the shower or on your hairbrush resulting in thinner looking hair.

So this temporary hair loss does not mean you are nutrient deficient or lacking vitamins. It is simply hormonal.

Not all women notice dramatic changes in their hair during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Among those who do, it tends to be more obvious among women with longer hair.

How long does it last?

The large amount of lost hair will gradually taper off the more time passes since childbirth. The majority of women report that their hair reverts to its pre-pregnancy state within six to 12 months.

What can I do about it?

Don't panic. I know the sight of huge wads of your hair falling out is unexpected and shocking. Just constantly remind yourself that postpartum hair loss is not permanent. The less you let it worry you, the easier life will be.

sideview hair
Image Source: Pexels

Unfortunately, if you experience postpartum hair loss you will have to wait it out. There are a couple of tricks you can try to maximize your comfort in the meantime.

  • Add some volume: Those of you experiencing visibly thin hair can add products such as mousse. Using a conditioner every time you wash your hair will also help. Experiment with different products that help give your hair a fuller look during this transition period.
  • A funky new style: Why not make the most of this period and try out some new hairstyles? The braver among you can even go for a shorter cut. A short wash-and-go hairstyle will be much easier to maintain when you are strapped for time and chasing your baby around the house.
  • Hair Ornaments: Headbands, scarves, bandanas, even sombreros! These are all fun and stylish (Okay, maybe not the sombrero) ways to disguise thinning hair. This is a particularly popular option for moms who do not have much time to devote to a haircare routine. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Fight the tight: If you are in a habit of putting your hair in a tight bun or ponytail now is the time to stop. Hair that is excessively pulled is more likely to fall out.
  • Skip the heat: Avoid blow dryers and hair irons until you stop shedding. Chemical treatments are also a no-no. Heat can lead to hair falling out even more frequently. If you really must use a blow dryer use the coolest setting possible.
  • Go without the color: Many guides suggest that you try coloring your hair to camouflage that it's thinning. Don't. Color treatments can are quite rough on a person with healthy hair let alone someone going through postpartum hair loss. If you color your hair, you risk making hair fall out more frequently. Yes, the color may help disguise the fact that you are thinning but those newly colored hairs falling all over the place won't fool anyone.
  • Enjoy it: Okay, so this will not apply to everyone but some women have overly thick and unruly hair. Your thinner hair will be much easier to manage, so make the most of it while it lasts.

Are there any dangers?

black hair with blower
Image Source: Pexels

There is the risk that you are misdiagnosing your condition as harmless postpartum hair loss. Hair loss can also accompany postpartum thyroiditis and other medical conditions. If your hair loss is excessive or you are unsure then you should consult your practitioner.

There is one other danger you need to be aware of. Strands of your dropped hair can end up tightly wrapped around your baby's appendages such as its fingers, toes, and wrists.

Hair wrapped around a baby's appendages is known as a hair tourniquet and is an actual medical condition. The most common cause is a stray hair inside your baby's sock. As your baby wiggles its toes the hair ties around the babies toe and continues to tighten.

The effect is the appendage the hair has wrapped around can no longer receive adequate blood supply and will be very painful to your baby. Due to the softness of babies skin, a hair tourniquet can easily slice through if it is overly tight.

Fortunately, the postpartum hair loss period is not permanent. Stay positive and have fun.

Featured Image Source: Pexels

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