Many women are amazed by how much faster their hair seems to grow during pregnancy, and how much thicker and stronger it feels. However, it is crucial to pay attention to your post-partum hair care routine. Many African-American women use protective styling like braids or wigs during their pregnancies, and they notice that they have to re-touch or re-do their hair much more often since it seems to be growing at warp speed. They also report that their hair seems to be thicker or have more shine. So imagine the shock and despair these women face when that same, glorious new hair seems to shed at warp speed after they give birth. With all of the hormonal and mood changes that go along with caring for a new baby, sudden and dramatic hair loss is the last thing a woman needs. Read on to find out about what causes post-partum hair loss, and what you can do to remedy it.
What Causes Hair Growth During Pregnancy?
Every hair on your body goes throw a growth phase called the anagen phase. This phase lasts roughly three years. After this growth phase comes the resting, or telogen phase. The length of the telogen phase can vary widely from person to person, but on average it lasts 3 months, or until it’s pushed out by a new strand of anagen hair. At any one point, roughly 85-95% of the hair on your head is in the anagen phase. The normal hair shed rate is roughly 100-150 strands per day.
During pregnancy, progesterone and estrogen produced in your body trigger hormonal changes that effect different parts of your body. Your normally tiny boobs can triple and quadruple in size, while the anagen hairs on your head that should be entering the telogen phase, don’t. So you now end up with more hairs on your head that are in the growing phase while fewer hairs are being shed out of the resting phase. Voila! You now seem to have thicker, longer hair. Coupled with the prenatal vitamins that you’re most likely taking, your hair is also shinier, stronger and more supple. You’re in hair heaven!
Well, then why is my hair shedding??
You may think that you can throw away your hair growth creams, lace front wigs and pills thanks to all of this new growth. Well hold on to that Mega-Tek , lady, because you’re in for a shock. Following the birth of your bundle of joy, your body’s estrogen levels return to normal, and all of those hairs that remained for longer than they should have in the growth or anagen phase will suddenly enter the resting phase. At about the three month post birth mark is when most new mothers experience sudden shedding. And this isn’t a few extra hairs in the brush: This is the “did I get exposed to a chemical” or “WTH, am I getting alopecia??” It can be scary, and cause a lot of stress to the new mother who doesn’t understand why it’s happening?
So, What Can I do?
The first thing you should realize is that you haven’t done anything wrong, so you can breathe a bit easier on that front. If there’s nothing medically wrong with you, you’re going to have to let nature run its course as far as the shedding is concerned. Remember that the shedding may seem excessive, but it’s actually all of the hair that should have been shed for the past year coming out over a short period of time. For most women, it usually takes about 6 months to a year to allow things to come back to normal. There are a few things you can do to get through this period.
- Check with your doctor to make sure that the amount of hair loss you’re experiencing is normal, and not connected to an undiagnosed medical condition. Hypothyroidism (low amount of thyroid hormone) is the perfect example of a common post-pregnancy condition that can cause hair loss.
- Wear low stress hair styles during pregnancy. Avoid styles like too-tight braids or weaves that can exacerbate post-partum shedding and breakage issues. Avoid too much heat from blow dryers, straighteners and curling irons.
- Give yourself a good trim. Excessive shedding can make uneven hair look even worse, so trim off split ends.
- Up your deep conditioning treatments. Hair can often feel rough and dry as it sheds, and the deep conditioning can help your healthy strands and scalp return to optimum condition. Try and limit your use of shampoos that contain drying ingredients like sulfates, which can contribute to dry, parched hair.
- Give your hair occasional protein treatments to help strengthen the hair shaft. Don’t overdo it on the protein, which can ironically lead to excessive dryness and breakage.
- Take hair vitamins. Your body may be deficient in vitamins and minerals, and supplements can help replace them.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in protein, B-vitamins, iron and all the building blocks of hair. B-vitamins like biotin are critical for hair growth, texture and strength.
- Detangle thoroughly when you brush with combs like the Tangle Teaser or a Denman-style type of brush. They can help remove the hair that’s shed but may still be sitting in your hair, which can cause tangling and knotting if it isn’t removed.
The bottom line is, take care of yourself, follow the above tips, and enjoy your baby! Post-partum hair care does not have to be stressful!