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The Scoop on Postpartum Hair Loss: Why It Occurs and How to Cope

We’ve all heard of that pregnancy glow—when expecting moms have thick, luscious locks thanks to increased levels of estrogen. But after baby arrives, new moms may feel like that glow dims, with postpartum hair loss being a very common complaint. Luckily, it is only temporary, and most people report their hair returning to normal by the time their child turns one.

Baby’s here and now your hair is falling out. What gives?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), postpartum hair loss isn’t true hair loss. Dermatologists refer to the condition as excessive hair shedding, which is caused by levels of estrogen falling after delivery. During pregnancy, estrogen levels are very high, which causes hair to remain in a growth phase called the anagen phase. Hairs that would normally be shed stay throughout the pregnancy, which is why hair tends to be thicker and longer. But once baby is born, those estrogen levels take a dip.

Brace yourself for extra hair in your brush

"Estrogen levels fall immediately after delivery, but the impact on the follicle can be a little bit delayed," says Trece Swanson, DNP, CNM, NCMP, a certified midwife and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Utah Health. " It tends to peak at about four months postpartum."

Swanson says most patients regain their normal hair thickness by one year postpartum, if not sooner. "A year sounds like a long way away when you’re only four months out, but four months is the peak of it, and then it starts to improve after that," she says.

Don’t fret, it’s normal

Postpartum hair loss is extremely common and not a cause for concern. "If you have hair loss that goes beyond the first year or you’re noticing significant bald patches or hair loss from other parts of the body, that could signify another disease and would be worth investigating with a health care provider," Swanson says.

Give your hair some oomph

If you’re bothered by postpartum hair loss, rest assured that it will eventually resolve on its own. However, the AAD has some recommendations:

  • Use a volumizing shampoo
  • Choose a conditioner that is formulated for fine hair
  • Use conditioners only on the ends of your hair; using it on your scalp can weigh the hair down and make it look thinner
  • Avoid shampoos labeled as "conditioning shampoo" and conditioners labeled as "intensive," which are too heavy and can make your hair look thinner.

To her postpartum patients who are experiencing hair loss, Swanson suggests maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to take a prenatal vitamin for up to a year after delivery, especially if they are breastfeeding. Making sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs can help your hair return to its former glory faster.