Do you wonder why you suddenly see clumps of hair in your pillow at 3am while nursing your 4-month-old bundle of joy? Have you wondered if it had anything to do with breastfeeding? Are you worried that your hair won’t grow back anymore?
Don’t worry so much. A lot of mothers experience hair loss after giving birth. Most of the time, it resolves on its own.
Hair loss is commonly seen after pregnancy but is not due to breastfeeding. This usually starts 3 months after giving birth and usually lasts for 3-6 months. Hair loss cannot be entirely prevented, but ways to lessen hair loss include supplementation or a healthy diet and avoiding additional stress to the hair. Hair loss may sometimes be due to other medical conditions, so it’s also best to see a physician if this persists.
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The cycle of hair growth
Your hair has two phases of growth. The first phase is called anagen, when your hair grows longer. This lasts around 3 years.
The second phase is called telogen, when your hair stops growing and rests in the hair follicles. The telogen phase is around 3 months long.
When telogen ends, and anagen starts, the old strand of hair falls out of its follicle and is replaced by a new strand.
Pregnancy and hormones
When you become pregnant, your body undergoes hormonal changes. The amount of estrogen and progesterone in the body increases. This causes more of your hair to stay in anagen (the growth phase). Women report having thicker hair while they are pregnant.
After giving birth, your body will once again undergo hormonal changes as it reverts back to normal. Estrogen levels in the body decrease. This will cause most of your hair to enter telogen (the resting phase). When telogen ends, most of your hair will fall out in order to make room for new hair. Based on the hair growth cycle, hair fall will most probably start when your baby is 3 months old.
This hair loss is called postpartum alopecia, commonly experienced by mothers. Around 40-50% of first-time mothers report hair loss in the first few months after giving birth.
How much hair loss is normal?
Experts say that we can lose around 50-100 hairs per day. This may jump up to 400 hairs per day for postpartum mothers and then reduce back to normal levels 6 months after giving birth. Your hair will eventually grow back to its pre-pregnancy state.
Your hair will follow the normal hair growth cycle as your body adjusts to normal hormone levels pre-pregnancy. This is an estimated 3-6 months after your hair loss has started.
Is hair loss due to breastfeeding?
Hair loss is not related to breastfeeding. The Australian Breastfeeding Association states that hair loss may be due to hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy and not directly because of breastfeeding.
What to do to prevent further hair loss
Excessive hair loss can be troublesome and anxiety-inducing, especially for first-time mothers. There are many ways to manage postpartum hair loss.
One way is to help ensure that our bodies have enough nutrients needed to keep our hair healthy. Biotin is a type of Vitamin B linked to healthy hair growth. You can take daily Vitamin B or biotin supplements. Another option is to include in your diet foods rich in biotins, such as nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, eggs, fish, and meat.
Another essential vitamin for healthy hair is Vitamin A. Besides supplements, you can consume green and leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils to ensure there’s enough of this vitamin in your body.
Zinc should also be on top of your list. Hair loss can indicate a zinc deficiency. Eat more beans and lentils, chickpeas, cashews, cheese, yogurt, red meat, and seafood.
Lastly, Vitamin C helps produce enough collagen needed by your skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fruits rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, pineapples, mangoes, papaya, watermelon, and cantaloupe.
Additional tips to help prevent or lessen hair loss include avoiding hairstyles that can pull your hair (such as braids and pigtails), using hair products specially formulated with biotin, and avoiding using heated hair instruments with a high heat setting.
When to see your doctor
Your hair loss may seem too much, but if you had much thicker hair growth during pregnancy, your hair would likely fall out by just as much. However, if the hair loss seems out of proportion, this could mean other things. There may not be enough iron stores in the blood, or you may have a problem with your thyroid.
Iron is a mineral needed by your body for various functions. It helps blood deliver enough oxygen throughout the body. It helps repair cells in the body. It also helps stimulate hair growth. During pregnancy, iron stores can become depleted as the body tries to create more red blood cells to keep up with the growing baby. If this is not corrected through a proper diet or supplementation, you can develop anemia and alopecia.
Sometimes, an underlying problem in your thyroid levels may cause thinning and loss of hair. If your thyroid hormone level is too low, this triggers the telogen phase in most of your hair. In most pregnant women, thyroid problems are usually diagnosed during the first few months of pregnancy. If you are diagnosed with a thyroid problem, you can speak with your doctor regarding the possible effects of your condition.
It is always best to seek consult with your doctor when you are unsure about your symptoms.
Hair loss is commonly seen after pregnancy. Most mothers associate it with breastfeeding, but this is due to hormonal changes and not breastfeeding itself. This usually starts 3 months after giving birth and will last up to 6 months.
Ways to prevent or lessen hair loss include supplementation or a healthy diet, avoiding additional stress to hair, and using safe hair products.
Hair loss may be due to other medical conditions such as thyroid problems and insufficient iron stores.
Sarah is a healthcare writer, motivated by her love of reading books while growing up. She took up human biology and further studies in medicine, in order to fulfill her passion for helping kids. While she isn’t a biological mother yet, she has taken a young Siberian husky named Indy under her wing. She would love to someday travel the world and meet kids from different cultural backgrounds.