I looked in the mirror this morning after my shower and thought, “Seriously, how am I NOT bald???” This was after recovering a hairball the size of a mandarin orange out of the shower and then cleaning out my brush FOR THE THIRD TIME after drying my hair. It’s a sad, sad time in a mom’s life. What am I talking about? Postpartum Hair Loss.
It is quite possible that you have never heard of something called “telogen effluvium”, or more commonly, postpartum hair loss. Even if you’ve had a baby before, you might not have heard the term. You may remember feeling like you were going bald a few months after having your babies, but I bet at least 90% of the women reading this article never had their provider warn them about this reality….
So let me tell you…
About three months or so after you have your baby, you will have adjusted (or started to adjust) to your new reality. You’ll be bee-bopping along as a happy (though slightly frazzled) new mom when one day it will happen.
You’ll be in the shower and realize the drain is kinda clogged. You’ll feel this weird feeling that there’s stuff stuck all over your back. You’ll get out and brush through your hair and see that your brush is suddenly FULL of hairs sticking out every direction. THIS is just the beginning.
As the days pass, this will increase. At some point, you will look at your bathroom floor which used to be white but is now kinda brownish or blondish and you will think, “How am I not bald?”
Your husband and kids will think bugs are attacking their ankles. But it’s not bugs. It’s your hair. You also might find a new kind of “floss” in your food if you’re not careful.
Why it happens
There are three phases in a hair’s life:
- Growth (Anagen) – this is the time the a hair is growing, usually about 3-5 years, approximately 1000 days
- Intermediate (Catagen) – this is the time when the hair prepares to rest and the follicle begins to collapse, usually about 1-2 weeks, approximately 10 days
- Resting (Telogen) – this is the time when the hair rests and sheds, usually lasts 3-4 months, approximately 100 days; older hairs then fall out and new ones begin to form
Hormonal changes in pregnancy cause the growth phase of hair to elongate. As a result, you may notice that your hair becomes lush and full because normal hair loss slows down significantly while you’re pregnant. This is wonderful while it lasts! You may even get compliments on your lovely locks.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. After your sweet baby is born, your hormones return to their pre-pregnant state over time. The hair cycles return to their normal lengths as well.
Remember though — you’ve got an entire pregnancy’s worth of unshed hair that is now ready to “rest”. Since it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day, that’s a lot of catching up to do. Let’s do a little math:
100 hairs per day
x 280 days in the average pregnancy
28000 hairs you’ve got hanging in there that have to go (which equals a bagillion)
That’s probably a slight over-estimation since the change doesn’t happen instantly, but considering it feels like you lose at least a million hairs, 28000 is probably about right. Shocking, huh?
So now that I’ve completely ruined your day….How can you prevent this craziness??
Obviously, this is a slightly traumatic event for a woman since so much of beauty is tied to hair appearance. Sadly, as this is a normal process, it is inevitable. There is no way around it.
There is some thought that perhaps increasing certain vitamins might decrease the loss, but I personally don’t believe it will work and here is why. Some amount of hair loss is normal. Since that hair loss doesn’t happen at the same rate when you’re pregnant, your body is completing a normal process and so there really is no “problem” to fix, though it may seem cataclysmic when it is happening
That being said, it was so bad after my first baby that I wanted to try to make it better with #2.
During my second pregnancy and then after I gave birth, I used a special shampoo which was specially formulated with biotin to prevent and correct hair loss. It smelled nice, but I lost just as much hair and was just as sad about it with her as I have been with the other two. It made no difference.
Of course, I recommend eating a balanced diet to keep your body functioning at its best, especially if you’re breastfeeding, but taking an additional supplement is unlikely to stop the loss which, again, is actually (sadly) normal.
Speaking of breastfeeding, I did find one study that suggested breastfeeding moms experience slightly less postpartum hair loss than non-breastfeeding moms…..so there’s that. In case you needed another reason to breastfeed, there’s another one for you.
Ways to lessen impact
The main way to lessen the impact of postpartum hair loss is to take good care of your hair.
Here are some more things to consider:
- Eat a healthy diet including a lot of healthy proteins
- Take a good prenatal vitamin
- Drink LOTS of water
- Make sure you get plenty of good omega-3 fats
- Avoid damaging hair with styling products and heat
- Minimize stress as much as possible and find healthy ways to relax
- Get plenty of sleep (I know, I know……)
- Consider a new ‘do — maybe a cute, shorter haircut so the hair loss won’t seem quite as bad
One thing I personally do to control the location of all the hair loss (since I can’t control the amount) is I wear my hair up a lot during this period. I gently brush my hair well before I put it up in the morning to collect all the strands that are shedding at that time in my brush so I can then clean it out and throw it away. Then at night, when I take it back down I brush it good again to collect what would’ve shed during the day. This keeps the hair from taking over the house quite as much since it is all contained in my ponytail.
There is something called “hair tourniquet”. It’s exactly what it sounds like — when a hair gets wrapped around something that causes a loss of circulation. If this happens to you, your spouse, or your older kids, they will notice quickly. It becomes a problem with that precious baby you just birthed or other small kids. Hair can get wrapped around anything….ANYTHING. This means, if you have a little boy, be VERY aware of his diaper area to ensure a hair doesn’t get wrapped around his penis. For both boys and girls, be sure that no hairs get wrapped around any fingers or toes. Sounds crazy but it does happen.
When to seek medical attention
Postpartum hair loss generally resolves and the hair starts to get back to normal by the time the baby is a year old and your hormones have normalized to non-pregnant levels. If you are still noticing significant hair loss at this time, consider seeing your provider to look for another possible underlying cause.
So now tell me – how terrifying was YOUR postpartum hair loss? Did anyone warn you before it happened? Tell me all about it below!!