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Hair loss after pregnancy

Pregnant woman eating cereal in bed while reading
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There are many different health matters to take into consideration when you are pregnant. During your pregnancy you have to make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, avoiding or taking precautions with certain risky foods, and taking pregnancy supplements such as folic acid and vitamin D. It’s also common knowledge that pregnant women can be more susceptible to minor conditions such as constipation, indigestion and insomnia.

What many women don’t realise is that your skin and hair can also be affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Your skin can darken, sometimes in patches, and become more vulnerable to sunburn. Your hair, meanwhile, tends to become thicker and greasier. By contrast, after giving birth, many women are faced with rapid, significant hair loss.

The good news is that this hair loss is nearly always temporary and is not usually indicative of an underlying health problem.

Why does your hair get thicker during pregnancy?

It’s thought that excess hair growth in pregnancy is related to oestrogen. During pregnancy the body releases oestrogen, which causes the hair growth and loss cycle to slow down. So rather than shedding hair as normal, the scalp retains it. As a result you may notice that your eyelashes, the hair on your head and eyebrows grow thicker during pregnancy.

Not all women will find that their hair grows thicker and shinier during pregnancy; in fact some may even experience hair loss during this time. Hair loss during pregnancy is relatively uncommon, but you can expect your hair to go through several changes over the course of your pregnancy.

Why does hair loss happen after pregnancy?

After you have given birth, the excess hair that was not shed during pregnancy will be lost. It may seem as though you are losing abnormal amounts of hair, but in actual fact your hair is simply returning to normal.

It’s also believed that childbirth can be a trigger for telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss which causes widespread thinning on the head. Telogen effluvium is associated with intense physical or emotional stress.

More severe hair loss, including hair loss that causes patchy bald spots, may be a sign of another problem such as a vitamin deficiency.

Taking care of your hair in pregnancy

As well as becoming thicker, many women find that their hair changes in colour or texture during pregnancy. In response to these changes you may decide to make changes to how you style your hair, perhaps by dyeing it a different colour.

It is now thought that dyeing your hair during pregnancy is largely safe, although you can take some extra precautions to keep yourself and your baby safe by:

  • Waiting until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant
  • Getting highlights instead of a full dye to prevent the dye touching your scalp
  • Using semi-permanent vegetable dyes
  • Getting advice from a professional hairdresser

Managing hair loss after pregnancy

As stated above, it’s common to experience hair shedding after pregnancy, but for most women this will just be temporary. You may be concerned that your hair loss is not stabilising and that you are not experiencing the expected regrowth in the months after you have given birth, however this is not necessarily cause for concern. Women’s hormones return to normal at different times after pregnancy, and usually it’s simply a case of waiting.

If your hair loss persists for many months after pregnancy you should visit your doctor, as there’s a chance that it could be a sign of another condition. The most obvious explanation for prolonged hair loss in women is female-pattern baldness, which can affect women as young as their 20s or 30s.

If your doctor suspects that you have genetic, permanent hair loss they may recommend a treatment called minoxidil. This is a foam or lotion rubbed into the scalp once or twice a day. It is a very effective treatment for women with female-pattern baldness, as it has been shown to halt hair loss and promote regrowth in the majority of women who use it.

Minoxidil must be applied every day for three to four months before any improvement will be noticed. It must then be used on an ongoing basis to ensure hair loss remains stalled and new hair growth is possible.

Is hair loss after pregnancy normal?

Yes, it’s very common. During pregnancy women tend to find that their hair stops shedding and as a result becomes thicker. After childbirth, this excess hair tends to shed over a short period; this is not hair loss in the traditional sense, simply the loss of the excess hair that built up during pregnancy.

In some cases, postpartum hair loss may be related to the stress of childbirth. It’s believed that childbirth can trigger telogen effluvium, a type of hair loss characterised by widespread thinning on the head.

How is hair loss after pregnancy treated?

Hair loss after pregnancy typically doesn’t require treatment as it tends to be temporary. However you may have to wait a few months to see your hair return to normal. If hair loss persists you should visit your doctor.

Can I dye my hair during pregnancy? 

Yes, it is safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. However, you might want to take extra precautions by waiting until you are 12 weeks pregnant, and getting highlights so that the dye does not come into contact with your scalp.