Expert / 9 August, 2023 / My Baba
Pregnancy and childbirth can cause some of the biggest hormonal changes that can happen to a woman. These changes can lead to a myriad of side effects across the body, including your hair. Many women experience healthier and thicker hair during pregnancy but then suffer postpartum hair loss.
While each pregnancy is different, and hormonal changes and their side effects can vary drastically from person to person, here are some of my insights into what you can potentially expect to happen to your hair during pregnancy and also after giving birth.
Hair health during pregnancy
Pregnancy causes huge fluctuations in hormones which can cause a variety of effects on your hair. For most women, their hair becomes thicker and fuller when they’re pregnant, but for some, their hair can become more brittle and dry.
During pregnancy, the hormone oestrogen is produced in large amounts to help suppress the immune system, affect blood circulation, and support the growth and development of the baby.
This increase in oestrogen causes hair follicles to grow at a faster rate and shed at a slower rate. This results in the appearance of thicker, fuller and healthier hair during pregnancy. Increased oestrogen may also lead to hair follicles producing less oil (sebum) which can lead to a shinier, fuller appearance of hair in some pregnant women.
While this is the most likely scenario for many women, some may find their hair becoming more brittle when they’re pregnant. This is due to increased levels of the hormone progesterone, which is released in high amounts during pregnancy. Brittle hair is more likely to break at the root, which can cause the appearance of thinning hair.
Hair loss during pregnancy
Hair is unlikely to fall out during pregnancy due to the increased levels of oestrogen. However, some women may experience hair loss during their first trimester due to stress or shock of experiencing pregnancy. This is a form of hair loss related to stress called telogen effluvium, rather than being directly linked to the pregnancy itself.
Postpartum hair loss
While hair loss is uncommon during pregnancy, with many women experiencing better quality hair instead, this isn’t usually the case after giving birth. Many women experience postpartum hair loss, which usually begins around three to six months after childbirth. This timing corresponds to the period when hormonal changes that occurred during pregnancy start to normalise.
A few months after giving birth, the abrupt shift in extra oestrogen hormones going back to normal levels causes hair to enter the resting phase of the growth cycle. This means hair follicles stop growing and start shedding instead, which triggers hair thinning and loss. It’s completely normal for women to notice hair coming out in clumps rather than strands which is the usual way people shed hair. This is due to the hormonal changes being so sudden.
While some may be alarmed at clumps of hair coming out every day, postpartum hair loss is considered a common, temporary condition. The hair loss usually slows down and stops as the hormone levels in the body stabilise and return to their pre-pregnancy state. The hair growth cycle then resumes its normal pattern and the excessive shedding diminishes.
While the duration of postpartum hair loss varies among individuals, hair will usually grow back after six to 12 months. In most cases, hair will return to its pre-pregnancy thickness and appearance over time.
How to promote hair growth
As postpartum hair loss is a natural and physiological process resulting from hormonal changes, it cannot be prevented. However, certain measures can help minimise its impact and promote hair growth.
Firstly, vitamin and mineral intake is important for hair health. I would advise new mothers to maintain a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and zinc and consider using supplements if their diet lacks these. These minerals and vitamins will not only support overall postpartum recovery but also contribute to hair health by minimising breakage and keeping hair follicles healthy.
Secondly, stress can exacerbate hormonal imbalances, which could make hair loss even worse. I’d recommend trying stress-reduction techniques, seeking support from loved ones, and engaging in relaxation practices to help manage stress levels. Having a new baby is a stressful time and you may also be dealing with minimal sleep. It is important to remember to ask a friend, family or loved one for help if you need it.
Article by Dr Albena Kovacheva, Senior Surgeon at Harley Street Hair Clinic
About Dr Albena Kovacheva
Dr Albena Kovacheva is a highly experienced specialist in Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) hair transplantation and has been practising at Harley Street Hair Clinic for over a decade. Having performed over a thousand surgeries, she handles all aspects of the procedure, including graft extraction and implantation. Her primary focus is on treating male and female pattern hair loss, eyebrow restoration, scar repair, and sideburn restoration. Dr Kovacheva is a GMC registered doctor and has trained a number of physicians in the field of hair transplantation.
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