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Sudden Postpartum Hair Loss: What Causes it?

Something strange has suddenly happened. There’s hair all over the shower, in the sink and all over post-pregnancy clothes! If having a baby wasn’t hard enough – now you’re losing your hair? Wait, it’s not hair loss the way you’re thinking. You’re experiencing postpartum hair loss (postpartum shedding).

You may have some shedding in one spot and clumps in the other. It’s normal and even more reassuring–it’s not considered true hair loss (phew). You thought getting into a postpartum routine was hard enough, but now you’re dealing with the shedding of your hair at an alarming rate.

There’s a technical name for it: Telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a temporary hair loss attributed to stress, shock, or a traumatic event. You giving birth fits that criteria.

You’ll notice it usually occurs on the top of the scalp.

Postpartum hair loss shouldn’t be confused with alopecia areata, which is when the immune system attacks hair follicles. Generally, alopecia areata is caused by severe stress and will require topical scalp medications.

But for postpartum hair loss – what should you expect, what’s happening to your scalp, and will it ever stop? Short answer – YES, it will stop, but let’s look into what happens to your hair while pregnant and what causes postpartum hair loss.

What causes postpartum hair loss?

Your hair could be falling out for many reasons. It may not be reassuring to hear that, but some of those reasons could be completely random. In general, most hair loss is temporary. Just like postpartum hair loss is temporary! Seeing your hair shedding each morning doesn't feel great, but nearly half of new moms will have to experience this.

So, what causes it? In a nonpregnancy scenario, your hair grows in cycles:

Anagen Phase (Initial Growth Phase): This phase starts with the hair follicle moving further into the scalp and connected to blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. You’ll have a new hair grow for between two to eight years. Expect about one-quarter to one-half an inch per month.

Catagen Phase (End of Growth Phase): This short phase lasts two to three weeks. During this transition, the base of your hair will detach itself from the blood vessel. The hair will form into a “club,” and once that club hair is fully formed, hair moves into the telogen phase.

Telogen Phase (Resting Phase): In the third phase, your hair rested. The hair is now resting and preparing to fall out. If you’re under much stress (like pregnancy), you can send more of your hair into the telogen phase. You’d be able to notice, as you’d experience a lot of hair loss.  

Exogen Phase (Shedding Phase): Hairs are actively shedding from your scalp in the exogen phase. You’d see between 50 to 150 shredded hairs on a normal scalp daily. Since you were pregnant and prolonging your hair shedding, it makes sense that, like a rubber band, your scalp would snap back and catch up with shedding.

While pregnant, your hair stays in the growth phase due to significant changes in your hormones. Once you reach postpartum, your lush mound of hair will start shedding all at once. Your body is regulating and firing your scalp through the phases rapidly. This is caused by your hormones and estrogen falling to prepregnancy levels.

It will appear significant since it’s not gradual like your normal hair cycle but don’t fret, it’s temporary. Your clogged shower drain won’t forgive you as quickly, but it’ll get over it. If your partner fishes out that shedding hair, they’ll forgive you eventually. Watch out for those hair tumbleweeds rolling through the bathroom also!

The condition, as dermatologists refer to it, is excessive hair shedding. Your body did many things for your little one while it grew inside you. Give your body time to get back to normal.

If you feel something other than excessive hair shedding is occurring, check with your doctor for an effective treatment.

What happens to my hair while pregnant?

For starters, your hormones are changing rapidly. A baby is demanding your body go into overdrive. Who gave this baby the keys to your body? Since someone else is at the steering wheel of your body (they don’t know what they’re doing), a few things happen to your hair while pregnant:

Your hair can become thicker.

The progression of thickness and thinness of hair strains will happen in your hair’s natural life cycle. Those individual hair strains of yours will grow and grow and grow. After resting for two to three months, they’ll naturally be pushed out, and new hair will grow out of the follicle.

A follicle is a tube-shaped sheath that surrounds the hair beneath the skin.

When you’re pregnant, this changes since the hairs stay in the growing phase longer. This means that you’re losing less hair and enjoying the lush, thick feel for some.

Your hair can become thinner.

Not all women will experience lush, super thick hair while pregnant. In some cases, women will experience hair falling out while pregnant. There could be many causes, but usually, the following is the reason:

  • You just stopped taking an oral contraceptive
  • You’re experiencing a hormonal imbalance during your pregnancy
  • You may be experiencing an abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

You’ll most likely hit your peak hair shedding four months after birth and regain your normal hair growth from there.

What can I do to deal with postpartum hair loss?

If you’re experiencing significant hair loss after birth, there are a few things you can do to help:

  • Use a volumizing shampoo: You’ll want to find products that contain protein for coating your hair. It will make your hair feel and look fuller.
  • Use a conditioner for fine hair: Most fine hair conditioners will have lighter formulations that will not weigh your hair down.
  • Use a conditioner on the ends of your hair only: Avoid using a conditioner on your scalp, as applying conditioner everywhere could weigh it down. 

  • Getting the proper nutrients: You should continue to take your prenatal vitamin even after birth. Keeping yourself well keeps your body well.
  • Freeze the hair equipment: Skip using your blow-dryer, flat, and curling iron while seeing excessive hair loss.
  • Go easy on your hair: All the tips have led to this. Go easy on your hair and let it do its thing. Excessive hair loss is temporary–don’t let it bring you down!

When should I be concerned about postpartum hair loss?

In most cases, you shouldn’t be. Since postpartum hair loss is entirely normal, you don’t have anything to worry about. If you’re still seeing clumps of hair sticks in your hairbrush after your baby’s 1st birthday – you may want to consult with your dermatologist to confirm there are no additional causes.

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For your postpartum journey, we recommend our  Postpartum Hairloss Gummies and Postpartum Sitz Bath. For DHA support consider our DHA or Total Postnatal + DHA.