Postpartum Hair Loss: What Is It and How to Treat It

During your pregnancy, you may have noticed that your hair felt healthier and shinier than usual. That’s because the high levels of hormones in your blood and increased blood volume and circulation during pregnancy kept your hair from falling out at its usual rate.

But should you worry if you start to see more hair than usual circling the shower drain after you’ve given birth?

What Is Postpartum Hair Loss?

Postpartum hair loss is the loss of hair due to hormonal changes in your body after you’ve had a baby.

Your hormone levels drop after you’ve given birth, which causes you to lose more hair and in bigger clumps than you’re used to. It’s probably no more than you would have lost over the past nine months, but it may feel like more because it’s happening all at once.

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What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?

Postpartum hair loss is caused by changes in the body’s hormones after birth. In the normal hair growth cycle, hair starts in the growing phase, moves to the resting phase (when you have great hair days), and ends with the shedding phase (when hair comes out).

During pregnancy, most of your hair stays in the growth phase due to the high levels of estrogen and progesterone.

After your baby arrives, your hormone levels begin to change again, and your blood volume returns to normal. Your estrogen level falls, causing your thick mane of pregnancy hair to begin the shedding phase.

The typical person loses about 100 hairs a day. During postpartum hair loss, you may lose as many as 300 hairs a day. Because so much more of your hair is shedding at once, it may be disturbing to find your fingers full of loose hair after rinsing your shampoo.

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?

Postpartum hair loss can start any day after your baby is born. The peak point of hair loss is usually at four months postpartum, but hair loss may continue for up to one year.

There are no remedies to prevent or slow the loss of hair after birth, but there are some things you can try to make your hair appear fuller and healthier.

How to Deal With Postpartum Hair Loss

Although it’s completely normal for your hair to thin out after having a baby, if it’s bothering you, here are a few tips:

Skip the heat-styling.

After washing, try to let your hair air dry as using a blow dryer or curling iron may make it look thinner.

Don’t overbrush.

Brushing too hard or using a stiff brush can make more hair come loose. If you must brush, brush gently with a soft brush and only once per day. Use your fingers to style your hair during the day.

Use volumizing products.

Try a volumizing shampoo or styling product, such as one that gives beachy waves. Gently give hair a finger-fluff and follow with a light hairspray to hold the luster. Don’t use too much product — that can weigh hair down and make it look thin and limp.

Try a new hairstyle.

Some hairstyles make your hair look thicker and fuller. An experienced stylist can tell you what style would work best for you. Many new moms prefer shorter hair, which can make hair look fuller. A shorter cut can be easier to manage, too, which can save time to spend with your new baby.

Eat healthy.

Including a variety of healthy proteins, fruits, and vegetables into your diet is the best way to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. Eating dark leafy greens full of iron and vitamin C, sweet potatoes and carrots with beta carotene, eggs with vitamin D, and fish for omega-3s and magnesium also may improve hair health.

Take a multivitamin.

The best way to get all your vitamins is through what you eat, but sometimes you may miss some important nutrients through diet alone. Taking a multivitamin can help supplement a sometimes not-so-well-balanced diet.

Although no specific vitamin has been shown to stop or slow hair loss, vitamins and minerals are important for overall health. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s often recommended that you continue taking your prenatal vitamins for six to eight weeks after giving birth.

Best Products for Postpartum Hair Loss

The American Academy for Dermatology recommends using volumizing shampoos and conditioners that coat the hair and make it look fuller when you’re dealing with postpartum hair loss. Avoid shampoos labeled “conditioning shampoo,” and conditioners labeled “intensive conditioner,” which contain heavy conditioners that can weigh down your hair. You could also try conditioners formulated for fine hair, which contain lighter formulas.

Here are a few ingredients to look for:

  • Biotin, a hair-strengthening ingredient.
  • Coconut oil for hair-thickening.

Also, remember to use conditioner primarily on the ends of your hair — applying conditioner on your scalp tends to weigh down the hair.

When to See Your Doctor

Most new moms experience some level of hair loss after pregnancy and, in most cases, it’s completely normal and nothing to worry about.

But if your hair has not regained its normal fullness by your baby’s first birthday, you may want to see a dermatologist. Something else may be causing your hair to fall out.

There are many conditions that can cause hair loss, so you should see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.