Top 5 Questions About Postpartum Shedding Answered by a Dermatologist
You’ve probably heard about postpartum shedding. It’s when hair falls out in clumps after giving birth and can be really distressing. The good news? It is generally temporary and reversible.
Let’s walk through the most common questions about postpartum shedding that patients ask in our dermatology office and what you can do to counteract those effects.
Why Does Postpartum Hair Loss Happen?
Studies show that postpartum shedding is a form of telogen effluvium called telogen gravidarum. During pregnancy, the anagen or growth phase of the hair is extended due to higher levels of estrogen, which can result in longer and thicker hair. After giving birth, these hormone levels drop, which causes a large portion of hair follicles to shift from the anagen to the telogen or resting phase all at once. This results in diffuse shedding and hair loss.
How Do You Know If You Have Postpartum Hair Loss?
Postpartum hair loss generally presents as diffuse hair shedding, meaning you will see more hairs in the shower, on your pillow or hair brush. The hair fallout usually happens from all over the scalp, resulting in all-over thinning, but sometimes, it can be more noticeable around the temples or the front of the hairline. If your hair loss is associated with red patches, is painful or appears to leave scars, make sure to see your doctor, as these signs point to a different diagnosis.
When Does Postpartum Hair Loss Start?
Postpartum hair loss generally starts three to four months after childbirth.
How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last?
Postpartum hair loss will peak within several weeks and generally does not last longer than a few months after it starts. The hair loss can be drastic; up to 50% of hair can be lost, but it never progresses to complete baldness. Hair should grow back by one year after childbirth. If your hair does not return to its normal fullness after about one year, see your doctor.
Can You Slow Down or Stop Postpartum Hair Loss?
Postpartum hair loss is temporary and should resolve on its own within one year. It is hard to stop postpartum hair loss once it starts, but it may be possible to prevent hair loss from worsening or to help hair regrow once the shedding stops. It is really important to be gentle with your hair during this time, so if you are experiencing postpartum hair loss, avoid excess heat styling, tight hairstyles or chemical treatments. Make sure to eat a balanced and varied diet, as vitamin deficiency can interfere with hair regrowth. Also, use supplements when necessary. It might be most beneficial to start applying topical medications that can stimulate hair growth directly to the scalp once shedding stops to help jumpstart hair growth. If you are breastfeeding, check with your doctor before starting any new oral or topical products or medications.
More From Dr. Nathan
- What Your Hair Can Tell You About Your Overall Health
- Why Some People Get Gray Hair Earlier Than Others, According to a Dermatologist