Motherhood is full of joys but also struggles. After the birth of your child, your body will still be going through changes that can be surprising. Instead of getting back to your normal post-pregnancy body, you may feel stranger than ever when experiencing changes like sudden hair loss.
While pregnancy hormones may have made your hair look extra lustrous and thick, the changes you go through in the months after delivery can have the opposite effect, causing thinning and less body in your hair.
So, what can you do? If you’re feeling stressed about what to do about your thin and lifeless locks, don’t worry. Plenty of mammas have been in the same position and we’ve collected the best tips for helping your hair look its best after pregnancy.
What Causes Postpartum Hair Loss?
During pregnancy, your body is flooded with human growth hormones and your body produces extra blood, increasing your overall blood volume by as much as 50%. You also experience higher levels of estrogen that actually reduce the amount of hair you lose on a daily basis. While most people lose hundreds of hairs a day, pregnant women lose far fewer.
Immediately after giving birth, your body starts to regulate these hormones and decrease your blood volume. This also means that all the hair you were keeping starts to fall out. While you aren’t losing more hair than you normally would over the course of those nine months, it can happen all at once, leaving your hairbrush and pillow covered.
There is good news, though. Hair naturally goes through a cycle of growing, resting, and shedding. While pregnancy kept more of your hair in the resting cycle longer, once you get past the initial postpartum shedding stage, you will start growing new hair. There are some conditions that can restrict your new hair growth, however.
Does Breastfeeding Cause Hair Loss?
Fortunately, breastfeeding is not responsible for your increased hair loss. As mentioned above, it’s more about your body’s hormonal changes. Though, breastfeeding does increase a mother’s nutritional needs.
Letting yourself get run-down by not eating healthfully or not eating enough while breastfeeding could make it take longer for you to get back to your pre-pregnancy hair levels.
Your thyroid gland regulates many important bodily functions. It controls the hormones in your body that set your metabolism and control growth and development in the body. Some mothers may experience hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, after pregnancy.
While you’re pregnant, your immune system is somewhat suppressed so that your body doesn’t attack your baby. This can lead to thyroid problems during or after pregnancy. Most commonly, issues with thyroid function appear 2-3 months after delivery.
An underactive thyroid gland can cause you to feel tired and depressed. It may also slow down your body’s growth processes, including your hair growth. If thyroid issues run in the family or you have pain and swelling in the thyroid gland at the front of your neck, you should be tested by your doctor.
Many women suffer from anemia, or an iron deficiency, at some point in their life and during pregnancy, your body needs more iron than ever to nourish your baby. Iron is essential for creating hemoglobin to make red blood cells.
Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you deplete a lot of nutrients. If you have postpartum anemia, you might have a low milk supply, muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and a rapid heartbeat. Anemia can also affect your hair loss and growth cycle.
It’s important to eat a nourishing diet with plenty of iron sources, but you may also want to supplement. In extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe treatments to increase your iron levels.
Reducing Postpartum Hair Loss
If your hair loss isn’t exacerbated by an underlying health condition, like the ones mentioned above, it will usually start to resolve itself in 6 months to a year. Most women notice a peak in hair loss between months 2 and 3 postpartum.
Suffering through a year of dull and thinning hair may not be very appealing, though, so here are some tips for taking care of your hair and helping it get back to normal as soon as possible.
Focus on Scalp and Hair Health
A healthy scalp grows hair more easily, so there are a few ways you can make your head a little happier. Avoid over-washing your hair, which can dry out your scalp and cause dry flaky build-up that can inhibit hair growth. Instead, try washing your hair only 1-2 times per week.
Massaging your scalp in the shower with your fingertips or with a shampoo brush will help improve circulation and encourage dead hair to drop out, making way for new growth.
After the shower, you don’t want to rub your hair too rigorously, but gently squeeze out excess water. Let your hair air-dry to avoid using heated tools that can damage your hair and scalp. You also don’t want to use brushes and combs that pull on and stress your hair. Choose a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle your hair instead.
Many new moms swear by conditioning treatments to help give their hair more luster and body. You can use your normal conditioner by leaving it in for 10 to 20 minutes after you shampoo your hair, and then rinsing with cold water. Other moms like to apply coconut oil to their hair and scalp as a nourishing treatment, but argan oil is also popular. Plenty of commercial oil treatments are available to try.
Choosing the Right Products
You may want to change up the products you typically use on your hair to help it look fuller and healthier. Product residue can sometimes weigh hair down and make it look dull. Choosing a high-quality, nourishing shampoo that’s sulfate-free can help your hair look better. Pairing it with a rich conditioner is an ideal combination.
Clarifying shampoos can sometimes strip your hair. Instead, you might try a volumizing shampoo and conditioner, designed to help bulk up your hair. Shampoo and conditioner designed to repair damage might also help improve the look of your locks.
Some women use styling products that can also help their hair look fuller. Leave-in conditioners are nourishing options that can help reduce frizz and bring out natural curl. Mousse and texturizing creams can also help boost your hair and make it look fuller.
Diet and Supplements
If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to continue taking your prenatal vitamins to keep giving your body that extra nutrition. Even after you transition away from prenatal vitamins, a high-quality women’s multivitamin can help fill in any nutritional gaps.
Some women swear by collagen supplements to improve the look of skin, hair, and nails. Collagen is naturally found in our hair and skin, though our body produces less of it as we get older. By supplementing with collagen, you can help your hair grow stronger and thicker, making the most of what you have.
A good diet will help you absorb more nutrients than any supplement. Make sure you’re getting a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to provide you with essential vitamins and minerals. Lean proteins and healthy fats will help keep you energized and fuel healthy skin and hair.
While meats and fish are great sources of iron, protein, and some good fats, there are plenty of options for vegan moms too.
Change up Your Styling
If you used to use a flat iron or curling iron on your hair regularly, that might not be practical now. Your thinner hair can be more prone to damage, which can make it look worse. Many people also experience some changes in their hair texture after pregnancy as well. So, give your hair a break and start getting to know its new texture.
Many new moms find that cutting their hair to shoulder or chin-length helps it look fuller and more voluminous. It’s also practical to keep it away from your baby once they enter a grabby phase.
Besides cutting it, simple changes like moving your hair’s part can refresh your look and increase its volume. If your hair is looking thinner on one side, side-part your hair to move more locks in that direction and cover thin spots.
Using hair scarves and headbands can also be practical and beautiful. A fun patterned scarf or decorative headband can easily add flair to an outfit without a lot of effort. These accessories will also cover and draw attention away from any thinness. They can also help keep hair back and out of your way while you care for your baby.
Get Back to Feeling Beautiful
Many of us connect how we look to how we feel. After giving birth to your baby, it’s normal to not feel great. There are so many changes happening to your body and you’re probably busier than ever. You may not have time to do a full beauty routine anymore and your old clothes may not fit comfortably yet. So having your hair betray you too may be particularly disheartening.
Fortunately, in most cases, your hair will be back to normal within a year after giving birth. Until then, there are things you can do to take care of yourself and your hair that can help you feel beautiful.