What is postpartum hair loss?
Postpartum hair loss is the excessive shedding of hair a few months after you give birth. It’s caused by hormone changes that occur during and after pregnancy.
How does hair grow?
Hair grows from small pores in the skin on your scalp called follicles. Your hair is continuously growing and shedding. This cycle of hair growth has three phases that repeat throughout your lifetime:
- Anagen phase is the phase of active hair growth. It can last between two and six years. Most of your hair (85% to 90%) is in this phase at any given time.
- Catagen phase is a short, transitional phase where the hair follicles shrink.
- Telogen phase is a resting phase that lasts about three months. After, the follicle releases the hair and the hair falls out.
Another name for postpartum hair loss is telogen effluvium.
How does postpartum hair loss occur?
Pregnancy hormones cause many hairs in the growing phase (anagen) to suddenly enter the resting phase (telogen). A few months later, you lose that hair.
You typically have 80,000 to 120,000 hairs on your scalp and shed up to 100 hairs per day. In postpartum hair loss, you lose more than 100 hairs daily.
How long does postpartum hair loss last?
Though it may be distressing to lose hair, postpartum hair loss is only temporary. The shedding should last less than six months. Your hair should regain its fullness by the time your child turns one.
How common is postpartum hair loss?
It is a very common type of hair loss in women and people assigned female at birth. Most people notice some hair loss after childbirth.
Symptoms and Causes
What are the signs of postpartum hair loss?
The main sign is seeing more loose hair than usual on your brush, pillow or shower floor. You may also notice more loose hair stuck to your clothing.
What causes postpartum hair loss?
Changes in the hormone estrogen during and after pregnancy cause postpartum hair loss. In the last trimester of pregnancy, your estrogen levels increase. This prevents the typical shedding of hair. You may notice that your hair is lush and thick during this time.
After childbirth, estrogen levels drop. This causes a large number of hairs to enter the resting phase of hair growth. After a few months, this hair starts to shed.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is postpartum hair loss diagnosed?
Your provider will determine if you have this condition based on your observations of increased hair loss and recent pregnancy.
Management and Treatment
How is postpartum hair loss treated?
There's no treatment for postpartum hair loss, but these steps can help your hair feel fuller and prevent further hair loss and damage:
- Choose a shampoo and conditioner that add volume. Volumizing shampoos and lighter conditioners can add body to your hair. You may have to experiment to find products that work best for your hair type.
- Treat your hair with care. Be gentle when washing and combing your hair. Use lower heat settings on blow dryers and styling irons to prevent damage. Avoid tight ponytails and braids that can add tension to your hair and lead to more hair loss.
- Try a different hairstyle. Shorter cuts may give your hair a fuller appearance. They are also easier to take care of, which can be helpful when you have a new baby.
Also make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need for hair growth with a healthy diet. Talk to your provider about vitamins to supplement your diet.
Can my hair loss affect my baby?
Postpartum hair loss is a normal part of pregnancy and childbirth and won’t affect your baby.
But hair that falls out can wrap around your baby’s fingers, toes or other body parts. This rare occurrence is called a hair tourniquet and can cause pain and cut off blood supply. If you notice this, you’ll need to unwind the hair, cut it carefully or call your baby’s provider.
How can I prevent postpartum hair loss?
There’s nothing you can do to prevent postpartum hair loss. But it may be helpful to know about it in advance so you’re not surprised if it happens.
Outlook / Prognosis
Will my hair grow back after postpartum hair loss?
Yes. Hair loss after childbirth is not permanent. New hair will start growing back as soon as the old hair falls out.
A few people may notice that their hair is thinner than it was before pregnancy.
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Talk with your provider if you continue to lose hair for more than six months. You might have another condition that causes hair loss, such as iron deficiency or thyroid disease.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Adjusting to having a new baby can be stressful. Postpartum hair loss can cause additional stress and anxiety. But hair loss after childbirth is normal and very common. And while you can’t prevent it, the right hair products and hairstyle can help while you’re waiting for your hair to grow back. By your baby’s first birthday, your hair should be full again.