Hormones and hair: Everything you need to know about pregnancy and hair loss
As women, we expect our bodies to go through a few changes when there’s a baby on board, but the media sometimes sells us a lemon when it comes to the thick, shiny locks that supposedly accompany pregnancy… If you’re experiencing hair loss, either during your pregnancy or postpartum, here’s what you need to know!
First off, it’s totally normal. Your body is going through some major hormonal shifts and these will impact each of us differently. While some women might find their hair is getting the pregnancy glow-up, you might be shedding a bit more hair in the shower than you’re comfortable with.
Let’s take a look at why hair loss happens during and after pregnancy and what you can do to take care of your hair health while you’re growing a tiny human inside you.
How hormones impact your hair during pregnancy
Our hair goes through its own lifecycle of growth and renewal. In the resting (telogen) phase, about 50 to 100 hairs will fall out on a daily basis to make room for new hairs to grow. Shedding happens!
During pregnancy, rising estrogen levels typically slow down the body’s natural hair-shedding cycle, though. This means that hair follicles stay in the growing stage (anagen phase) for longer, which results in the appearance of longer, thicker hair. This isn’t the case for everyone, though…
While postpartum hair loss is generally expected for most new moms (two to four months after delivery), hair thinning or hair loss during pregnancy is less common and can be a little alarming. This is usually due to telogen effluvium in the first trimester of pregnancy – increased hair loss as a result of stress or hormonal changes.
The first trimester can be pretty hard on the body, with your hormones changing dramatically to support baby’s development – this ‘shock’ to the system forces the hair into the telogen (resting) stage of the hair cycle, which can result in your hair thinning or shedding more than usual. The silver lining is that it’s generally short-term and temporary, although it can continue throughout the pregnancy and postpartum.
Postpartum hair loss
Postpartum, the ‘trigger’ for telogen effluvium is typically childbirth – your estrogen levels drop dramatically (back to your pre-pregnancy normal) and that hormonal shift sets off the great shedding. All of the new hair that grew in the anagen phase during pregnancy gets the signal to depart.
It might feel like a lot of hair, but remember, your hair was growing for around nine months. This process typically peaks around four to six months after your baby’s birth, before settling down.
What else causes hair loss during pregnancy?
There are other perfectly normal explanations for hair loss during pregnancy too. For example, if you’ve been wearing your hair in too-tight ponytails or buns, the strain on your hair follicles can cause traction alopecia. To avoid lasting damage, be kind to your hair and change up your style on the daily. Wear it down more often to give your hair a break.
Occasionally, hair loss during pregnancy can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. So, if you’re noticing bald spots, general thinning, or more hair coming out when you brush it (or in the shower), the best thing to do for your health and peace of mind is consult your healthcare professional.
One possible cause of hair loss are thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone). Hypothyroidism is generally more common and affects around 3% of pregnant patients. Postpartum thyroiditis affects around 5% of women. Thyroid issues are generally diagnosed with a blood test and managed with daily medication.
Many women develop iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy, which is when you don’t have enough red blood cells to efficiently carry oxygen to all the corners of your body. During pregnancy, your blood supply increases to support your baby, so it’s important that you have enough iron.
Iron is stored as ferritin in the body, and when the body is short on iron, it will take the ferritin from ‘non-essential’ functions such as your hair follicles. Low ferritin affects the hair’s ability to grow and causes your hair to shed prematurely. Women need ferritin levels of about 50–70 ng/mL to stop hair loss and encourage regrowth.
Along with hair loss, other symptoms of iron deficiency might be headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat. A blood test and a chat with a doctor can help determine the best course of action for you.
How to take care of your hair during pregnancy
Hormone-related hair loss is totally normal, and though it may feel a little ‘extra’, remember, your body is doing the most to deliver a beautiful, healthy baby. It can take some time for your body to hit its pre-pregnancy stride.
In the meantime, give your hair some love to keep it in good condition until it bounces back. Regularly massaging your scalp will stimulate blood flow and bia’s Super Roots Hair Growth Elixir can help keep your scalp nourished to encourage new growth. A dermaroller can also help to stimulate the hair follicles and help kickstart the hair growth cycle.
At the end of the day, your body is doing something incredible – be kind to yourself and trust the process!
Haircare for the soul, charged with positivity.