Postpartum Hair Loss: Tips for Relief

If you face postpartum hair loss or hair loss after pregnancy, you’ll notice a sudden shedding — sometimes in clumps — in the six months after you give birth to your baby.

Hair loss post-pregnancy

During pregnancy, bodies go through a lot of hormonal changes. One not a good impact of these hormonal changes is that our hair follicles remain in the anagen (or growth) phase for a longer period.
This resulted in our hair growing more than usual and making it lusher, thicker and healthier during pregnancy. However, within about three to six months after the birth of babies, most women have a sudden drop in hormone levels. At this time, most of our hair follicles move into the ‘telogen’ (or resting) phase, where they stop growing and fall out.

[Read: All You Need to About Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy]
It’s like your garden… you’ll plant some new plants, and be motivated for a while, watering them and nurturing them daily, and they thrive, and caring for them, growing bigger and sprouting more and more flowers every day. Then, you’ll go away, or get distracted and suddenly, the plants are receiving minimal nourishment.
The next thing you know, the flowers are starting to die and drop off. And, you left with nothing but a few twigs sticking out of your pot.
Although you can’t stop the hormonal changes, we can change our nutritional intake. Nutritional deficiencies can certainly play a major role in hair loss post-pregnancy. Although by 6-12 months postpartum, your hair growth and loss usually return to their normal cycle. And ensuring that you are meeting your requirements of key nutrients that can help to slow down post-pregnancy hair loss in the interim.

[Read: Best Food to Increase Breast Milk]

What are the causes of postpartum hair loss?

An average person loses about 100 hairs a day, but not all at once, so they don’t notice them. When a woman expecting, however, your pregnancy hormones keep those hairs from falling out — leaving your hair looking as lush as a supermodel’s, or so thick that you can barely able to get a brush through it.
But all good things must come to an end, and that includes your new ‘do. When those hormones drop back to the normal level, the extra hairs drop, too.

How long does postpartum hair loss last?

You’re not going bald, you’re just getting back to usual. If you’re a breastfeeding woman, you may see some of your extra hair may hang on to your scalp until you wean or start to supplement with formula or solids.
But nursing or not, take comfort in knowing that by the time your newborn baby is ready to blow out the candles on that first birthday cake — and perhaps has plenty of hair of her own — your catch-up hair fall will be finished, and your locks should be back to the way they were before pregnancy.

Tips for dealing with postpartum hair loss

If you’re losing your hair since giving birth, there are some things you can do about it:

  • You can keep up your hair healthy by eating well and continuing to take your prenatal vitamin supplement.
  • Be extra gentle during your shedding season to prevent excess hair fall after pregnancy. Do shampoo only when necessary (as if you have time to shampoo at all!), and use a good quality conditioner and a wide-toothed comb to minimize tangling. Use scrunchies or barrettes to put hair up instead of rubber bands — and don’t pull your hair into tight ponytails.
  • Avoid blow-dryers and curling and flat irons if you can, and put off any chemically based treatments like perms, highlights, and straightening sessions until the shedding stops.
  • Talk to your practitioner if you face excessive hair loss.
  • When it’s accompanied by other symptoms, hair fall after pregnancy could be a sign of postpartum thyroiditis.

4 diet tips to deal with post-pregnancy hair loss

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1. Protein

Although your protein requirements reduced after the delivery of your baby, it’s still essential that you’re getting enough protein. If you’re flat out nursing, it can be easy to skip meals and neglect your protein intake. Dairy products, meat, legumes and nuts are all rich in protein, so try snacking on a glass of milk, a handful of nuts, nibbling on some roasted chickpeas or cracking open a hard-boiled egg.

2. Iron

Iron requirements also reduced post-pregnancy, but still need to get enough to stop hair loss. If you lost a lot of blood during your labour or were deficient in iron during your pregnancy, your postpartum iron levels may be low, which causes you to lose even more hair. If you’re guzzling tea or coffee to compensate for your sleep deprivation, be aware that the tannins, polyphenols and caffeine found in these beverages compete with iron absorption causing your body to take up less. If you want to drink tea or coffee, try to consume it between meals or wait at least one hour after you’ve finished your last meal before having a cup.

3. Biotin

Biotin is a type of B vitamin which are found in a wide range of foods including, but not limited to meat, fish, nuts and sweet potatoes. Although true biotin deficiencies are rare, around one in every three pregnant women develop low biotin levels, and this could exacerbate hair loss after pregnancy.

4. Zinc

Post-pregnancy zinc requirements increase slightly if you’re breastfeeding, so you may need to increase your intake of zinc-rich foods during breastfeeding. The absorption of zinc is higher from animal sources than from plant-based sources. So if it is possible you follow a vegetarian diet or have found that you’re skipping a lot of meals you will need to be particularly aware of your intake of zinc.
Women with Polycystic ovarian syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease or chronic renal failure have increased risks of hair loss after pregnancy, so if you have one of these dietary conditions, or had significant hair loss with a previous pregnancy, it might be a good idea to discuss this topic with your dietitian.

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