Many new mums are often concerned when they find themselves losing more hair than usual in the first few months after giving birth.
Although it might not seem so, this is a completely normal occurrence and there is no need to panic. In fact, most mum’s hair will be back to its pre-pregnancy thickness before their baby’s first birthday. You’re also not alone!
Female hair loss is fairly common in general according to a recent study, which showed Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) is the most common cause of alopecia in women and approximately one-third of adult caucasian women experience hair loss in Australia.
Hair loss that occurs after pregnancy, known as postpartum hair loss, is a type of ‘Telogen Effluvium’, which is caused by hairs entering the resting phase and in doing so, this increases the shedding stage of the hair cycle.
While in most cases postpartum hair loss will only continue for up to 12 months after giving birth, some studies have also suggested that the shedding may last up to 24 months.
There are a variety of possible causes of postpartum hair loss and one or more of these can affect a woman’s hair simultaneously. However none of these are cause for major concern and there are many hair loss treatments and hair restoration options available.
Some of the causes of postpartum hair loss include:
An increase in hormone levels
Oestrogen and progesterone levels increase significantly during pregnancy. These hormones increase the length of the anagen phase (growth phase), which actually maintains more hairs in both length and number. Therefore a woman’s hair often looks thicker during her pregnancy.
Shortly after giving birth however, these hormone levels will drop causing the hair that should have fallen out during the pregnancy, plus the normal hair fall, to come out all at once resulting in thinning hair.
Pregnancy is a common time for women to become anemic or iron deficient as the developing fetus needs iron and the pregnant mother is producing more red blood cells.
Most women take a prenatal supplement but stop after they have given birth. This can lead to an iron deficiency, which may cause an increase in hair loss.
It is important for a new mother to have her iron, complete blood count, and ferritin checked within a few weeks of having her baby.
Both an epidural and C-section require the use of a regional anesthetic and with any anesthesia, there is a risk that the woman’s hair cycle could temporarily be disturbed. In addition, the increased loss of blood during a C-section surgery may lead to a lower iron level that may result in some hair loss.
Lack of sleep is common with new mums and this combined with the stress of looking after a newborn, can negatively affect their hair cycle. Stress hormones and stress proteins can cause the anagen phase (growth phase) of the hair cycle to shorten temporarily, leading to postpartum hair loss a few months later.
Many women will attempt to shed their excess pregnancy weight too quickly after giving birth. Sometimes the new mother will follow a ‘crash diet’ to help speed up her weight loss. Losing more than 7 kilos over a 4 week period can cause metabolic changes, which may lead to postpartum hair loss.
Many causes of postpartum hair loss are a natural part of pregnancy and post-pregnancy and with time, your hair should return to normal.
To improve your hair loss situation ensure you are eating well and have regular exercise as soon as you feel ready, in order to take some time-out and relax. Additionally, if you’re iron deficient, we suggest taking an iron supplement for a few months. (Note: If you are breastfeeding, any supplementation should be approved by your physician).
Did you experience postpartum hair loss, how did it affect you?
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Article written by Andrew Wilson, Hair Loss Consultant – Transitions HairWe may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.