Baby Hints and Tips’ resident doctor, Melissa Homewood, shares her personal experience of post pregnancy hair loss.
This month, my article has been inspired by my bathroom floor… and the strands and clumps of hair that I swear could make several wigs. I remember when I had my son I was surprised at just how much hair I lost from about 3 months and despite all hope, it is happening once again. Time to get the dustpan out, wear my hair in a plait and hope it doesn’t clog the bathroom drain or wind its way around my baby’s toes…
Post pregnancy hair loss explained
Have you had a baby a few months ago and now notice that a lot of hair is falling out of your head? Noticed that your previously lush (thanks pregnancy) head of hair is thinning? Its not just you, it is a “thing” and it’s called telogen effluvium. It doesn’t happen to everyone but it is not uncommon.
Telogen effluvium refers to the (temporary) shedding of hair following a shock. One of the common “shocks” is childbirth, but other causes include surgery, illness or accident, hormonal changes for example stopping the pill and significant weight loss or dietary change.
Our hair goes through different phases in its lifetime. Most of our hair (about 80%) is in the “anagen” phase, which means it is growing. Some of our hair is in the “telogen” phase meaning it is resting. A hair is in the growing (anagen) phase for about 3-4 years and in the resting (telogen) phase for about 3-4 months. As a new hair grows, it pushes the resting hair out. It is normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day as resting hairs are pushed out by new growing hairs.
When the body undergoes a shock (such as childbirth) as many as 70% of the growing hairs can be “shocked” out of their growing phase and into the resting (telogen) phase. This reverses the usual pattern. Because you have so many “resting” hairs, as the new hair then grows beneath (usually about 2-4 months later), this hair falls out. The irony is that the hair falling out is actually a sign that a new hair is growing underneath (albeit a very short new hair giving that great fuzzy look for a while…). The way to tell that the hair that has fallen out is a result of telogen effluvium is if you see a little bulb at the end of the hairs that fall out (so the whole hair is pushed out and it hasn’t just “snapped” off).
It does take a couple of months after the shock for the hairs to start falling out (hence why you often notice this phenomenon when baby is 2-3 months old). The hair loss can be quite profuse and the hair can look noticeably thinned. However, because our hairs are never all in the same phase at the same time, you do not go bald. A peak of hair loss is often reached after a couple of months when it slows down again and usually returns to normal within 6-9 months. Most people will notice their hair eventually return to normal.
Treatment for post pregnancy hair loss
Unfortunately there is no treatment for telogen effluvium. It is generally advised to be gentle with washing of the hair and avoid vigorous brushing/scalp massage etc. It is sometimes worth checking blood tests such as iron or thyroid as occasionally there are deficiencies that need to be treated. No supplements or shampoos stop this happening but a general healthy diet and keeping on top of your physical health is important.
Read other mums’ experiences with post-partum hair loss