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A baby on board = that “preggo glow” and thick, lustrous locks. Or so they say.
If you’re sporting a Kim K-esque mane for the first time in your life, thank your sky-high estrogen levels for slowing down hair loss.
But if you’re finding alarming handfuls of hair in the shower, it could be something else.
Fast facts on hair loss
It’s normal to shed anywhere from 50 to 100 hairs per day. Excess hair loss could look like:
- bald spots
- losing handfuls — hundreds of hairs! — in your brush or the shower
- a receding hairline
- general thinning all over
Lock loss can be caused by:
- nutrient deficiencies
- medical conditions related to pregnancy
Let’s get to the root of the matter.
During pregnancy, your estrogen levels rise to support le bébé. Most of the time, the flood of estrogen also slows your body’s natural hair shedding cycle.
Here’s why your head might be droppin’ hair like it’s hot instead.
It could be hormonal shifts
The abrupt hormone changes in early pregnancy are no joke. For some women, the transition triggers telogen effluvium (TE), aka stress-induced hair loss.
TE works like this: In response to shock, trauma, or stress, your body places 30 percent or more of your hairs into the shedding phase. That could take your daily hair loss from 100 strands to 300. Even at that rate, it might take time to notice your hair thinning.
The good news? TE usually resolves itself within a few months.
It might be an underlying health issue
Growing a baby is a lot of work for your body. It increases your risk of several health issues, including:
Depending on their severity, these health issues could cause TE.
Sometimes pregnancy hormone levels can fluctuate into the danger zone. Thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) can cause hair loss.
There are several other signs of hypothyroidism, which affects about 2 to 3 percent of pregnant women:
The risk of hypothyroidism rises once you’ve given birth. Five to 10 percent of new moms experience postpartum thyroid probs.
Thyroid issues are treatable. Your doctor can order a blood test for diagnosis and then give you the rundown of treatment options.
Pregnancy increases your risk of iron deficiency anemia. If you’re carrying multiples (#respect), have severe morning sickness, or got pregnant soon after giving birth, your risk is even higher.
Low iron levels mean you don’t have enough red blood cells to efficiently carry oxygen through your body. This causes hair thinning, along with several other symptoms:
- irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- frequent headaches
Since anemia isn’t a preggo-only condition, your hair probably won’t get its volume and shine back until you address your iron levels.
If you’re pregnant and think you might have anemia, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can determine whether you need iron supplements.
K, but what about postpartum hair loss?
If your hair was on point during pregnancy, you can thank your high estrogen levels. Once you gave birth, your estrogen plummeted back to its pre-preggo level. It’s not great news for your hair, but it’s no reason to worry.
Excessive hair shedding usually peaks at 4 months postpartum. Losing handfuls of hair while you’re recovering from birth is no fun — and it can be scary to see giant clumps in the shower or on the floor — but this type of telogen effluvium typically goes away in time.
Other potential culprits
Telogen effluvium usually makes your hair thinner all over. Noticeable bald patches or clumps from one side or the top of your head could indicate a genetic or autoimmune condition. These conditions cause baldness or hair loss regardless of whether you have a baby on board.
Androgenetic alopecia, aka female pattern baldness, shortens your hair’s growth phase and lengthens the shedding phase.
Alopecia areata triggers patches of head hair and body hair. Some people experience a cycle of regrowth and hair loss, while for others the loss is unpredictable. There’s no cure for alopecia areata, but some treatments can help.
Last but not least: Could it be harsh hair treatments?
Sometimes beauty processes backfire. Excessive blow-drying, flat ironing, or chemical treatments can cause breakage and hair thinning. So can super tight hairstyles.
These lead to traction alopecia, which can cause permanent hair loss or hairline damage if you don’t give your mane a break.
If your locks are thinning due to pregnancy, there’s no special treatment required. Your ’do will bounce back over time.
If your hair loss is caused by thyroid issues or low iron, your doctor can suggest medications or supplements.
If you have androgenetic alopecia, you could try low-level laser therapy (LLLT), which uses red light to stimulate hair growth. This is safer than taking certain meds while pregnant.
Any postpartum hair loss solutions?
It depends. Is your baby on the boob? Breastfeeding moms have fewer options because some meds aren’t considered safe for the baby.
Either way, if your hair doesn’t return to its pre-preggo state, talk to your doctor. They can discuss the pros and cons of minoxidil (Rogaine), supplements, or other meds.
If you can’t blame your thinning hair on an underlying condition or deficiency and you can’t pop pills because of the baby, what are your options?
Here’s a handful of natural remedies to kick-start new hair growth.
1. Scalp massage
Sure, head massages are super relaxing, but they also encourage circulation and hair growth. And while nourishing oils — almond, olive, jojoba — can help moisturize your scalp, a 2014 study on mice found that peppermint oil can stimulate hair growth.
2. DHT-blocking shampoo
Unfortunately, shampoo won’t magically give you a fresh head of hair. But some shampoos contain ingredients that block DHT, an androgen linked to hair loss.
Look for ingredients like vitamin B12, vitamin B6, saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil, rosemary oil, beta-sitosterol, ketoconazole, and biotin.
If you’re trying a new product, it’s always best to do a patch test to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. And if you’re not sure whether an ingredient is baby-friendly, talk to your doctor.
3. Fenugreek hair masks
Fenugreek seeds have been touted as a skin and hair booster for years. But is there proof? Research is limited, but a 2010 study found that fenugreek-infused cream improved the suppleness of skin (and maybe your scalp?).
Massaging your scalp with fenugreek paste (just mash the seeds after soaking them overnight) could boost your hair’s fullness and luster.
Fenugreek supplements are not recommended for pregnant women. But once you’ve given birth, taking fenugreek internally could significantly increase your milk production.
4. Feast on nourishing foods
Your diet plays a major role in your internal and external health. That includes your skin, nails, and — yep — hair.
Nosh on foods with omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, and tuna), biotin (eggs, fish, meat, and nuts), and vitamin D (orange juice, egg yolks, and yogurt).
5. Amla oil
Amla, which comes from the Indian gooseberry tree, has been used for thousands of years as a hair loss remedy in Eastern medicine.
More research is needed, but a 2012 study found that applying amla oil inhibited 5-alpha reductase, which is linked to male baldness.
Maybe. It depends on what’s causing your hair loss in the first place.
There’s no fast fix to get back the hair you’ve already lost. But these extra TLC tips could prevent more breakage or thinning:
- Be gentle with your locks. Compulsive hair twister? Stahp already! Resist the urge to rub, pull, or twist your hair. If possible, skip tight ponytails, extensions, and weaves for a few months.
- Use a wide-toothed comb. Wash your hair carefully and use only your fingers or a wide-toothed comb to detangle it.
- Just say no to harsh styling. Give your mane regular breaks between uses of hot rollers, curling irons, hot oils, and harsh chemical treatments.
- Nourish your hair from the inside out. Getting a healthy balance of protein, fats, and other important nutrients helps your hair stay strong and beautiful. Ask your doctor for a prenatal vitamin recommendation too — they’re great for hair, skin, and nails!
- Talk to a pro. A medical pro, that is. Your doctor can help you ID any meds or supplements that have hair-thinning side effects. They can also help you get to the root of your hair loss.
- Choose volumizing hair products. Some shampoos and conditioners can make your hair appear more full and bouncy. Just beware of super heavy formulas that weigh down thin hair. When in doubt, apply conditioner to only the ends of your hair.
- Try a different haircut. Short bobs and strategic layers can help hair look thicker. If you’ve already lost a lot of hair, a shorter, lighter haircut might be helpful while you work on growing back your mane.
Losing handfuls of hair during pregnancy isn’t common, but it doesn’t usually indicate a major problem. Hair loss is normal if you have a hormone imbalance or certain preexisting health conditions.
For some people, hair will regrow within a few months. For others, it’s necessary to treat the underlying issue.
Postpartum hair loss, on the other hand, is very common. It usually peaks 4 months after you give birth. Most mamas say their locks feel back to normal by their baby’s 9-month milestone or first birthday.