It’s usually about three months postpartum when you notice it: Clumps of hair circling the bathtub drain when you’ve finally found four baby-free minutes to shower. But why is it happening, and is there anything you can do about post-pregnancy hair loss? We asked Stephen Pullaniat, a consultant trichologist (aka hair doctor) for the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic in New York, to find out.
How to Troubleshoot Postpartum Hair Loss
First Things First, Don’t Freak Out
Postpartum hair loss is totally normal and common, Pullaniat explains. Here’s why: During your pregnancy, estrogen levels increase, causing hair to grow faster or freeze in the “resting” stage of the hair growth cycle. In other words, it doesn’t fall out at its typical rate of about 40 strands per day, according to Pullaniat. Which is the reason your mane looked much more lustrous for a short time. But post-baby (or breastfeeding, if you decide to nurse), estrogen levels return to normal…and so does your hair. So all that hair that was in the “resting” phase for weeks starts to fall out at an accelerated pace.
But Keep In Mind: It Can Last For A Year
For some women, postpartum hair loss resolves at the six-month mark. But since it’s tied to your hormones, it varies, which means you might be dealing with it for close to a year.
You Can’t Stop It, But You Can Triage It
We repeat: It’s hormonal, so there’s not a lot you can do. But since your hair cells are the second fastest growing cells in the body, if it starts to become an issue, it’s an indicator that you could be depleted elsewhere, says Pullaniat. In fact, given that hair is non-essential tissue, your body automatically de-prioritizes its energy needs if something else needs more attention. In other words, factors like stress, poor nutrition and lack of sleep—all common for new moms—can exacerbate postpartum hair loss.
So, Eat Well, Get Sleep And Don’t Stress (easy, Right?)
Yep, it’s a tall order for a mom with a newborn that requires her attention 24/7 in the early days. Still, Pullaniat stresses the importance of making an effort to prioritize (or enlist help) when it comes to these things. For example, ask your spouse to take a night shift so you can catch some extra winks, or use a service like Instacart to make sure your fridge (and purse) are always stocked with nutritious foods. Of utmost importance for postpartum hair health? Animal protein in the form of chicken, fish and red meat for energy, according to Pullaniat. (In a pinch, he recommends keeping protein bars on hand at all times.)
…or Get A Haircut
The psychological part of postpartum hair loss is huge and a fresh haircut that takes your hair loss into account can make a world of difference, Pullaniat says. It’s also important to go easy on your mane when you shower. You can still wash daily—in fact, Pullaniat recommends that—but use a wide-tooth comb to release tangles and a deep conditioner to keep hair follicles properly nourished.