Postpartum Hair Loss Kicked Me While I Was Down. Here’s What I Wish I Knew.
They say you change when you have a baby. It seems your entire DNA is put in a burlap sack, shaken up so aggressively that the strings pull loose, and before the binding can bust, the DNA pairs are forced back into your body.
I can attest to the truth of that old adage. But after my first (and thus far, only) pregnancy, the change I was least prepared for was the hair loss that would round out a year of dramatic transformations.
While you never truly know what to expect (regardless of reprints of a particularly popular baby “bible”) when you become pregnant, you do have some idea. Yes, your belly will get bigger; that one feels obvious. If you decide to breastfeed, your boobs will grow — then once you stop, they will deflate like day-after-your-birthday balloons. Sleepless nights, unconditional love, yada, yada, yada. You’re warned about many things, but it seems that all the mothers before me forgot to mention one little thing.
I was aghast when a few weeks after I stopped breastfeeding, the hair above my temples looked particularly sparse. While shedding isn’t uncommon in my household, this was a new sight. I could see clear, pale scalp shining through. My shower was filled with strands of hair, this time at a higher volume than years before. Baby hairs sprouted on my hairline, as if I had cut my own bangs in an attempt at a modern manic pixie dream girl look, a position I would personally never volunteer for, even if Zooey Deschanel called in sick. I could not believe that after 10 (yes, it is truly 10, not nine!) months of pregnancy and then the fever dream of the newborn stage that once I came out of the fog, I had left behind some locks.
I started snooping around, asking other women who recently had babies how their hairlines looked. One dear friend didn’t miss a beat, lifting up the front of her hair to reveal a bald spot surrounded by new growth. It was official: We were in some type of Sisterhood of the Losing Hair.
Because my will was bent for months and months, oftentimes with a “that’s just how it is” response to persistent adult acne, swollen hands and hip pain, I was ready to find a solution to this new pregnancy-related problem.
I needed concrete solutions. I wasn’t taking no for an answer! I snagged some hair loss shampoo and conditioner. I religiously brushed my hair in the shower and even applied mystical magic oils to the balder spots. Time would eventually tell. Which, of course, was seemingly the only viable answer to my problem.
Courtney Amerin, an OB-GYN and co-founder of Postpartum Push, explained why hair loss occurs after pregnancy in the first place.
“Postpartum hair loss is frustrating, but a natural and mostly unavoidable process after birth,” she said. “When we are pregnant, the hormone estrogen is high as it helps promote uterine growth and fetal development. High estrogen also causes our hair to grow faster and fall out less. So, you’re not shedding the 50-100 hairs you normally would.” And the fun doesn’t stop there. After giving birth, your hormones shift and, thanks to lower estrogen levels, your hair sheds. Regardless if you do or do not breastfeed, that low estrogen causes hair loss.
But you’re not in this hair loss loop for too long. The shedding will likely start once you stop breastfeeding, or about six months postpartum. And expect a few months of shedding with up to a year of new growth. Amerin said that “this is a normal process, and most people will have their luscious locks returning within the year after birth.” If you notice you haven’t stopped shedding within a year, she recommends you check in with a primary care provider, OB-GYN or dermatologist.
Because I was desperate enough to throw money at this problem, I was searching for a solution in a bottle which actually might not exist. “There are a few things you can do to promote hair health and lessen the effects of hair shedding,” Amerin added. “Avoid heat styling and tight hairstyles and ponytails, which can cause damage and hair breakage. Try to focus your conditioner at the ends of your hair and avoid the scalp for this same reason.”
Whitney Gingerich, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and holistic fertility coach, agrees with the sentiment of avoiding hair tools that emit heat. “There’s nothing you can really do except to ride that roller coaster.”
But none of these solutions are a cure for postpartum hair loss.
When seeking a solution, Gingerich added that you should be mindful of your ever-changing hormones. “I do always warn against taking biotin, because I know biotin is something that a lot of people take for postpartum hair loss, to help regrow it quicker. But taking too much biotin can actually impact your thyroid in a negative way. So I don’t recommend taking excessive amounts of biotin.” However, pre- or postnatal vitamains can be very helpful in mitigating hair loss. “I suggest continuing your prenatal, always while you’re breastfeeding. I recommend all women of childbearing age take a good prenatal.”
It’s been a few months now and crazy new growth is sprouting as if my head is a well-watered chia pet. I’m learning very quickly that much of motherhood can be met with a “so it is” mentality — and losing actual hair from your body falls under said category. So do as I say not as I do, and be gentle with your hair, avoid insane top buns like the one I’m in right now, and keep popping those prenatal (or post) vitamins. Most of all, be patient and gentle with yourself.