"I just had a baby...and what is happening to my hair??"
You would not believe how often new moms lament their hair loss. It happened to me too! All of a sudden, loads of hair are clogging the shower drain and filling up the hairbrush - and you start to wonder: What is going on?? and When will this stop?
Hair growth typically occurs in a cyclical manner; each strand progressing from anagen (growth phase), to catagen (stopping growth), to telogen (no growth). At the end of the telogen phase, the hair is shed and a new one starts to grow.
Scalp hairs stay in anagen from two to six years! At any given time, about 90% of your scalp hair is in the anagen phase. (In contrast, eyebrow anagen only lasts two to three months - which helps explain why eyebrows stay short!). During anagen, scalp hair grows approximately 0.3 mm daily.
After anagen is complete, the hair shifts to catagen. During this short period, the hair follicle regresses and growth stops. Anagen is short; lasting only about three weeks, and only about 1% of hair is in catagen at any given time.
In telogen, the hair becomes ready for shedding. Telogen lasts two to three months, and about 10% of the hairs are in telogen at a time. At the end of telogen, the hair falls out (exogen). Normally, about 50-100 telogen hairs fall out each day.
After the end of telogen, anagen begins again with the growth of a new hair.
Thankfully, all the hairs are on their own timeline, so hair loss is staggered and unnoticeable.
Beautiful, isn't it?
With pregnancy, the rate of conversion from anagen (growth) to catagen slows down. So, women get a relative increase in hairs in anagen, and increase in hair growth and quantity. One to Five months after delivery, there is a sharp increase in hairs in telogen, causing extra hair loss. So much hair can enter telogen that it is common for the hair to become noticeably thin in areas. Thankfully, it resolves by six to fifteen months after delivery. However, the scalp hair may never be as thick as it was prior to pregnancy.
(Some women, develop a receding hairline during the end of the pregnancy, a form of androgenic alopecia, which typically resolves after delivery. )
Most of the time, hair returns to (mostly) normal with just a little patience. However, here are some tips to help return to normal sooner:
- Use a volumizing shampoo. Avoid "intensive conditioners" or "conditioning shampoos". These might weigh down the hair and cause it to look limp.
- Fermented fatty acids were shown to help boost hair growth in lab studies. Fish oil is recommended during pregnancy to help with fetal brain growth and reduce risk of perinatal depression. Here's one more reason to supplement with fish oil daily or have 2+ servings of fatty fish weekly during your pregnancy and postpartum period.
-Marine Protein supplementation. Studies have shown that when taken three times daily for six months, marine protein supplementation increases thickness of scalp hairs and decreases shedding.
-Amino acid supplementation. Studies of oral supplementation with lysine or cystine have showed promising results in regrowth of hair.
-Caffeine. Topical caffeine (via caffeinated shampoo or cream) has been shown in studies to help regrow hair, and work as well as prescription minoxidil. Another study showed that when caffeine and minoxidil were used together, results were better than use of minoxidil alone.
- Capsaicin. Oral capsaicin supplements were shown to increase hair growth after five months of use.
Typically, postpartum hair loss is temporary and is little more than a nuisance. However, if you are concerned about your hair loss, please seek the care of your physician or dermatologist.
Kang JI, Yoon HS, Kim SM, et al. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(9):2770. Published 2018 Sep 14. doi:10.3390/ijms19092770
Hosking AM, Juhasz M, Atanaskova Mesinkovska N. Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Alopecia: A Comprehensive Review. Skin Appendage Disord. 2019;5(2):72-89. doi:10.1159/000492035