Women's Health

Postpartum hair loss: Your guide to shedding hair after pregnancy

Reviewed by

It seems like any normal day as a new mum. You wake up, wash your hair and get ready for your day.

Except, you notice so much hair on the bathroom floor. And it's in the shower drain too. Maybe you where a bit rough with the shampoo.

Or maybe, you've started experiencing postpartum hair loss. Hair loss is a totally normal postpartum condition.

To help you understand the ins and outs of postpartum hair loss, we’ve covered every common question; from when it will start to how long it lasts and what causes it.

Let's get a handle on how your hair changes after giving birth.

Is it normal to lose your hair after giving birth?

Most people shed between 100 to 150 hairs per day — so some hair loss is always to be expected.

For new mums, excessive hair shedding is really common and also perfectly normal. It’s a temporary condition and in almost all cases, it will clear up on its own.

What is postpartum hair loss?

There are two ways to answer this question — the simple and the scientific. Let’s start with the simple.

Postpartum hair loss is a condition many new mothers experience with symptoms including excessive shedding, thinning hair and slower hair growth.

It's sometimes called postpartum alopecia. For those who love to know details, here’s a few scientific explanations.

Every person has a healthy hair growth cycle which goes through three stages:

1. The anagen stage where hair is growing

2. The catagen stage where hair stops growing

3. The telogen stage, AKA the resting phase, where you shed dead hairs

This healthy hair cycle is a long-term process with the growth stage lasting for one to three years, the resting stage just a few months and the shedding stage completed within days or weeks.

On a healthy scalp, up to 95 per cent of your hair will be in the anagen or growth phase and only five per cent should be shedding.

Postpartum hair loss is called telogen effluvium by dermatologists and researchers. This is a temporary condition where an excessive amount of hairs enter the resting stage (telogen) at once.

The result is you end up shedding much more hair than the usual five per cent. Telogen effluvium isn't just a postpartum condition.

It covers a wide range of hair loss issues such as those caused by excessive stress, a side effect of medications or nutritional deficiencies.

Even though it’s alarming to be losing your hair, in a majority of cases, it will stop just as simply as it started.

For more answers, we need to understand what causes postpartum hair loss.

What causes postpartum hair loss?

Your body goes through all kinds of hormonal changes throughout pregnancy and these continue after you’ve given birth.

The main cause of postpartum hair loss is a big drop in your hormones.

It’s estimated that estrogen levels can be as much as 1000 times higher than normal during pregnancy and progesterone levels increase around 10 to 18 times.

These increases keep your hair in its growth phase which makes it appear thicker and shinier than usual.

Once you’ve given birth, your hormones drop back to pre-pregnancy levels — usually within just a few days.

This big drop sends your hair back into the normal cycle; which means all those overdue hairs enter the next phase very quickly.

To put it another way, the hormone jumps you experience during pregnancy put your hair into a kind of pause. Once you’ve given birth, this pause ends.

Postpartum hair loss is what happens a few months later when many more hairs than usual have been shifted into the resting phase and begin to shed. 

When does postpartum hair loss start?

Postpartum hair loss begins for most women between two to four months after they’ve given birth.

This delay is due to the time it takes for your hair to move from the growing phase into the shedding phase.

The middle phase is called catagen — where your hair stops growing — and in a typical hair growth cycle it lasts from one to three months.

So, the timing of postpartum hair loss depends on how long your catagen stage lasts.

It’s not something you can predict which means the safest bet is to set your expectations at around two to four months into your postpartum period.

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

There are a wide range of timelines for postpartum hair loss. Some women find it comes and goes quite fast — lasting around six to 12 weeks.

Most women will experience postpartum hair loss for a longer period — anywhere from six months to one year.

It’s important to remember that you won’t be shedding hair for this whole time. These timelines cover the complete recovery period as your hair regains its thickness and texture.

If you’re worried about how long you’ve been experiencing hair loss or how much hair is shedding – you can always speak with your doctor for some peace of mind.

They can also check on any underlying conditions or factors that may be affecting your hair loss.

Does hair grow back after postpartum hair loss?

Don’t worry — when we said this condition was temporary, we meant it.

In almost all cases, your hair will grow back and return to its normal texture within a few months.

While you're waiting for your hair to recover, you can also use a supplement like the Kin's Postnatal, which has been designed to support postpartum women.

In fact, our Postnatal includes hair-loving ingredients like biotin, zinc, vitamin D and vitamin K1 to support healthy hair growth and skin, so you can get back to feeling like yourself sooner rather than later.

If your hair is not showing signs of improvement after a full year, you might like to see your doctor to investigate further.

Kin's Postnatal is designed to target postpartum depletion, which includes hair loss.

Is there a way to prevent postpartum hair loss?

If you were hoping for a magic cure, we’re sorry to disappoint.

Given this is a natural part of most postpartum experiences, there are no proven methods to prevent postpartum hair loss.

In fact, while it is annoying, you don't actually want to prevent it as it's a sign that your body is returning to its normal hormone levels — which is a good thing and to be expected.

There are a couple of risk factors that can make postpartum hair loss more likely or more pronounced.

A study at postpartum health clinics in Iran found that women with anaemia, gestational diabetes or a history of hypothyroidism were more likely to experience hair loss.

Stress, certain medications and nutritional deficiencies — especially iron or vitamin D — can also increase the chance that you’ll experience excessive hair shedding.

As part of your regular health checks throughout pregnancy, it’s a good idea to monitor these factors as they can affect your overall health — not just postpartum hair loss.

How to treat postpartum hair loss

Since it’s a temporary condition, there is no specific postpartum hair loss treatment. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait and see.

There are some things you can try to support your body and improve the look of your hair while it cycles back to normal.

It’s a good idea to check on any underlying triggers that may make your hair loss worse.

Nutritional deficiencies are a common example and many women don’t even realise they’re lacking after giving birth.

In fact, it’s such a common experience that it has a name — postpartum depletion. Symptoms include brain fog, tiredness, mood changes and even postpartum hair loss.

The Kin Postnatal has been designed to help with postpartum depletion by giving new mothers the nutritional support they need after giving birth.

It has 18 essential micronutrients that can support your immunity, boost energy levels and improve your hair and skin.

It can be taken for up to six months after birth and is safe for breastfeeding.

You might also want to change your hair care routine to improve its look and texture while your hair finishes shedding. Here are some recommendations to try:

  • Look for a volumising shampoo with ingredients like protein, which can make your hair appear fuller
  • Find lightweight conditioners for fine hair as heavier formulas can weigh your hair down and potentially make hair loss look more noticeable
  • Use conditioner just on the ends of your hair to avoid weighing it down with product
  • Avoid any intensive conditioners or deep hair treatments that will be heavy and can make your hair appear limp

What if the hair loss continues?

There are some cases where postpartum hair loss continues longer than expected.

This would most likely be caused by an underlying condition — like a nutritional deficiency, prolonged stress or chronic illness.

If your hair has not returned to normal after one year, it's time to chat to your doctor about the issue.

Losing your hair for any length of time can be distressing. It can affect your confidence and make you feel like you’ve lost control over your body.

If postpartum hair loss has been impacting your mood, you might like to seek mental health support to work through those concerns.

This can be particularly helpful if the hair loss is continuing longer than expected or accompanied by other postpartum issues.

We hope you know how amazing you are — both as a woman and a mother. We hope you also know that whenever things get hard or confusing, support is available.

We cover all kinds of women’s health concerns, including pregnancy and postpartum health, over on The Flow.

Head over for advice on many more postpartum conditions.

References

https://www.scirp.org/html/1-1050143_35881.htm

http://www.iranjd.ir/article_143893_78b3757dd44836e74d1e6934722ee8be.pdf

https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/new-moms

https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/telogen-effluvium/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/

https://www.metagenicsinstitute.com/blogs/postpartum-depression/