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Hey New Moms, Are You Noticing That Your Hair Is Thinning? It's Called Postpartum Hair Loss

Thu, September 30, 2010 8:30am EDT by 1 Comment

New mom Jackie Cascarano was shocked when, a few months after having her first child, she noticed her hair falling out. So she asked an expert about why it happens and what to do about it.

So, you’re finally getting a hang of life with your new baby… maybe your little one is sleeping a little longer at night and you’re starting to feel (and look!) like your old self again. And then it happens: You start noticing clumps of hair in your brush or in the shower drain. And it won’t stop! Are you imagining it? No, ladies you’re not. It’s postpartum hair loss. A scary and very real condition that affects nearly all new moms — and I was horrified when it happened to me!

While one of the perks of pregnancy is actually having a fuller head of hair than normal, the downside is that about three to four months after your bundle of joy arrives, that full head of shiny, bouncy hair is shed. I had my first baby 7 months ago and was absolutely shocked when it happened to me. I’m the Creative Director for Lock & Mane, a site devoted to all things hair, so I reached out to Dr. Michael Lorin Reed, a dermatologist and women’s hair loss expert to find out more about it.

According to Dr. Reed, postpartum hair loss occurs as a result of a sudden change in female hormones that occurs soon after childbirth. Due to hormonal shifts during pregnancy, hairs that would normally be shed actually continue to grow. In the postpartum phase, they play catch-up, meaning that these hairs go into the resting phase which usually lasts for three to four months after birth. But after that, new growth begins and those resting hairs are pushed out — and hair loss begins. Most women experience some amount of shedding at this point (called postpartum telogen effluvium) and an unfortunate few experience more serious and noticeable hair loss.

But the good news is that most women will regain their pre-pregnancy hair thickness within six months to a year. For me, the very noticeable shedding lasted from three to four months and stopped at about six months. But for some women it could last much longer.

“For women with very noticeable hair thinning from this condition, it takes closer to a year for complete recovery, even though the shedding period only lasts one to two months,” Dr. Reed says. “This is because the hairs not only have to grow back but also achieve a noticeable length.”

He says that weight gain during pregnancy, and dieting to lose the post-baby pounds quickly can also be a contributing factor. “I urge my patients to avoid gaining too much extra weight during pregnancy, as sudden weight loss in the postpartum period could potentially exacerbate shedding. Additionally, any sort of crash diet to lose the baby weight should also be avoided. Maintaining a sensible diet is important in maintaing hair health. Women who maintain optimal nutrition and exercise regimens prior to childbirth are less likely to have very noticeable postpartum shedding.”

If you’re looking for products to shorten the hair loss period (or make it less noticeable), you can try a topical minoxidil (Rogaine), which has been shown to shorten the time period for recovery, although some hair loss specialists recommend you wait until you are no longer breastfeeding to begin this type of treatment.

In terms of non-medical treatment, volumizing shampoos generally are a big help. Dr. Reed also recommends tourmaline-type hair dryers, which “help enhance the appearance of volume. The ionized air produced by these types of dryers helps the hair separate and thereby creates the appearance of greater volume.” While Dr. Reed says this option is purely cosmetic, the results are significant in making the hair appear thicker during this shedding period.

HollyMoms, tell us, did you have problems with hair loss after giving birth to your baby?