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Postpartum Hair Loss: Causes and Treatment Options

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Reviewed by Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Written by Sheryl George

Published 10/29/2018

Updated 01/25/2024

Things to love about having a baby: lots of cuddles, the cutest teeny clothes and so much love your heart could burst. Things you probably don’t love? Sleep deprivation, baby barf and postpartum hair loss.

Yep, a few months after giving birth, that “pregnancy glow” and all the thick hair that came with it make a harrowing exit. 

But if having a kid does anything, it gives you some perspective about everyday problems — everything is relative. Spitup on your blouse and baby poop under your fingernail? No biggie. Even a mounting stack of bills means less when there’s a baby in the picture.

Sure, losing some hair is troubling, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

In this article, we’ll cover how long postpartum hair loss lasts, what causes postpartum hair loss and what you can do about it. Because nobody wants to be bald at baby’s first birthday (except baby — maybe).

While data on postpartum hair loss is limited, there’s lots of research on the substantial hormone changes you go through during each trimester and after pregnancy. And to be accurate, the American Academy of Dermatology says it’s not technically hair loss but actually excessive hair shedding due to diminishing estrogen levels.

At the two-month mark of pregnancy, there’s a surge in human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), while progesterone and estrogens gradually increase by ninefold and eightfold, respectively.

Specifically, in postpartum hair loss, there’s a delayed anagen release. Also known as telogen gravidarum, this type of telogen effluvium is commonly associated with postpartum hair loss.

During pregnancy, high levels of circulating placental estrogen can prolong the anagen phase (also known as the growing phase of the hair-growth cycle), resulting in that gorgeous full head of hair.

But after delivery, these drastic hormonal changes can cause all the overdue anagen hairs to enter into the catagen phase (aka the resting phase) simultaneously, leading to increased shedding of telogen hair a few months later when you enter the shedding phase.

Combine this with stress and sleep deprivation, and you’ve got a recipe for postpartum hair loss — hence the hairballs circling your shower drain or strands of hair lining your pillow.

Childbirth isn’t the only thing that causes telogen effluvium. Other factors like illness, severe stress, some medications, crash dieting and major surgery can cause it too. Which is to say, no matter where you are in life, hair loss isn’t uncommon.

For new moms, straggly buns or skimpy ponytails are practically a rite of passage. Hair loss typically peaks around four months postpartum, according to the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology.

In general, telogen effluvium usually takes place three months after a traumatic event. And as you well know, childbirth can be pretty damn traumatic.

It doesn’t happen immediately — your hair won’t come out at the same time your baby exits the womb. Instead, postpartum shedding accelerates several weeks or even months after childbirth as your hormones dramatically shift. 

Right about now, you’re probably wondering, When does postpartum hair loss stop? Usually by the time your kiddo blows out the candles on their first birthday. In other words, most women will have regained their normal hair growth and fullness one year postpartum.

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Excessive shedding from telogen effluvium will typically resolve itself with time. Like most phases with a baby (like the awful three-month sleep regression), this too shall pass.

Yes, no one wants to experience hair loss (or any other side effects of pregnancy hormones, for that matter) but you do get a super-cute reward.

A few months after you notice the hair loss, you should start to see your hair shedding resort back to more normal levels. Generally, topical minoxidil can be used while breastfeeding, but your healthcare provider can offer personalized guidance.

Here are a few things you can try to make your hair look a little fuller in the meantime.

  • Get body, ody, ody. Sometimes, ya gotta fake it till ya make it. The right hair care products can make all the difference when you have fine hair. A volumizing shampoo and conditioner will help wash away heavy oils and grease while adding extra body that even Megan Thee Stallion would be proud of. Check out our guide on how to get volume in your hair for tips to make hair look more like it did pre-pregnancy.

  • Up your vitamins. Normal hair growth and function rely on essential vitamins and minerals — and a lack of these nutrients can potentially lead to hair loss. If you have a nutritional deficiency (which, let’s be real, is very possible if you’re missing meals while taking care of a tiny human), work with your healthcare provider to determine which vitamins or minerals you need. For example, biotin deficiency is often linked to hair loss, so these biotin gummies can help prevent sparse strands. Some women continue to take prenatal vitamins with folate, iron and vitamin D to help with regrowth. We don’t expect you to be making gourmet meals with a new baby, but try to eat a healthy diet so you can be your healthiest from hair to toe.

  • Address the baby blues. Postpartum depression (aka the baby blues) is very real. Even the happy-go-lucky types can find themselves reeling from an emotional storm, especially in the months after childbirth. From hormonal shifts to navigating an entirely new world, it’s understandable to struggle with postpartum anxiety or depression. If you can’t get childcare or take much time away from your baby, online therapy might help you deal with your postpartum emotions.

While hair loss in new moms is common, there are solutions to help get your hairline to a better place. If your child’s first birthday has come and gone and your scalp still looks like a ghost town, it might be time to see a healthcare provider.

What’s the best treatment for postpartum hair loss? A dermatologist, trichologist or other healthcare professional can help you figure out the right hair loss treatments for you and see if there’s something bigger going on, like female pattern hair loss or a thyroid issue.

Below, we rounded up effective, science-backed treatments with street cred (real research cred, that is). That said, if you are breastfeeding, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.

  • Minoxidil. Ah, minoxidil — how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Minoxidil is easy to use, backed up by lots of research and FDA-approved for female pattern hair loss. Though its use for telogen effluvium is an off-label indication, it’s a common line of defense for various forms of hair loss. These 2% minoxidil drops make it easy to target thinning areas or a wide part. A lightweight 5% minoxidil foam version, this higher-strength formula may be a better choice if you have more aggressive signs of hair loss.

  • Oral minoxidil. If you’re looking for a way to boost hair growth without changing your styling routine, this once-a-day pill might be just the thing. It works by increasing blood flow to your hair follicles, which can help kickstart growth. While oral minoxidil isn’t actually FDA-approved for hair loss, some clinical trials have shown it can be effective at different doses ranging from 0.25 to 2.5 milligrams per day.

  • Spironolactone. This prescription medication helps block androgen production. Spironolactone decreases the amount of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in your hair follicles, the hormone that causes thinning hair. Typically, spironolactone is used to treat androgenetic alopecia, so it may not be helpful for telogen effluvium.

Learn more about the various types of hair loss in women in our comprehensive guide.

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For most new mothers, hair thinning is par for the course and just another thing to cope with that first year. Often, the hair loss isn’t dramatic enough to even cause panic. But because you’re already adjusting to so much, losing your hair — even just a little bit, temporarily — can be scary.

Telogen effluvium is the most common form of postpartum hair loss — and one that can completely resolve itself in under a year. From the moment you notice you’re shedding more than usual, your scalp is working to replace those hairs.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • It’s totally normal. No, you’re not the only one going bald after childbirth. TBH, most new moms experience some hair loss.

  • Give it time. Hair loss from telogen effluvium usually resolves within a year.

  • Try a treatment. If it’s already been over a year or your hair loss feels severe, talk to a healthcare provider or dermatologist about hair loss treatments like minoxidil to help kickstart hair growth.

Hair can totally impact the way we feel about ourselves, but remember, there are things you can do to get it under control.

Want to do a little more digging? Read our guide on how to get thicker hair for more tips. And if you’re ready to make a move, set up an online hair consultation now.

6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Mirallas, O., & Grimalt, R. (2016, April 20). The Postpartum Telogen Effluvium Fallacy - PMC. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4908443/
  2. Malkud, S. (2015, September 1). Telogen Effluvium: A Review - PMC. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606321/
  3. Hair loss in new moms. (2010, August 5). American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/new-moms
  4. Almohanna, H., Ahmed, A., Tsatalis, J., & Tosti, A. (2018, December 13). The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  5. Badri, T., Nessel, T. A., & Kumar, D. D. (2023, February 21). Minoxidil - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482378/
  6. Patibandla, S., Heaton, J., & Kyaw, H. (2022, June). Spironolactone - StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554421/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD

Sara Harcharik Perkins, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the Teledermatology Program, as well as the Associate Program Director of the Yale Dermatology Residency Training Program. Her research focuses on telemedicine and medical education. Her practice includes general medical dermatology, high-risk skin cancer, and procedural dermatology.

Dr. Perkins completed her undergraduate education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained her medical degree at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her medical internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by residency training in dermatology at Yale University, after which she joined the faculty.

Dr. Perkins has been a member of the Hims & Hers Medical Advisory Board since 2018. Her commentary has been featured in NBC News, Real Simple, The Cut, and Yahoo, among others.

Publications:

  • Ahmad, M., Christensen, S. R., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The impact of COVID-19 on the dermatologic care of nonmelanoma skin cancers among solid organ transplant recipients. JAAD international, 13, 98–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10518328/

  • Ahmad, M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). Learning dermatology in medical school: analysis of dermatology topics tested in popular question banks. Clinical and experimental dermatology, 48(4), 361–363. https://academic.oup.com/ced/article-abstract/48/4/361/6869515?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false

  • Belzer, A., Leasure, A. C., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2023). The association of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma with solid organ transplantation: a cross-sectional study of the All Of Us Research Program. International journal of dermatology, 62(10), e564–e566. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16700

  • Ahmad, M., Marson, J. W., Litchman, G. H., Perkins, S. H., & Rigel, D. S. (2022). Usage and perceptions of teledermatology in 2021: a survey of dermatologists. International journal of dermatology, 61(7), e235–e237. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijd.16209

  • Asabor, E. N., Bunick, C. G., Cohen, J. M., & Perkins, S. H. (2021). Patient and physician perspectives on teledermatology at an academic dermatology department amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 84(1), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7491373/

  • Belzer, A., Olamiju, B., Antaya, R. J., Odell, I. D., Bia, M., Perkins, S. H., & Cohen, J. M. (2021). A novel medical student initiative to enhance provision of teledermatology in a resident continuity clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic: a pilot study. International journal of dermatology, 60(1), 128–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7753449/

  • Cohen, J. M., Bunick, C. G., & Perkins, S. H. (2020). The new normal: An approach to optimizing and combining in-person and telemedicine visits to maximize patient care. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 83(5), e361–e362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7316470/

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