You may have heard of women having strong luscious hair during pregnancy, and then losing big part of it shortly after giving birth. This is quite common and in most cases the hair recovers. However, many women notice that their hair doesn’t return to its full thickness and this is when they start worrying how long this will take and if it will ever regrow. If this is something that has been on your mind, keep reading to find out what happens with your hair around pregnancy and how to make it stronger.
Your hair grows in a cycle which means that you constantly lose old hairs and replace them with new hairs. You have thousands of follicles on your scalp and each follicle goes through many growth cycles in your lifetime. There are three distinct stages of the hair growth cycle:
Anagen a.k.a. growing phase is the longest and can last for several years. During this time there is increased activity in your hair follicles such as growing and dividing of important cells that make the hair fibre. This helps your hair to stay strong and continuously grow in length. At any given time approximately 90% of your follicles are in this growing stage of their own cycle.
There is a very brief transitioning stage, called catagen, when this activity stops and your follicles prepare to move on to their final stage of the cycle.
Telogen a.k.a. resting phase is when all of this activity has stopped, the follicles are at rest and the old hairs naturally come out with a small white bulb on their root. This is completely normal and you can lose approximately 100 hairs per day without realising. As new hair is always growing, you won’t normally notice this or perceive it as something problematic.
There are many factors that maintain the hair cycle and these include your hormones, especially your sex hormones, such as testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone. Women naturally go through multiple hormonal changes in their lifetime such as puberty, pregnancies, changes in menstrual cycle, and menopause. Each time the balance between these hormones changes, this may result in changes in the hair growth cycle, too.
During pregnancy your entire metabolism changes to prioritise the growth of your baby. This means that your oestrogen and progesterone rise to increase the blood flow to the womb, support the baby growth and development, function of the placenta, and help your body prepare for labour and breastfeeding. The rise of these hormones comes with one of the perks of being pregnant – thicker and longer hair with minimal hair shedding. This is because the dynamics in your hair follicles completely change – your follicles remain in their growing phase for longer than usual and therefore, less follicles reach their telogen phase.
Postpartum alopecia is the name given to the type of hair loss that you may notice after pregnancy. Once you give birth, your hormone levels return to their pre-pregnancy levels, although breastfeeding may cause further changes so reaching those pre-pregnancy levels may be delayed. Due to these dynamic changes in hormones and reduction of oestrogen compared to pregnancy, your hair cycle changes again, triggering many hair follicles that didn’t reach their telogen phase during the duration of the pregnancy, to now move to their telogen (resting) stage quickly and at the same time. This process can start approximately 3 months after giving birth and is a type of telogen effluvium. Signs of postpartum alopecia include:
Luckily, this unpleasant hair shedding is often temporary. Within 3-6 months later, the hair cycle tends to stabilise and the amount of hair loss slows down. You may be so preoccupied with your new bundle of joy, that by the time you think of doing something about the hair loss, it is likely that your hair may be already en route to recovery. So, at this point you may notice:
While your new hair growth is still fresh and short, you may feel like your hair is thicker at the roots but still thinner towards the ends because the new hairs haven’t reached the length to match your other hair. However, fear not as with time, these new hairs will grow in length and naturally your hair volume and density will improve.
Although you can’t prevent postpartum hair loss, the severity of it varies and not everyone feels like there is a significant change in their hair. If you do notice hair loss after pregnancy, there are some tips that can help you keep your hair healthy, make it look good, and ensure that it recovers quickly. Many factors, such as stress and dietary deficiencies, can prolong the telogen effluvium so, good mental and physical health would usually have a positive impact on your hair.
Having a new-born can be stressful and significant mental stress can sometimes prolong the hair loss. It is important to look after yourself and talk to friends, family or even your GP if you feel stress becomes unmanageable. Mental health should not be ignored.
It is important that you keep yourself healthy and address any medical conditions with your doctor, especially if they have changed during the pregnancy. You may be a very busy mum, but you also have to keep yourself in tip-top condition so you can have the strength and energy to look after your newborn.
Have a healthy balanced diet to ensure you are not lacking any nutrients. Pregnancy and giving birth can be quite demanding on your body. Some women develop iron deficiency due to the blood loss and it is important to make up for this by eating foods rich in iron or if necessary, take a supplement containing iron – your GP will be able to advise you if this is needed. Nutrients such as vitamin D and zinc are also important for healthy hair growth.
It may sound easier said than done as you may not have the time to focus on your diet after giving birth, but it is important to drink plenty of water, eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains so that all these vitamins and minerals that you absorb from your diet can help your body recover quicker and hence, the hair to recover quicker.
You may find that changing your hair style also helps with the appearance of your hair while it is still recovering. When the new hair starts growing from the roots and the ends are still looking very thin, a shorter or layered haircut may give you more volume. Using a volumising shampoo can give your roots an additional boost.
If you are rushing around at home, it is easy to just put the hair in a messy bun, but you should also ensure that the hair is not pulled too tightly as this can weaken the hair further especially around the hairline. You can try a loose low ponytail or a loose low plait instead. It is also advisable to avoid significant trauma to the hair – avoid strong heat such as that from hair straighteners as well as chemical trauma such as that from bleach or perms.
The increased hair shedding is likely to slow down on its own however, many women may notice that their hair is different. For example:
There could be many reasons why the hair loss continues for some women and this could also be due to other hair loss conditions that may be coinciding with the postpartum hair loss. Some women might have very subtle hair loss before the pregnancy that was not so problematic, but this may be aggravated by the increased rate of hair shedding following pregnancy.
A common example of this is female pattern hair loss – this is a complex genetic condition that is heavily influenced by your hormones, especially dihydrotestosterone that can weaken the hair follicles over time. For some women this condition can be aggravated after significant hormone change such as that after pregnancy. In such case it is always advisable to speak with a hair loss specialist so that a treatment plan can be made.
At the Belgravia Centre we do not offer treatments to pregnant or breastfeeding women however, we do often see women who have continued noticing thinning of their hair even after breastfeeding has finished and in such cases the reason for this can be more complex than just the pregnancy itself. In most cases we are able to help.
If your hair continues to fall and thin after breastfeeding, our hair loss specialists are here to help you. They will examine your scalp and hair, discuss your medical history, hair care routine, and lifestyle, before they offer you a bespoke treatment plan tailored to your specific case.
Minoxidil is the only medically proven treatment for those with female pattern hair loss. The Belgravia Centre’s pharmacy prepares special formulations of minoxidil at different strengths and formulations, and with various additives to maximise effectiveness. We also offer other natural and technological solutions that are combined to provide the optimum solution to prevent women’s hair loss, and an exceptional level of expertise. One of our 20 qualified hair loss specialists will be available to help you any time, at our Central London clinic or through a Zoom consultation if you live outside of London.
If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. Take a look through our hair regrowth photo gallery which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world and contains over 1,000 sets of hair growth photos and verified reviews from patients of The Belgravia centre.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.