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Postpartum Hair Loss

Postpartum period is one of the busiest and overwhelming phase of a woman’s life. The last thing you need during this period is an added stress of losing hair quickly. You may start noticing thicker chunks of hair falling out in the shower, or increased strands of hair on your hairbrush and the bathroom floor. Before you panic, you should know that it is normal during postpartum period.

 

The Hair Growth Cycle 

All hair on our bodies grows in a cycle that can last anywhere from three to five years. Every hair follicle follows a cycle that includes four phases:

  1. Anagen - Growth phase
  2. Catagen - Transitional phase which lasts about 10 days
  3. Telogen - Resting phase. It is estimated that approximately 15-20% of scalp hairs are in the telogen phase. This lasts about 3 months until a new follicle appears and pushes the old one out
  4. Exogen: Exit phase which results in shedding of the hair and the end of its life cycle. 

 

 

What is Postpartum Hair Loss?

Postpartum hair loss, also known as Telogen Effluvium, is the shedding of hair after giving birth due to changes in hormone levels. Postpartum hair loss is relatively common and can affect 40-50% of women.

 

 

How much postpartum shedding is normal?

The average person loses about 50-100 hairs a day. But after having a baby, new moms can shed up to 400 hairs a day.

 

 

Why Am I Losing Hair?

Changes related to your hormone levels before, during and after pregnancy can affect hair growth. It’s completely normal to experience hormonal imbalance after giving birth, and one of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance is postpartum hair loss.

 

During pregnancy, your body increases the amount of estrogen, which signals more follicles to enter the growing phase than the resting phase of the hair growth cycle. During this time, you may experience healthier, shinier, fuller and thicker hair. You may also notice that your hair grows significantly faster during pregnancy than it did before.

 

Following childbirth, estrogen levels return to their pre-pregnancy levels, which allows the hair to fall out and return to the normal cycle. The normal hair loss that was delayed during pregnancy may fall out all at once. After about 100 days in the resting phase, the hair begins to shed.

 

The hair you are shedding postpartum is the extra hair you had during pregnancy. It was always destined to be shed it’s just happening all at once.

 

 

When does postpartum hair loss start?

Women may begin to experience postpartum hair loss 3-4 months after childbirth. The amount of hair loss you experience will be different for every woman and is not always relative to your hair quality or quantity during pregnancy. However, your hair loss may seem more extreme if you have longer hair, or experienced a lot of hair growth during pregnancy.

 

 

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

It’s important to remember that postpartum hair loss is only temporary. For many women, postpartum hair loss is quite common and may continue for several months. Normal hair growth patterns typically return after 6 months postpartum, but some women may experience postpartum hair loss up to a year after childbirth. Speak with your doctor if you believe you are experiencing severe postpartum hair loss or the symptoms persist for more than a year.

 

 

Other Factors That May Cause Postpartum Hair Loss

While postpartum hair loss is normal, there are medical conditions that can cause hair loss, such as postpartum depression, thyroid problems or anemia.

1. Stress

Postpartum hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, new responsibilities, lack of appetite, depression and anxiety can increase stress hormone, such as cortisol can have a negative impact on your hair cycle.

 

2. Low Iron levels

Research shows that low iron levels at postpartum could cause hair loss. During pregnancy a woman’s iron requirement is increased from 18 mg to 27 mg, while after pregnancy those iron requirements decrease to only 9mg/day of iron unless you lost a significant amount of blood during childbirth or had a cesarean section. This study found that a cesarean section is one of the many risk factors for severe postpartum anemia. In that case, you may need to take an iron supplement and/or include iron rich food sources in your diet.

 

3. Thyroid Condition

When your thyroid gland isn’t working properly, you either produce too much or not enough can cause hair loss. When hormones T3 and T4 are affected, they can interfere with the development of hair at the roof of your scalp and may cause your hair to fall out. A simple blood test can diagnose thyroid issues. Speak with your doctor if you believe that you may have a thyroid problem. 

 

 

Is there treatment for postpartum hair loss?

It’s normal for your hair to thin out after delivery due to your changing hormones, it’s not something that you can immediately stop. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of postpartum hair loss and help promote healthy hair growth.

 

 

Here are 6 things you can try for postpartum hair loss treatment: 

1. Maintain a Healthy Diet

While the hormonal changes that contribute to postpartum hair loss can be unavoidable, nutritional changes and added demands on the body’s energy after birth can also mess with the hair cycle. To avoid this, focus on a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet loaded with these hair-supporting nutrients:

 

• Protein

Our hair is actually made of a protein called keratin. Having a diet rich in protein would help hair grow thicker and stronger, such as eggs, chicken, fish, seafood, dairy products, soy products, legumes, nuts and seeds.

• Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in cell growth. Vitamin A also helps our skin makes an oily substance known as sebum, which helps moisturize our scalp. Food high in vitamin A include sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, spinach and kale.

• Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidants that helps your body produce collagen. It is great for helping iron absorption. Foods that are high in vitamin C include citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), tropical fruits (mango, papaya, pineapple), berries, etc. 

• Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant like vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C include vegetables oils (olive, sunflower, corn, safflower), nuts/seeds, green leafy vegetables.

• Zinc

Zinc plays a role in hair growth and repair. Foods that provide a good source of zinc include seafood (oysters, crab, lobster), meat, chickpeas, lentils, yogurt, cheese, nuts and seeds.

 

2. Take a Multivitamin

After delivery, it is often recommended to take a daily multivitamin or continue to take your prenatal vitamin if you have any leftover. It is important to remember that vitamins shouldn’t be a substitute for a varied diet, but they may help as a supplement if your diet is not well-balanced.

 

3. Minimize stress

Take small steps to reduce your stress levels, especially for a new sleep-deprived mother. Practice different relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation or breathing exercises. Gentle exercise such as modified postnatal yoga can also help reduce stress levels.

 

4. Be Kind to Your Hair

When your follicles are in the resting phase, they are in their most fragile state and can be dislodged easily. To avoid premature shedding, be gentle with your hair when brushing, washing and drying, and avoid tight hair styles that place too much traction on the follicles.

 

5. Avoid Heat Styling

Avoid high heat styling as much as you can. Heat contributes to hair damage and breakage. It can even make your hair appear more dull. Set your hairdryer to a cool setting and avoid using hot rollers or straightening irons to prevent further damage.

 

6. Use a Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner

Look for gentle, light weight shampoos and conditioners that add volume. A volumizing shampoo tends to contain ingredients like protein that coat the hair, making the hair appear fuller. Use a conditioner formulated for fine hair. These contain lighter formulas that will no weight down hair.

 

 

The Bottom Line

Postpartum hair loss is normal and affects almost half of new mothers. It lasts for a few months after childbirth till your hormones stabilize. Try not to stress about it and accept that it is simply a normal part of recovering from childbirth.

 

 

Written by:

Tan Ye Ting

Dietitian

Simple Balance Nutrition