You’re not getting enough sleep; your body no longer looks like your own, and now you’re losing your damned hair? Having a baby comes with many life changes, and while most of them are positive — you have a baby, for crying out loud — some of them are much less so.
There is a silver lining about experiencing postpartum hair loss — you’ve never been so equipped to roll with the punches. If having a kid does anything, it teaches you that there’s a scale when it comes to problems — everything is relative. Spit-up 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.
Hair falls out — it’s why you have to clean your brush and your disgusting bathtub drain. But when those hairballs get bigger and you simultaneously notice you have less than normal on your head, you may have a problem.
Telogen effluvium refers to increased hair shedding after a traumatic event. And, as you well know, childbirth is pretty damn traumatic. It doesn’t happen immediately — baby comes out and hair immediately follows — instead, your shedding accelerates several weeks or even months postpartum.
Childbirth isn’t the only thing that causes telogen effluvium. Things such as illness, severe stress, some medications, crash dieting, and major surgery can cause it too. That is to say: It’s not uncommon. And, it may not be as bad as it looks.
According to an article in the journal BioMed Research International, postpartum hair loss can seem more dramatic than it really is. This is because normal hair shedding slows during pregnancy. You were bloated, uncomfortable and felt like a whale, but you had full, voluminous hair, right? Then, once you welcomed your little nugget into the world, your body began the process of returning to normal — the slow, slow process. Your scalp begins shedding all of the extra hair it had held onto. So while you may be finding more in your shower or on the floor, the difference may not be so pronounced on your head, at least compared to your hair before pregnancy.
Still, losing your hair, especially after such a dramatic life change, can be troubling. You already feel like your body has been rearranged — you don’t need another reason to feel poorly about yourself.
In general, telogen effluvium will resolve itself with time. In other words, a few months after you notice the hair loss, you’ll notice it lessening until the amount you shed finally returns to normal, most often in less than one year total. This is why “the most important aspect in the management of TE is counseling the patient about the natural history of the condition,” according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. In other words — this won’t last forever, but it does have to run its course.
Though experts say, “no treatment is needed for most cases of telogen effluvium,” there are a few things you can do to minimize the appearance of hair loss and potentially speed recovery:
Though telogen effluvium is the most common culprit when it comes to postpartum hair loss, and this type of increased hair shedding is rarely permanent, there are exceptions. The shedding that happens after childbirth could uncover other problems.
Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of hair loss in women, and it’s a more chronic condition than telogen effluvium. A healthcare professional can help you differentiate between the two. If you’re diagnosed with alopecia, treatment may include minoxidil, a prescription that can awaken hair follicles at rest, contributing to hair growth.
Chronic telogen effluvium can occur when the increased shedding doesn’t resolve itself. This is rare, but may happen if you’re under significant and chronic stress or if you have developled a metabolic disorder such as a thyroid disorder. If you hair loss is persistent, it is important to follow up with your healthcare provider.
For most new mothers, hair thinning is par for the course and just another thing to cope with in a baby's 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 a little bit of it, temporarily — can be scary.
Telogen effluvium is the most common form of postpartum hair loss, and one that can completely resolve itself in under one year. From the moment you notice you’re shedding more than usual, your scalp is working to replace those hairs. While you wait for yet another part of your body to return to normal, you can take steps to minimize the fallout. If, however, you believe your hair loss is more dramatic than normal or a sign of a bigger problem, it can’t hurt to talk to a healthcare provider about what you’re experiencing.