I started noticing it about 3 months after I had my son. You finally start to feel like yourself again postpartum, and then the hair loss hits...
Officially, the term for this lovely side effect of childbirth is postpartum alopecia, and the majority of women will have a form of it after they give birth.
Even women not postpartum can experience increased hair loss related to hormones. You can read specifically about hormone-related hair loss (female pattern hair loss) in my article here.
Postpartum Hair Loss
Postpartum hair loss is a normal – and temporary – postpartum change that is unrelated to breastfeeding. Most women will return to their usual hair growth cycle between 6 and 12 months after birth. Many new moms notice hair loss – sometimes quite dramatic – around three months postpartum
What makes it seem so much worse is that while pregnant, your hormone changes actually prevent hair from falling out! So we go from one end of the spectrum to the other once we're postpartum. But don't fear, we should be back on track by 1 year postpartum as long as you continue to eat a healthy diet and continuing to take a daily multivitamin/mineral or prenatal if you are breastfeeding.
Why Does it Happen?
Changes related to hormone levels before, during and after pregnancy affect our hair growth. It’s completely normal to experience hormonal imbalance after giving birth, and one of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance is hair loss.
Postpartum hair loss occurs after childbirth because of the sudden change of hormones in your body, particularly the change between progesterone and estrogen.
During pregnancy, your body increases its production of estrogen which signals more hair follicles to grow. This is why during pregnancy many women notice thicker and faster hair growth.
Once you have your baby, estrogen levels will drop down to their pre-pregnancy range. This turns off that increased hair follicle growth. On average, it takes about 90 days or so of hair follicles being in the "resting phase" before we notice hair shedding.
This does not include the addition of stress, lack of nutrition, hydration, and vitamins that can also contribute to hair loss. This is why the degree of hair loss women experience postpartum varies.
Pay attention to your hair loss and how long it lasts because there is the potential for the thyroid to become inflamed postpartum (thyroiditis). Thyroid function can definitely affect and worsen hair loss. Talk with your doctor to have thyroid levels checked.
Tips for Protecting Your Hair
Here are some tips for daily hair care to help keep your hair growing, healthy, and stress free.
Limit the amount of times you need to wash your hair. This will keep the natural oils in your hair longer which mean more nutrients!
Leave conditioner in your hair for at least a couple minutes. Use a wide tooth comb and start at the bottom of your hair to get out all the tangles gently.
Avoid heat from blow dryers, curling irons, and straighteners as much as possible.
Use soft scrunchies or barrettes to put hair up, instead of rubber bands and avoid pulling your hair back too tightly.
Avoid getting your hair colored, permed, or other chemical treatments until hair loss has slowed or stopped. These will put the most stress on your hair.
Nutrients for Healthy Hair
These are the top nutrients for healthy hair!
B Vitamins - Continue your prenatal vitamin and eat a diet rich in leafy greens, salmon, eggs, meat, legumes, poultry. You can also get a good amount of B vitamins in Brewer's yeast which is helpful in boosting milk supply for breastfeeding mamas!
Iron - Prenatal vitamins have more iron than a typical multivitamin, so you can continue taking your prenatal. Food sources of iron are similar to those containing B vitamins. Good sources of iron include meat, poultry, dark leafy greens, legumes, and seafood.
Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in many of our fruits and vegetables. Great sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, strawberries, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Vitamin E - Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and a fat-soluble vitamin. You can find vitamin E in nuts, seeds, oils, green leafy vegetables, avocado, and kiwi.
Zinc - Zinc is present in most animal products like meat, poultry, seafood (especially oysters), beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Interested in taking next steps to balancing hormones and healing your gut? Check out my Hormone Hub group program here!
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
specializes in digestive and hormone imbalances. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including mood changes, bloating, pain, irregular cycles, inflammation, and more. Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle.
Join me in the Hormone Hub and learn all about digestion & hormones.