What is postpartum hair loss?

General Hair Loss, Specific Conditions

Whilst in pregnancy most women are happy that their hair is given a new lease of life, becoming thick, lustrous and in general it is in great condition. Then soon after the birth of their child, they are shocked and horrified to find that their hair seems to be falling out.

“Why am I going bald, what have I done to deserve such a horrible fate?” I hear you cry.

Well it appears that you may be suffering from a condition known as postpartum hair loss. This is a sometimes daunting condition that involves the sudden shedding of hair that many new mothers will experience for the first three to six months after giving birth to their new born child. It can be an unnerving experience for many as the hair often falls out in large clumps which are often a cause of alarm for many.

So what causes postpartum hair loss?

For the average person your head will usually shed roughly 100 hairs day, the chances are you will not notice this or it is not to obvious as this will happen throughout the course of the day, not all at once.

Your hair goes through three stages during its life cycle. The first is known as the growth phase, the second is the transitional phase and finally you have the resting phase. It is during the period of resting that your hair is shed.

During your period of pregnancy, the increase in hormones that your body is producing is actually serving to prevent hair loss, this explains your beautiful thick locks that you have been so proud of and were looking forward to maintaining, hair that you could barely brush because it was so thick that the brush was getting stuck.

Unfortunately after your pregnancy term, and after you have given birth, the hormone levels in your body will return to normal levels, usually within 3 months. Once the hormone levels drop to those normal levels, the excess hair that you have been so proud of will drop out too.

The main offending hormone in this instance is estrogen. During the pregnancy levels of estrogen are actually increased in the body which causes an extension in the growth period of your hairs life cycle and once the estrogen levels return to normal the long period of hair growth comes to an end and the body begins to shed the hair. For many lucky ones the hair thinning gradual, though at a slightly higher rate than normal, for some unfortunate ones however, it can be a shock when the hair seems to come out in clumps every time you brush.

So there is no need to panic when my hair starts to vanish?

The important thing to remember is not to worry, you are not going to lose all of your hair and go bald, and your hair is simply just returning to the normal levels that you had pre pregnancy.

If you are breast feeding your newborn, you may actually find that the hair loss period is delayed slightly until you begin to wean or move on to using baby milk formula. This is due to the body maintaining the hormone levels that you had during pregnancy, whilst in the breast feeding period.

Whether you are breast feeding or not, you can be safe in the knowledge that eventually once your body gets back to its status quo, the hair loss will return to the normal levels of an average person and the excess hair shedding will stop.

Is there anything that I can do to prevent or help me deal with hair loss after pregnancy?

Unfortunately stopping the postpartum hair loss entirely is not going to happen, however, there are a number of things you can do maintain your hair and possibly slow down or limit the effects of hair loss both from a psychological and physiological perspective.

Be gentle with your hair during the period of shedding. Only shampoo your hair when it is absolutely necessary and make sure you use a good conditioner. This will serve to keep your hair healthy and in great condition. Take care after showering.

When your hair is wet, it will lose around about 1/3 of its strength so be careful not to tie your hair up when it is still wet or wrap it in a towel and if you do find that your hair is tangled when wet, try to use a wide tooth comb rather than a brush to detangle it.

Instead of brushing, try to use a wide tooth comb. This will prevent excessive tangling which can result in excess hair being pulled out from the scalp.

Eating well and ensuring that your body is getting the correct vitamins and minerals will ensure that your hair remains healthy. You may want to consider taking a prenatal vitamin supplement which is also important during post pregnancy. By maintaining healthy hair you will ensure that you are not shedding over excessively. Your general feeling of well being will also be increased by having a healthy body.

Try to avoid the use or over use of curling tongs, straighteners and hair driers where possible. These will most likely dry the hair and can lead to breakage in the hair which will only further increase the number of hairs you end up shedding each day.

Avoid chemical hair and beauty treatments such as highlights, dying and perms until after the postpartum hair loss period has subsided. Again such treatments will degrade the condition of your hair and may result in more excess hair loss.

Just to contradict the previous statement slightly, hair colouring can actually plump out the hair strands slightly which will make your hair appear to be thicker and fuller.

The important thing to remember is not to over stress. It is obviously alarming when you do start to shed hair but just remember that it is entirely normal. Stress can actually increase the hair loss further and you may actually find that you are shedding more hair than normal.

Finally if you do find that after the 3 to 6 month period that your hair is not loss has not returned to normal levels, don’t panic, go and speak to your doctor who will advise you further on what to do.

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