Pregnancy brings about a number of bodily changes, some good and some not so good. As a woman’s abdomen expands along with her growing baby, she may experience skin and hair changes. One common problem experienced by women who have gone through pregnancy is hair loss. Losing one’s hair is a distressing symptom, especially for women with long hair since it takes so long to grow it back to its original length. The time when hair loss is most common is not during pregnancy, but after delivery, and it occurs in up to half of all women after pregnancy.
Pregnancy changes the normal hair growth cycle. When normal hair grows, it goes through distinct phases - an active growth phase and a resting phase. When a woman is pregnant, hormonal changes send more hairs into the resting phase. Because more hairs are in the resting phase of their cycle, less hair falls out, and most women are pleased to find they have thicker, fuller hair.
After delivery, hormone levels return to their normal, pre-pregnant levels and hairs that were previously resting come out of their resting state and begin to be shed. This causes thinning and loss of hair, which can be substantial in some women. Most women experience hair loss between a month and five months after delivery. Fortunately, new hair also starts to grow around this time, so the hair loss isn’t permanent. Still, many women look for ways to cover up the hair loss and add volume to their thinning hair until it grows back.
Hair loss from pregnancy resolves by itself over time as hormones return to normal levels, but many women seek temporary solutions to their thinning hair to make it more presentable until new hair growth occurs. Hair care products can help in some cases. Any treatment should take place post-pregnancy.
Thickening shampoos that coat the hair shaft and cause it to expand can make fine, thin hair look fuller. Follow up by using a conditioner formulated for fine, thin hair to prevent breakage. Limit the use of heated appliances including hair dryers to avoid breakage, and don’t use rubber bands, tight hairbands or rollers that put additional stress on hair. There’s also the possibility of getting hair extensions or wearing a wig if hair loss is very noticeable.
There’s no solid evidence that any particular vitamin, mineral or supplement thickens hair or speeds up hair regrowth, although it may be a good idea to take a multivitamin that contains zinc, calcium, biotin, vitamin C, vitamin E and B-vitamins since deficiencies in these vitamins and minerals can worsen hair loss. Iron deficiency can cause hair loss too, but it’s not a good idea to take an iron supplement unless blood tests show low iron stores. Vitamin D also plays a role in the normal hair cycle, but it’s not clear whether supplementing with vitamin D boosts hair regrowth as of yet.
Nutrition is important too. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that contains adequate amounts of lean protein, healthy fats like omega-3s found in fatty fish, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Nutritional deficiencies can make hair loss worse.
Hair loss after pregnancy is a common problem and one that’s completely normal. Fortunately, most women don’t lose all of their hair or have obvious bald patches. Instead, hair simply thins out due to increased shedding. Even without treatment, hair returns to its pre-pregnancy state in eight months to a year. Until then, use a thickening shampoo and conditioner, and limit the use of heated appliances. Eat a nutritionally-balanced diet and talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement.