Pregnancy comes with a lot of changes. Aside from the obvious, expecting mothers can expect a few more things, such as cravings, morning sickness, swelling, mood swings—the list goes on and on. But one thing women don’t always expect is how much pregnancy can change their hair…and how the changes can continue even after they give birth!
Hair changes during and after your pregnancy can be upsetting or scary, especially if you don’t understand why they are happening. Here is what you should know about “pregnancy hair” and how it could affect you.
How hair changes during pregnancy
The main thing to understand about pregnancy hair is that, like the rest of your body, your hair is drastically affected by hormones. Hormones are responsible for many things. For your hair, they regulate the stages of growth and loss.
Hair undergoes three distinct phases, which you probably don’t notice in your day-to-day life. The anagen phase is when hair is actively growing from the follicle. Eventually, the hair will enter the telogen phase, during which it is dormant, or resting, in the follicle. Finally, the hair falls out during the exogen phase.
The healthy hair on your head works through these phases at different times, meaning you most likely don’t notice major shifts in growth or loss. Although you lose around 100 hairs per day, hundreds more are growing or resting. However, these phases get somewhat altered during pregnancy.
The hormones your body creates (namely estrogen), which give you many other symptoms of pregnancy and help your baby grow, can put your hair phases on pause, largely in the telogen stage. Thus, your hair falls out less frequently than normal! For many women, this causes hair to look and feel thicker, healthier and more luscious than ever before.
Additionally, healthier hair can be common during pregnancy due to expecting mothers’ increase in nutrients. When you’re taking multi- or prenatal vitamins, you might be getting a boost in hair-healthy nutrients like biotin that you just weren’t getting before you became pregnant.
It’s worth noting that not all women experience this drastic improvement in hair texture and thickness. In fact, some women experience the exact opposite; their hair may turn thin and brittle, become excessively dry or excessively oily and more. Usually, these negative changes are due to hormone changes, but they can also be linked to nutritional deficiencies. Since these can put your baby at risk, it’s crucial that you speak to your doctor about any negative changes you experience during your pregnancy.
After giving birth: Postpartum hair loss
Unfortunately, the thick, luscious pregnancy hair is short-lived—around nine to twelve months, to be exact! Shortly after giving birth, many mothers discover another drastic hair change, this time for the worst.
Postpartum hair loss is common a few months after giving birth. This is caused by your body’s return to its normal hormone production, which restarts your hair’s growth and loss cycles. Thus, all those hairs that were “paused” in the telogen stage are able to fall out, but en masse. Nearly 50 percent of all new mothers experience this type of hair loss.
When large amounts of hair are discovered in the shower drain, on a pillow or in a hairbrush, many mothers begin to worry that they are sick. However, postpartum hair loss is normal and usually nothing to worry about. It is also temporary. Over time, as the body’s hormones level out and hair returns to its normal growth phases, increased hair loss will stop, and hair should return to pre-pregnancy standards.
Some women notice that their postpartum hair loss is delayed until after they stop breastfeeding. This is usually because estrogen levels remain elevated during breastfeeding and drop more rapidly after it ends, kickstarting hair loss.
Taking care of hair during and after pregnancy
Although postpartum hair loss is not likely to cause bald spots or remain permanent, taking good care of your hair during and after pregnancy can ensure the health of your scalp and hair through pregnancy and beyond.
One way to do this is to ensure that you’re getting a full suite of vitamins and minerals in your diet, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, biotin and vitamin E. All of these nutrients help hair grow strong and healthy, which can minimize the appearance of hair loss in your postpartum period.
Minimizing the amount of harsh products, hot tools and tight styling used on the hair can also prolong its healthy appearance and reduce damage during and after pregnancy, making it look thicker and healthier.
Most importantly, follow your doctor’s instructions for staying healthy during and after pregnancy and be patient—your hair will return to normal in time!