Hair Loss After Baby: It's Normal

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People always tell pregnant women they’re glowing. A rosy glow and shiny full hair might be nice side benefits of being pregnant, but unfortunately, they’re temporary. You can blame a colicky baby or a baby who doesn’t sleep at night for draining the rosy glow from your cheeks. Meanwhile, you can blame your hormones when you start to notice extra hair on your pillow and in your shower drain after your baby is born. Falling estrogen levels are the culprit for this phenomenon, which dermatologists call “excessive hair shedding.” Don’t panic, though: it’s normal … and temporary.

Hair loss after pregnancy is more common than you might think.

Noticing big clumps of hair in your hairbrush a few months after you give birth would give anyone a bit of a shock. But you’re far from the only person to experience this excessive hair shedding after having a baby. Postpartum hair loss is a lot more common than you might realize. In fact, it may affect as many as 40 to 50% of women who’ve just delivered a baby.

Falling hormone levels are responsible for postpartum hair loss.

The type of hair loss postpartum women tend to experience is called telogen effluvium. When you’re not pregnant, about 85 to 90% of your hair is in the anagen phase, or active growing phase. The remainder is in a resting phase, also known as the telogen phase. A hair strand will stay in the resting phase for about three or four months before falling out and being replaced with a new, actively growing hair.

But when you’re pregnant, a larger percentage of your hair goes into the resting, or telogen, phase. Your surging hormones keep those hairs from falling out. That’s why your hair might seem fuller or thicker than usual. Then, the big day arrives and you welcome your new baby into the world. Childbirth, however, sends a shock to your whole system, including your hormone levels. Over the next few months, your hormone levels gradually drop and return to normal. When your hormone levels drop, that sends a signal to those hairs in the resting phase that it’s time to go. Those hairs start to fall out, as your hair loss cycle begins to return to normal. This typically happens when your baby is about three or four months old.

How much hair are you likely to lose as the mother of a new baby? You might shed as many as 300 hairs per day in this postpartum hair loss phase. By comparison, you only lose about 100 hairs per day when you’re not pregnant or postpartum. Luckily, this excessive hair shedding is not a permanent condition. As your hair loss cycle gets re-established, the hair loss will decline.

Learn to live with the hair loss until it’s over.

“But what about my hair in the meantime?” There’s nothing you can do to prevent it from falling out. And there’s really not much you can do to treat telogen effluvium. For a few weeks or even a few months, you may have to employ some creative strategies to make the hair you do have look great. A few ideas:

  • New shampoo: Try a volumizing shampoo to maximize what you’ve got. And be gentle when washing, drying, and styling.

  • New ‘do: Talk to your hair stylist about a new hairstyle or even a haircut that might perk you up and minimize the appearance of thinner hair. Bonus points for anything that’s quick and easy to style when you’ve got a new baby putting demands on your time and energy.

  • New hat: Yes, it’s the ultimate fallback on a bad hair day, and it’s quick and easy—not to mention reversible.

What to do if the hair loss doesn’t drop off.

Patience is key when it comes to waiting out postpartum hair loss. Just remember, it will end. Be gentle with your hair in the meantime. But if you feel like you’re losing even more hair than you’d expect, or the loss doesn’t seem to taper off after about the six-month mark, check in with your doctor. It’s possible that you could have some other underlying health issue, and your doctor may have some suggestions about what to do next. If it turns out to be alopecia (the medical term for hair loss), you can try some of the many over-the-counter treatments with clinical trials that back up their efficacy. Before treating it on your own, though, talk to your doctor about possible causes, as your hair loss could be a sign of something that needs to be addressed.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 17
  1. Hair Loss in New Moms. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/new-moms
  2. Hair Loss in Women. Cleveland Clinic.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16921-hair-loss-in-women
  3. Hair Loss in Women: When Should You Worry? Cleveland Clinic.
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hair-loss-in-women-when-should-you-worry/
  4. How to Deal With Hair Loss After Pregnancy. Cleveland
    Clinic.
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-deal-with-hair-loss-after-pregnancy/
  5. Malkud S. (2015). Telogen Effluvium: A Review. Journal of
    clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 9(9), WE01–WE3.
    doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/15219.6492
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
  6. Pregnancy and Hair Loss. American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/hair-loss-during-pregnancy/
  7. Telogen Effluvium. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard
    Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/telogen-effluvium-a-to-z
  8. Telogen Effluvium Hair
    Loss. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
    https://www.aocd.org/page/telogeneffluviumha
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