During the natural course of your life, your hair falls out at a rate of around 100 hairs a day. This occurs over the space of the 24 hours and you’ll notice these stray hairs in your bathtub, shower, hairbrush, on clothing, and other random places.
For most women, a spike in estrogen levels when you fall pregnant offers a brief respite, as this natural shedding process is placed on hold. Many women experience an increase in volume and vibrancy in their hair during pregnancy, but it’s short-lived. You can’t cheat nature and as your estrogen levels return to normal after giving birth, that spare hair you’ve saved up on over the last nine months is going to go.
That rate of 100 hairs a day can speed up to around 300 as your body makes up for lost time. You’re not going to go bald overnight, its just nature balancing things out again. This is the normal influence of the hormonal changes pregnancy subjects you too. For some women though, the shock of pregnancy and its effects can have a different outcome for their hair.
The condition is called Telogen Effluvium (TE) or stress-induced hair loss and it can result in hair loss of 30% or more. The good news is that for most women the condition resolves with the birth of your child or shortly thereafter. There are certain health issues you need to consider if you are pregnant and experiencing aggressive hair loss.
Hair loss can be caused by:
- nutrient deficiencies
- medical conditions related to pregnancy
Medical issues can be a contributing factor
In terms of underlying health conditions during pregnancy that may be connected to you experiencing TE, the following need to be considered and excluded by your doctor. All the conditions listed below, depending on their severity, can contribute to TE.
Your Thyroid and your hair
Sometimes pregnancy hormone levels can fluctuate into the danger zone. Thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) can cause hair loss.
There are several other signs of hypothyroidism, which affects about 2 to 3 percent of pregnant women:
The risk of hypothyroidism rises once you’ve given birth. Five to 10 percent of new moms experience postpartum thyroid problems. Thyroid issues are treatable. Your doctor can order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis and then advise you on the best form of treatment.
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Pregnancy increases your risk of iron deficiency anemia. If you’re carrying more than one child, have severe morning sickness, or got pregnant soon after giving birth, your risk of iron deficiency anemia rises accordingly.
Low iron levels mean you don’t have enough red blood cells to efficiently carry oxygen through your body. This causes hair thinning, along with several other symptoms which include:
- irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- frequent headaches
Anemia isn’t restricted to pregnancy and if it’s responsible for your hair loss, your hair will remain unhealthy until you address your iron levels. If you’re pregnant and think you might have anemia, talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can determine whether you need iron supplements.
What happens postpartum?
Once you gave birth, your estrogen plummets back to its pre-pregnancy level. It’s not great news for your hair, but it’s no reason to worry.
Excessive hair shedding usually peaks at 4 months postpartum. Losing handfuls of hair while you’re recovering from birth is no fun — and it can be scary to see giant clumps in the shower or on the floor — but this type of telogen effluvium typically self resolves in a few months.
When Telogen effluvium isn’t to blame
Telogen effluvium usually makes your hair thinner all over. Noticeable bald patches or clumps from one side or the top of your head could indicate a genetic or autoimmune condition. These conditions cause baldness or hair loss regardless of whether you are pregnant or not..
Androgenetic alopecia, also referred to as female pattern baldness, shortens your hair’s growth phase and lengthens the shedding phase.
Alopecia areata triggers patches of head hair and body hair. Some people experience a cycle of regrowth and hair loss, while for others the loss is unpredictable. There’s no cure for alopecia areata, but some treatments can help.
Is there anything I can do to stop TE?
It depends on what’s causing your hair loss in the first place. If it’s related to an underlying health condition, then addressing that condition may help. There are also a few other things you can consider doing to give your locks a breather as they recover.
- Be gentle. Compulsive hair twister? Stop! Resist the urge to rub, pull, or twist your hair. If possible, skip tight ponytails, extensions, and weaves for a few months.
- Scalp Massage. Great for increasing blood flow to the scalp, reducing stress and who doesn’t love a good scalp massage. Now’s your chance
- Use a wide-toothed comb. Wash your hair carefully and use only your fingers or a wide-toothed comb to detangle it.
- Say no to harsh styling. Give your mane regular breaks between uses of hot rollers, curling irons, hot oils, and harsh chemical treatments.
- Nourish your hair from the inside out. Getting a healthy balance of protein, fats, and other important nutrients help your hair stay strong and beautiful. Speak to your doctor about a prenatal vitamin — they’re great for hair, skin, and nails!
- Talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you identify any medication or supplements that have hair-thinning side effects. They can also help you get to the root of your hair loss.
- Choose volumizing hair products. Some shampoos and conditioners can make your hair appear more full and bouncy.
- Try a different haircut. Short bobs and strategic layers can help hair look thicker. If you’ve already lost a lot of hair, a shorter, lighter haircut might be helpful while you work on growing back your crowning glory.