May 18th, 2017 Written by Dr. Christine Traxler, MD
If you are considering getting pregnant or have just found out that you’re pregnant, you may be worried about what will happen to your hair while you are pregnant. There is good news for the vast majority of pregnant women when it comes to the quality and quantity of hair during pregnancy. Most women will notice that their hair becomes thicker during pregnancy and don’t experience hair loss (of the excess hair they got during pregnancy) after they deliver the baby.
Hair loss during a normal pregnancy is very unusual and no one knows exactly why this occurs. Some researchers believe that hair loss in pregnancy comes because the hormone progesterone, which is very high in pregnancy and which can cause excessive hair dryness. Hair dryness can contribute to brittle hair that falls out or breaks off easily.
The problem of hair loss in pregnancy tends to worsen as the pregnancy proceeds. Progesterone levels are elevated throughout pregnancy and don’t drop until the time of delivery. While progesterone doesn’t cause hair to break off from the root, it can cause breakage of hair near the root so that it appears as though the hair is falling out. Instead, small stubs of hair are left behind and the bulk of the hair is lost in the hair brush.
Hair Basics in Pregnancy
At any given point in time, more than 90 percent of your hair is growing consistently, while ten percent of the hair is in a resting phase. The resting hair has stopped growing and will fall out after 2-3 months, allowing for the growth of new hair. During pregnancy, the level of hair loss due to “resting” hair actually decreases so that your hair can appear thicker and more luscious. More hair is in the resting phase but it doesn’t fall out until you deliver the infant.
After pregnancy, about half of all women go through a condition called “telogen effluvium”. This is when the hair not lost during pregnancy all falls out over a few weeks’ period of time. This condition happens anywhere from one month to five months after delivery of the baby. Fortunately, this is temporary and within 6 to 12 months, your hair should go back to the pre-pregnancy state.
Telogen effluvium can be distressing to the new mom; however, be rest assured that it is temporary and rarely does it actually cause bald spots on the scalp. You will notice less body and bulk to your hair and your hair brush will be filled with what seems like an excessive amount of hair. This can last several weeks to up to 2-3 months before new hair grows and begins to thicken out your hair again. You don’t actually permanently lose hair following pregnancy. The hair follicles are generally just fine and will begin growing hair anew.
After pregnancy, the normal 10 percent of resting hair can increase to become about 60 percent. When this hair is lost all at the same time, it can feel as though you are going bald. Nothing could be further from the truth; the follicles are still healthy and will grow new hair again.
Know that your hormones strongly affect the growth and loss of your hair; pregnancy is no exception. You can lose hair after stopping birth control pills or following a miscarriage or abortion. Certain hormonal imbalances associated with the ovarian production of estrogen and progesterone can also adversely affect the growth and loss of hair. Speak to your OB/GYN doctor or a hair specialist if you think that you are losing too much hair without any known cause.
What can you do to prevent hair loss in pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time to take care of your entire body, including your hair. After you are pregnant, you should continue to take good care of your hair so that the healthier hair remains on your head. These are some hair tips you can use to keep your hair healthy during pregnancy:
- Use the mildest shampoo and conditioner that you can find. They make mild shampoos for babies and toddlers that would work well on pregnant hair.
- Don’t excessively brush your hair. Over-brushing hair can cause it to break off much easier. Be gentle on your hair and brush it only one time per day if at all possible.
- Make use of a detangling solution or use a detangling comb or brush. This will make the hair smooth and silky when brushing or combing out after a shower.
- Don’t dye your hair or use a straightening agent while pregnant. These products only add to the brittleness and dryness of hair and you will lose more hair.
- Try not to wear your hair up in a ponytail. This only stretches the hair out near the root and can contribute to hair loss. You can also stress your hair by putting in cornrows, pigtails and braids. Even tight rollers can pull too tightly on brittle hair and can create hair loss.
- Eat healthy. This means eating a diet rich in antioxidants and flavonoids—namely colorful fruits and vegetables. This can be protective of your hair follicles so that you will lose less hair at the root.
- Don’t pull too hard on the strands of your hair while the hair is still wet. A fine-toothed comb can pull unnaturally on the wet hair and cause it to pull out from the scalp.
- Avoid using hot blow dryers or curling irons on already brittle hair. This will increase hair breakage and loss at the level of the root.
- Take a good multivitamin with minerals such as you might find in your prenatal vitamin. This can keep your hair from becoming too brittle. Vitamins that are known to be good for your hair include biotin, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, safe amounts of vitamin E and zinc (in recommended doses).
The most important thing to know about hair loss and pregnancy is that most women don’t lose much hair at all during the pregnancy and that those who do lose hair suffer from dry, brittle hair due to excesses of progesterone in pregnancy. Most hair is lost after the pregnancy is over; the sudden change in hormones causes an excess of hair loss that normalizes within 6 months to a year after the you delivery your baby.
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Key Things to Remember
Nutrition deficiency is a common cause of hair loss. It’s important to maintain a balanced diet. Lean protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables are critical for a healthy body and head of hair.
Stress will not only impact your hair, but it can also effect your overall health. Breathe deep and eliminiate stress where possible.
Scalp irritation should be kept to a minimum. Try to avoid excessive amounts of hair color and heat styling. Tight braids and shampooing too much can also be harmful.
If your hair loss excessive, do not wait to see your dermatologist! It is much easier to prevent future hair loss than it is to recover your hair.
Our Favorite Pregnancy Resources
There are so many great pregnancy resources out there, but here are three of our favorites. They’re updated regularly and have a ton of helpful information.
Did you lose hair after delivery? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section below!