I was three months postpartum and finally feeling I could be a little bit of ‘myself’ again. I could go for a workout, my baby is (so far..) sleeping for a longer stretch at night. And one day, I just noticed something unusual – my hair starting to shed. I started to feel nervous when thousands of hairs seemingly began leaving my head every time I shampoo-ed. And my brush was clogged with a ball of hair that is enough to make a doll’s hair. Worse still, there was patchy spots around my hairline, making my scalp newly visible and trust me, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling to see it. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, the muffin-top looked like baby weight hanging over my C-section scar, the ballooning, milk-leaking breasts – This is not me!
I quickly discovered that this phenomenon was not unique to me. Other moms and my dermatologists nodded knowingly when I complained. This shocking phenomenon is called telogen effluvium, and according to the American Pregnancy Association it affects 40-50% of new moms.
“Postpartum hair loss is incredibly common, and it’s important to note that it’s not a permanent condition.”
What happens to your hair during pregnancy?
Hair sheds more slowly than normal during pregnancy due to the privileged hormonal state during pregnancy. Estrogen levels are six times higher than normal during third trimester of your pregnancy. Besides that, both estrogen and progesterone (which also increases during pregnancy) support hair growth and decrease shedding by keeping the hair in a constant growth phase. This explains why the hair usually looks radiant at the time of delivery.
Besides hormonal changes during pregnancy, overall lifestyle changes can contribute to a fuller nice-looking head of hair. Most pregnant mommies have a better nutrition and consume prenatal vitamins which help in maintaining hair wellness.
The shift from Pregnancy to Postpartum
During postpartum stage, the normal hair shedding cycle resumes. Often, mommies may feel like they are losing more hair than normal, but that’s just because less hair falls out during pregnancy.
It is normal for hair to shed 50-100 strands per day, regularly. This stage is known as exogen phase, or resting phase where the hair stops growing and rests between growth cycles and sheds the hair shaft to allow new hair growth.
But during postpartum period, the hormone levels decrease after giving birth. And hair loss that occurs in the postpartum period is known as telogen effluvium. There are a number of factors that contribute this type of hair loss, including the stress of delivering a baby, general anesthesia or even a happy occasion like the birth of a child.
The hair shedding usually starts around three to four months postpartum, which often coincides with poor sleep and overall exhaustion from having a new baby in the house. This combination can make hair loss an emotional event. However, this is a reversible condition. Although postpartum telogen effluvium remains understudied, but the theories range from increased levels of progesterone to nutritional deficiencies.
Breastfeeding also contributes to hair loss, as it can impact the hormonal and nutritional balances, resulting hair shedding. Furthermore, estrogen decreases even more as excess estrogen can interfere with milk production.
In the next session, we will share the ways to cope and manage postpartum hair loss.