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Your body goes through many changes during the postpartum period, including hair loss. Postpartum hair loss is one topic that isn’t discussed enough and it can be quite alarming! It is important to understand why hair loss occurs and what you can do to support your body during this time. Around 4-6 months after giving birth you may start to notice that you are losing hair, which many women attribute to the stress of being a new mom, but there is a biological explanation for this phenomenon.
There are three stages of the hair growth cycle: the anagen phase, catagen phase and telogen phase. During the anagen phase, or active phase of the cycle, your hair is actively growing. Next, the hair enters the catagen phase, the transition period, which lasts about 2-3 weeks. Lastly, the hair enters the telogen phase, the resting phase. About 6-8% of all hair on the scalp is in the telogen phase at one time. After this phase the hair will fall out, the follicle will take a rest and the cycle will begin again.
During pregnancy, the increasing estrogen levels cause the hair to arrest in the anagen phase. This initiates hair growth and less hair falls out. This is why women who are pregnant have such luscious locks! After delivery, estrogen levels start to decline and the hair cycle resumes. Therefore, you are only losing the hair that you gained during pregnancy because the hair cycle was stopped in the growth phase; there should not be additional hair loss.
Here are some tips to help protect and support your hair during this transition:
Pulling on tangles can cause breakage and split ends, so brush your hair gently, especially when it is wet. Investing in a brush that is specifically designed to move through wet hair will help prevent damage. Excessive heat, styling and colouring can also further damage your hair. Wearing your hair down as much as you can or tying it back loosely can also help, as the pressure on your roots when it is up or in a ponytail may lead to increased hair loss.
Find a shampoo that is void of harsh chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), parabens and polyethylene glycol. Not only are these ingredients hormone disruptors and carcinogens, they can be harsh on the scalp and hair and leave it feeling dry.
During pregnancy a women’s blood volume increases by 50%, and then decreases again during birth and the first few weeks postpartum - therefore it is vital that a woman monitors her iron levels before, during and after pregnancy to prevent iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency can lead to hair loss, and can cause fatigue, feeling cold, pale complexion, weakness, shortness of breath and dizziness.
Pregnancy can affect your thyroid due to hormone shifts, and thyroid health can also affect hair growth. Some women may experience symptoms of hypothyroidism after delivery which include fatigue, weakness, weight gain, hair loss, dry hair, dry skin and muscle cramps. Along with getting your iron tested, it is important to monitor you thyroid as hair loss and thinning may also be due to an underactive thyroid.
Stress comes with being a new mom. Stress can cause cortisol levels, the stress hormone, to increase, and high cortisol can also lead to hair loss. Learning ways to manage your stress response is important for your health and the health of your new baby. Staying connected with friends, going for walks and participating in mommy groups or yoga classes are great ways for you and your baby to spend time together and unwind. It is important to identify your support system and keep the lines of communication open between you and your loved ones. Take time for yourself, relax and enjoy this beautiful time with your new little one.
Hair loss can be scary! But rest assured, it is normal and temporary. By the time your baby is one you should notice that the rate of hair loss is back to how it was pre-pregnancy. It is important to keep these other points in mind and to ensure that you are eating well and giving your body the nourishment it needs to recover from pregnancy and birth.
American Hair Loss Association (2010, March 1). Hair Loss: The Science of Hair. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems- and- treatments/hair-loss/science- hair#1
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical consultation by a licensed medical or naturopathic physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. Please seek medical attention immediately if ever concerned.