Why is my hair falling out after pregnancy?

Hair loss after pregnancy ('acute telogen effluvium') is very common - but why does it happen and is there anything you can do to stop it? We've got expert advice from Institute of Trichologists

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In a nutshell

Following pregnancy and childbirth your body is in a shock state – which can cause your growing (‘anagen’) hair to go into a shedding (‘telogen‘) state – known as acute telogen effluvium or post-partum hair loss.

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While the NHS website states that you are just losing the hair you might have gained in pregnancy this isn’t true: you can actually lose quite a bit more than you gained.

The good news is that, as long as there are no underlying health problems, this excessive shedding should stop around 3 months after it started, says The Institute of Trichologists (UK).

Our mums’ experiences

Losing your hair after having a baby definitely isn’t uncommon – when we polled our mums on Facebook about it, in fact, 83% of the 121 mums who responded said they’d experience hair loss after giving birth.

“Hey! Is anyone else losing their hair?? Mine’s been falling out for the last two weeks and wondering when it is going to stop? Every time I look at Grace there is hair in her fist or hanging off her clothes 😅 x”

So says Lauren C, a mum from our Facebook community – and she’s definitely not alone.

“I have 2 bald patches at the front 😦,” new mum Chloe C tells us. “Going to buy some hair and nails supplements tomorrow to help boost the growth as looks awful. Hopefully they’ll help.”

And even celebs aren’t immune – a while back we shared mum-of-2 and EastEnders actress Jacqueline Jossa’s post-pregnancy ‘hair loss’ selfie (below).

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What causes hair loss after pregnancy?

During pregnancy your body may come under serious medical stress that will have an effect on your hair and so you may have worse hair than when you started.

After pregnancy, there’s another raft of problems facing your hair. Hair and scalp expert, Consultant Trichologist Iain Sallis, explains:

“Following childbirth and everything that goes with it (loss of blood, the sheer physical and mental trauma of it all) comes a drop in hormone levels – which usually happens in day 3 after labour – and some women suddenly feel depressed, weepy and do not know why.

“All this may cause something called ‘post-partum’ hair loss which is caused by all of the above; it is when a percentage of the hair goes into a dying phase.

“Three months later the hair starts to shed excessively. Why 3 months? Because it takes that long for a dead hair to work its way out of the hair follicle and fall out… this does not happen overnight.”

How long will my hair shed for after pregnancy?

The shedding usually rectifies itself approximately 3 months after it started – as long as you have no health complications, Iain tells MFM.

“If you are suffering from an underlying medical disorder which was induced by the pregnancy or exacerbated by it, this may cause something called Chronic Telogen Effluvium (CTE).

“This is incredibly common in women, but post-pregnancy women often tend to just sit and wait for the hair to ‘return’ – or simply believe that thinning hair is just what happens after you have a child.

“It rarely is mentioned and so the thinning hair in this case will carry on and on,” he says.

CTE can be rectified, he says, as long as you know what the cause is. “The trick is to make sure you don’t become complacent about your hair – if it’s not growing back within 6 months get it checked by a specialist.”

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Is there anything I can do to help my hair shed less?

Unfortunately, not really, says Iain. “The hair which will eventually shed has already had the assault done to it at the time of labour/childbirth,” he explains.

“Afterwards, you can only wait for the hair to come out several months down the line – there is nothing you can do to stop the eventual shedding.”

I’m still losing my hair after 6 months – what’s going on?

As mentioned above, your hair should stop shedding around 3 months after it started, and continual shedding could mean there’s something else going on and you need to visit your doctor.

“As long as there are no underlying medical problems such as low iron or hormonal problems, the hair will return to its normal shedding phase within approximately 3 months,” Iain reiterates.

“So it is important to check with your GP that you have recovered normally with no underlying problems ‘hanging about’ such as ongoing anaemia.” 

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What can I do to improve my hair?

Of course, seeing your hair fall out in clumps can be a horrible experience, but it won’t all fall out, says Iain.

You can try volumising hair products to help with the look and feel of your locks in a day-to-day cosmetic way, and, adds Iain: “Eat well and healthily, lots of protein and iron-rich foods to replace what you may have lost in labour, and try to get some sleep too!”

One final reassurance from Iain: “It’s important to remember that new hair will be growing under the old hair which has just fallen out.

“It’s just that you cannot see it yet as it has to grow through the hair shaft and above the scalp a few millimetres which takes a few months in itself.”

Images: Getty/Jacqueline Jossa on Instagram

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