It's not just an old wives' tale. Pregnancy really can wreak havoc on your hair. And while there's not a ton of research behind our understanding of it yet, Olivia Khouri, MD, OB/GYN and mother to a 9-month-old says the cycle is rooted in the levels of estrogen and progesterone that skyrocket while pregnant.
"The increase in pregnancy hormones slows the transition of hair from the anagen (growth) stage to telogen (rest) stage, which causes a relative increase in the hair follicles in the growth phase," she explains. To put that into perspective, at any given time in a non-pregnant person, approximately 90% of hair is in a growth phase, while 10% is "resting" and falls out every two to three months. "Within a week after delivery, the hormone levels drop off to pre-pregnancy levels and the numerous follicles that were growing or resting then go on to shed."
In other words, explains Dr. Taraneh Gharib Nazem, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist and Board-Certified OB/GYN (and mama to a 5-month-old), while they're growing that precious little baby, many women do notice their locks get extra thick and luscious. Awesome! "But this increase in hair follicles reverses about one to five months postpartum when the hair undergoes 'telogen effluvium,' or a rapid loss of previously dormant or resting hair follicles," she elaborates. "Then, following that hair loss postpartum, many women may notice fine, small hairs that are part of the re-growth process." And take it from us, these frizzy buggers can seem nearly impossible to style well. Not-so awesome.
Thankfully, Dr. Khouri reassures us, hair growth will generally fall back into its regular patterns within a year to 15 months after birth, and generally doesn't require medications that would otherwise be used to treat significant hair loss (though if you're concerned, be sure to chat with your doctor).
In the meantime, here are things you can do to help ease the effects of these hormone changes on your mane.
1. Up your Vitamin B intake
Vitamin B, in all its varieties, is super important while you're building a human and beyond. Not only has the Vitamin B complex been shown to help decrease birth defects for the fetus, but it also helps with your baby's brain development and can even help ease nausea, among other benefits. But one version, B7 (aka biotin), has also been shown to help prevent against maternal hair loss and thinning, making it ideal to take when you're officially postpartum. So be sure to get as much as you can throw your diet (oats, spinach, avocado and wild salmon are great sources) and speak to your doctor about adding a supplement like Glow Habit's Happy Hair Habit or EVOLUTION_18's Beauty Hair and Nail Growth Capsules.
2. Be a lightweight
When picking a shampoo and conditioner regimen, steer clear of those labeled with words like "intensive" and "mask" in favor of lighter options formulated for fine hair to avoid that limp, almost wet look. One great option? AVEENO Pure Renewal Hair Shampoo and Conditioner, which is sulfate-free and uses seaweed extract to give your hair some added bounce and shine.
3. Focus on fruits + veggies
Sure, healthy eating is always a plus, but since your hormones are making up for lost time in shedding those older strands, the post-pregnancy you has all the more reason to ensure you're getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. Studies have shown that certain flavonoids promote hair growth, which will encourage your locks to regenerate that much more quickly and get you out of that lions mane phase, STAT.
4. Keep your cool
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that excessive heat is likely to cause even more damage to your hair (the last thing you need!), so it's wise to use styling tools that can be regulated and take extra precautions along the way. Consider spraying on a protective product like Pantene Pro-V Nutrient Boost Heat Primer Thermal Heat Protection Pre-Styling Spray before you get to work, and opt for a straightener like the Remington 1" Flat Iron with Anti-Static Technology, which features multiple temperature settings and, bonus, will help you keep those newly sprouted baby hairs in line.
5. Tame pesky flyaways
And speaking of those baby hairs, prepare yourself now! As your hair regrows around the face, the new, short bits will tend to stick out, giving you a beautiful just-got-electrocuted look. Rather than giving up, take control with anti-frizz products like John Frieda Frizz Ease Extra Strength 6 Effects + Serum. Not only will it work to keep those pieces from popping up in the middle of a meeting, but it also offers some heat protection to let them grow out as quickly as possible.
6. Use a gentle touch
No matter what products you take or use, though, it's always important to remember that physical manipulation of your hair can cause the most damage. Take care to treat it gently, particularly when wet, by using a fine tooth comb and working through knots slowly—make sure ponytails and buns aren't excessively tight or constraining, and try to let it hang loose every now and then. The less stress you put on your hair, the less breakage there's likely to be, which means healthier—and quicker!—growth.
Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.