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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.
So it makes sense that your body thinks it’s going through a stressful situation when your hormone levels are all over the place.
This type of hair loss, known as telogen effluvium, refers to increased hair shedding after a traumatic event.
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.
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, you’ll need to wait to use a hair loss treatment like minoxidil if you’re 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 baldness 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.
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.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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