Everything You Need to Know About Postpartum Hair Loss

Everything You Need to Know About Postpartum Hair Loss

Postpartum hair loss — it's one of the many unpleasant realities (along with sleepless nights and all the diaper changes) that comes along with bringing a baby into the world. If you've experienced it, then you know waking up to hair on your pillow or noticing clumps in the shower can be panic-inducing.

But postpartum hair loss is a super common aftereffect of pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the condition affects somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of women. That may even include Meghan Markle. According to one hair expert, her post-baby buns and low ponytails were a means for disguising postpartum hair loss.

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But duchess or not, when you're dealing with postpartum hair loss it can feel like the condition will last forever. Good news, it won't. (We know that's the answer you came here to find.)

Here, everything you need to know about postpartum hair loss, including why it happens, a timeline for when things should return to normal, and the steps you can take to help speed up the process.

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What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?

Just like most of the ups and downs that come with pregnancy, birth, and the time thereafter, postpartum hair loss — officially known as telogen effluvium — is associated with your hormones.

The reason women notice excessive shedding of hair after giving birth is directly related to the rise in hormones that occurs during pregnancy, explains Debra Jaliman, M.D., assistant professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. As a result, women experience a pause in the shedding process that otherwise naturally occurs on a daily basis, which is why many women experience thicker hair during pregnancy.

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"Once you've had your baby, your hormone levels return to normal and the hair you never lost while you were pregnant will then fall out — it will seem as if you are losing a lot of hair," says Dr. Jaliman, who is also the author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. And to make matters worse, it's usually not a few easy-to-conceal patches, but rather widespread hair loss that affects the entire scalp, says Fayne Frey, M.D., a dermatologist and founder of Fry Face.

So, if you're wondering if you can prevent hair loss after birth the answer is, unfortunately, no. Postpartum hair loss is simply "your hair cycle attempting to return to normal," Dr. Jaliman says.

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And in my own experience with postpartum hair loss, I can tell you it happens fast. It seemed like one day I had the thick, healthy hair I had been gifted with during pregnancy, and the next it was thin and dull. (And showing up on my shoulders, pillow, in the drain, and yes, on my baby.) I remember snapping a photo after my first postpartum run and noticing more of my scalp than I'd ever seen before.

But while the condition is certainly frustrating, both doctors add that it is, indeed, temporary. Dr. Jaliman says, in general, you'll notice hair loss two to three months following childbirth, and it should only last a few months, typically returning to its normal pre-baby condition six to 12 months after childbirth.

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How Can I Treat Postpartum Hair Loss?

Your dermatologist can confirm telogen effluvium by doing a hair pull test, but there isn't necessarily a reason to rush to your doctor's office for a diagnosis of postpartum hair loss. (The process involves gathering about 40 hairs between the thumb and forefinger and gently tugging — if more than six hairs are pulled out, this is consistent with telogen effluvium, Dr. Frey says.) In the end, telogen effluvium doesn't have any set treatment; it's just a normal part of the postpartum experience that needs to run its course.

However, Dr. Jaliman says there are a few steps you can take to ensure healthy growth while your hair goes through this natural (yet frustrating) regrowth process. She suggests:

  • Avoid tight ponytails and braids.

  • Skip the heating tools (e.g. curling irons, flat irons).

  • Take vitamins. (Note: Always be sure to check with your physician first.)

  • Use products with biotin.

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

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Over-the-counter minoxidil — like hers or women's Rogaine — might also help, Dr. Frey says, but, on average, postpartum hair loss is a waiting game (assuming that it is not related to a separate medical condition or scalp disorder). She added: "Because telogen effluvium hair loss is a reactive process and usually resolves on its own, reassurance is the best treatment."