Following the huge hormonal fluctuations that can occur in a woman's body after pregnancy, a number of changes can be seen that includes hair loss. We call this hair loss post- partum telogen effluvium.
During pregnancy the hair can appear to grow thicker and longer than usual, this is due to the impact of increasing oestrogen levels in the expectant mothers body. Increased levels of oestrogen are believed to hold hairs in the growing phase (anagen) of their life cycle.
Whilst this is great during pregnancy, after birth oestrogen levels dramatically drop back to normal and this can be a shock for the hair. Where the hair was once being held in a growing phase, it now shifts sharply to the resting phase (telogen), awaiting its time to be shed. Cyclical shedding is normal, however the proportion of hairs that shift to this phase all together after birth is much greater than normal.
What does this mean for new mums?
It can mean a drastic amount of shedding roughly 3 months (the length of the telogen phase) after birth which can come as quite a shock. We frequently see patients here at the clinic most commonly suffering this type of hair loss to their front hairline and temples, but general density of hair can also thin and the effect can be even more stark following a cesarean delivery due to the stress of surgery and greater blood loss.
Having just given birth, recovery and caring for your new baby are priority, but noticing your hair start to fall out can be deeply distressing and emotionally draining. Do Not Panic.
This hair loss is caused by erratic changes in your hormone levels so as they start to return to normal, so will your hair cycle. Mothers may notice that in the 5th or 6th month post birth, hair begins to REGROW.
For mothers breastfeeding, they may find the shedding occurring 3 months after breastfeeding has stopped. Once again, do not worry as hair growth will return also.
How to encourage the fastest recovery?
Make sure as a new mum you are managing your stress well, as stress can play a role in hair loss. Also make sure you are taking time to enrich your diet with a variety of vitamins and minerals. This is fantastic for your hair but also so incredibly important in keeping you healthy to look after and nourish your new baby.
You may feel desperate to camouflage the thinning by creating volume with curling irons or adding extensions, but please don't! Post pregnancy shedding is temporary and will recover, but the damage from direct heat and traction from extensions can be permanent.
So please don't add hair worries to the stress of being a new mum. If you think the shedding has been going on for longer than usual or the hair loss is patchy and seems unlike what I have described about then please do get in touch with us for a consultation or speak to your GP as there may be another causative factor at play.
Teresa and Eleanore