What You Need to Know About Postpartum Hair Loss

Woman in a pink bathrobe pulling hair out of a brush.

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Postpartum hair loss is common and affects many women a few months after giving birth. It's a natural process that happens when your body sheds extra hair you retain during pregnancy. 

About 40-50% of women experience postpartum hair loss, also known as telogen effluvium.

While hair loss can be alarming for new mothers, the shedding will eventually stop and your hair will return to its pre-pregnancy fullness. It should not cause permanent hair loss or bald spots. 

While you don’t have to treat postpartum hair loss unless it's bothering you, there are a few ways to manage and prevent hair loss after pregnancy.

Why Does Postpartum Hair Loss Happen?

Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy are the primary cause of postpartum hair loss. Postpartum hair loss typically affects the scalp but can also affect your eyebrows and eyelashes.

Typical Hair Growth Phase

Hair typically goes through growing, resting, and shedding phases. Most of the time 90% of your hair is growing, and the other 10% is resting.

During pregnancy, estrogen levels increase which causes hair to remain in the growth phase longer than usual and prevents typical hair shedding. Your hair may appear very full during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester.

After childbirth, the estrogen levels lower to pre-pregnancy levels and the normal hair growth pattern resumes. Postpartum hair loss occurs because all of the extra hair that did not shed during pregnancy starts to fall out at the same time.

Other factors can contribute to postpartum hair loss. These include:

When Does Postpartum Hair Loss Start?

Postpartum hair loss can start anytime after childbirth, but it typically begins about three to four months after giving birth.

The main sign is excessive and sudden hair shedding. While the hair may come out in clumps, you might also notice extra hair on your brush, linens, shower drain, or clothes.

Postpartum hair shedding usually only affects about 50% of the hair on your scalp. If you experience excessive hair loss, bald patches, or scalp irritation, talk to your healthcare provider.

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?

Excessive shedding usually peaks around four months post-delivery. The hair loss can last for six months to a year, although this is rare. 

After this time, your hair should return to its normal growth cycle. Most new moms notice their hair is back to its pre-pregnancy fullness by their babies' first birthday. 

Postpartum hair loss is temporary and does not typically cause permanent hair loss. Consider checking in with your healthcare provider if you are still experiencing excessive hair loss after a year.

What Can You Do About Postpartum Hair Loss?

You don’t need to seek treatment for postpartum hair loss since your hair will eventually return to normal on its own. However, if it's bothering you, there are a few ways to help your hair appear fuller and healthier.

  • Avoid heavy shampoos or conditioners: Conditioning shampoos or “intensive” conditioners can weigh your hair down and decrease its volume. 
  • Use volumizing hair products: Volumizing shampoos, conditioners, sprays, or powders may give your hair a fuller appearance. You can also experiment with dry shampoos and products made for fine hair as they are usually lighter. 
  • Avoid applying conditioner on the scalp: Apply conditioner on the ends of your hair, but avoid the scalp as that also weighs down the hair.
  • Consider getting a new haircut or style: Changing how you part your hair or having a stylist add in layers can make your hair look fuller. Certain shorter cuts can help conceal hair loss.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider: Call a dermatology provider if the hair loss is excessive or if it’s causing bald spots. They can give you postpartum hair loss treatment options, such as topical Rogaine (minoxidil), to help stimulate hair growth.

How to Prevent Postpartum Hair Loss

While postpartum hair loss is a natural process, you can do a few things to minimize hair loss and promote hair growth.

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins has vitamins and minerals that protect hair follicles and encourage growth.
  • Take prenatal vitamins: Taking your prenatal vitamins before and after delivery can help support hair growth.
  • Supplements: Consider taking supplements such as biotin, iron, zinc, and vitamins B, C, and D to help support hair growth. However, these should not be a replacement for a healthy diet. Consult with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
  • Stress management: Stress can contribute to hair loss. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation can help you cope with stress.
  • Opt for loose hairstyles: Try to avoid tight hairstyles like ponytails or braids that can add tension and cause breakage.
  • Avoid heat styling: Avoid or use lower heat settings on heat styling tools such as blow dryers, hot rollers, curling irons, or flat irons. They can damage your hair and promote further hair loss.
  • Be gentle with your hair: Try to avoid roughly bushing your hair or using a brush when your hair is wet. Instead, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle wet hair. 
  • Avoid harsh hair products: Use a mild shampoo and conditioner and avoid chemicals that could damage your hair (color, highlights, perms, straightening treatments).

Many women use natural remedies on the scalp or hair to help keep their hair healthy. For example, home products like honey, milk, and eggs have been used as topical treatments to promote hair health. Other natural ingredients might include:

  • Aloe vera
  • Oils (coconut, olive, avocado, almond, tea tree, sesame, rose hip, watercress) 
  • Fish oil (dilute with olive oil and egg)
  • Roman nettle leaf (smashed and mixed with olive oil)
  • Tea leaves (soaked in warm water before application)
  • Fenugreek (oil or seed soaked in warm water)
  • Mustard (mix with honey)
  • Ginger root (smash, boil, and apply when cool)
  • Chamomile or hibiscus flowers (boil in water, apply when cool)
  • Garlic (mix with yogurt)

Keep in mind natural remedies may not work for everyone. If you are allergic to any of these ingredients, do not try using them on your hair. Also, if you experience any irritation while using a natural treatment, rinse it off immediately.

A Quick Review

Postpartum hair loss or excessive shedding is natural. It affects many women a few months after giving birth. 

This excessive shedding occurs due to changes in the hormone estrogen. During pregnancy, estrogen levels rise, causing the body to keep the hair it would usually shed. After childbirth, estrogen levels decrease to pre-pregnancy levels and the extra hair sheds.

The hair loss is temporary and your hair should return to its pre-pregnancy fullness by your baby's first birthday. It should not cause permanent hair loss or bald spots. 

Eating a nutrient-rich diet, taking prenatal vitamins, and being gentle with your hair can help prevent extra hair loss. While you don’t need to do anything about postpartum hair loss, you can consider a new haircut or style if you want your hair to appear fuller.

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7 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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