Pregnancy is often associated with "the glow", which is a direct result of increased blood volume, circulation and oil secretion, producing a natural radiance on the skin. Pregnancy also tends to bless you with thicker hair, offering you abundant and healthy locks perhaps as a consolation prize to all that morning sickness.
But post childbirth, something happens in between those sleepless nights and worn-out days. Three to 6 months after baby arrives, that thick, gorgeous hair disappears as postpartum hair loss sets in. While taking a quick shower, you suddenly realize that your strands are coming out in clumps! As if being sleep deprived and experiencing a hormonal roller coaster weren’t enough, now add to the woes that your hair is literally falling out.
Postpartum hair loss is highly common
Here's the thing: Postpartum hair loss is very common—and isn't technically true hair loss. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, this phenomenon is actually excessive hair shedding—meaning it's temporary. Your formerly thick hair was courtesy of the high estrogen levels in your body during pregnancy, which suddenly took a plunge after childbirth, triggering your body's normal hair shedding process.
How long postpartum hair loss lasts
Luckily, your sudden hair shedding will slow down to its usual shedding rate within 6 to 12 months postpartum. It's rare that this condition lasts for more than a year. If you're still noticing significant hair loss at one year postpartum, talk to your doctor, who may need to check your thyroid and other biomarkers.
Natural ways to cope with postpartum hair loss
In the meantime, here are some natural remedies to cope with postpartum hair loss.
1. Stick with gentle hair treatment
Avoid putting your hair up in a ponytail or doing any tight hairstyles. Try to keep it loose and free-flowing as much as possible (tough with an infant, we know, but maybe now's the time for a shorter cut?). Also avoid excess heat styling, which can contribute to hair loss. After your shower, allow your hair to air dry when possible. Avoid coloring your hair until the shedding halts.
2. Aim for a diet focused on protein, iron and plant-based fats
Post childbirth, and particularly when you’re breastfeeding, your body requires the right mix of nutrients to remain in balance. Those flavonoids and antioxidants originating in fruits and veggies prop up hair growth. Eggs, seeds, nuts and fish (all are prominent omega-3 fatty acid sources) help retain a healthy scalp. Protein- and iron-rich foods can also help neutralize hair loss.
3. Work in stress-reduction methods
Postnatal stress can also contribute to hair loss. Engage in stress-reduction methods like gentle exercise, meditation, yoga, nature walks, your personal hobby, pet therapy or any other activity which keeps you occupied. Consider it a priority to take care of both your baby and yourself during those initial few months after baby arrives.
4. Swap out your products
Make the switch to sulfate-free shampoo, which eliminates harsh chemicals that can strip hair of its natural oils. Some advocate for a quick vinegar rinse instead of conditioner. At night, gently apply coconut oil onto the scalp, which may help to stimulate hair follicles. (Read about our favorite products for postpartum hair loss.)
5. Consider supplements
It's especially important to continue taking your prenatal vitamin after birth, especially if you're breastfeeding. Other supplements that may help prevent hair loss postpartum include omega-3, biotin and zinc. Consult your physician and always read warning labels before consuming any of these supplements, as some may not be safe if you're nursing.
Postpartum hair loss is temporary and quite normal, and something they should never be ashamed of. But if you feel your hair loss is excessive and possibly associated with other symptoms, consult your doctor.