The Truth About Postpartum Hair Loss
You may have heard jokes about postpartum hair loss, heard a mention of it from friends, or even heard celebrities talking about the frustration of hair changes post-pregnancy. But does postpartum hair loss happen to everyone? What should you really expect about hair loss after pregnancy? Let's break it down.
If you've felt like your hair has been different during pregnancy, you're definitely not imagining it. As the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecology (ACOG) explains, your hair really is different during pregnancy. It might be more full, feel more voluminous, and even have more shine and bounce to it.
All those changes can be attributed to–what else?–hormones, of course. The eternal explanation for all things during pregnancy, right? Sore boobs? Hormones. Cravings for that weird burger that you would normally never even touch? Yup, hormones. Weird dreams involving things you might not even want to tell your husband about? Hormones, and also #beenthere.
The ACOG explains that the hormonal changes during pregnancy leads all of the hair on your head and body to grow and/or become thicker. In fact, studies have even confirmed that the actual diameter of your hair shafts during pregnancy expand, so your hair is literally thicker. And not only is your hair thicker during pregnancy, but you also physically have more hair on your head during pregnancy. This is thanks to the fact that you shed less hair during pregnancy; it's been confirmed that more follicles remain in the anagen phase of the hair cycle longer than normal throughout pregnancy, which is the cycle that hair remains on the head.
Increased hair growth on your head may be a good thing, depending on how you look at it, but of course, there is also the fact that all hair on your body can increase. For instance, you may notice increased hair growth on your face, chest, abdomen and arms. And speaking from my current stance at 7 months pregnant, can I just say that the chin hair is very, very real? Ugh.
So while your pregnancy hair may be lustrous, shiny, and full of life, your hair after pregnancy will go through a lot of changes. According to the ACOG, most moms will notice that their hair changes begin about 3 months after giving birth, usually with hair loss from their scalp. This is due to the hormone levels transitioning back to normal, and your hair cycle will continue to adjust through shifting hormone levels, breastfeeding, and interrupted sleep in the postpartum period.
The ACOG breaks it down pretty simply, explaining that your hair will return to normal in about 6 months after giving birth, but like a lot of things after pregnancy, things aren't always as straightforward. And in some cases, your new “normal” may be different too. In fact, some moms, like Zoe Foster Blake, even see major changes, like lifelong natural, bouncy curls turn completely straight. I mean, it makes sense–pregnancy changes every part of our bodies, might as well change our hair too, right?
And while most moms will probably not see that dramatic of a shift, you will probably notice what feels like a rather dramatic shedding of hair postpartum. That can be because all of the hair that stayed in the anagen phase of the hair cycle shifts into overdrive to be lost, into the telogen phase, so although technically you're not losing any “extra” hair, you're losing more hair at once than you normally would, so it feels like a lot at once. The hair that you lose is also more likely to be long growth from pregnancy, so when those hairs do fall out, it will feel like you're left with small, baby hairs that are trying to regrow. You might especially notice those tiny baby hair around the scalp, but keep in mind, you're not technically losing more hair–you're just losing the hair you didn't lose during pregnancy… all at once.
And because every woman is different, the hair loss can occur a few months after birth, or even up to a year after pregnancy. While the ACOG says expect “normal” hair to return by 6 months, it can take up to 15 months after birth and that's totally normal, so don't panic if you're noticing your hair is not normal by 6 months.