I experienced significant hair loss after both of my pregnancies. My experience with postpartum hair loss made wonder, why do we lose hair postpartum and is there anything we can do about it?

Postpartum Hair Loss

Postpartum hair loss is an inevitable part of a woman’s postpartum journey.  At some point anywhere from one to five months postpartum, mothers experience an increase in the amount of hair lost when they brush or wash their hair, sometimes even in clumps.  

Why Is My Hair Falling Out?

Postpartum hair loss, or postpartum telogen effluvium, is caused by hormone fluctuations.  

During pregnancy, many women experiencing a thickening of their scalp hair.  This is thought to be caused by a delayed conversion of hair follicles from anagen to telogen due to high levels of estrogen and progesterone.  Anagen is the active growing phase of hair, while telogen is the shedding phase of the hair follicle.  This means that less hair is lost during pregnancy so your hair will be thicker.  

Once you deliver your baby and your hormones begin to return to pre-pregnancy levels, the hairs in delayed anagen release will enter telogen and you will experience increased shedding and thinning of the hair.    

Often your hair is not as thick postpartum as it was pre-pregnancy.  

Can I Make It Stop Or Slow Down?

Unfortunately there isn’t any one thing you can do to stop or slow down the hair loss you experience postpartum.   The hair loss is an isolated event and expected to resolve on its own by 15 months postpartum.  

The research for taking iron supplements for hair loss is controversial.  You should always speak to your doctor before you take an iron supplement.  Low iron levels causing anemia (low blood counts) would be an indication for taking iron supplements.  

Other common vitamins suggested for hair loss include biotin, vitamin D, and zinc.  There is no evidence that taking these supplements in the absence of a true vitamin deficiency will slow down or stop postpartum hair loss.  

What did I do?

I brushed my hair often to remove loose hairs on my head. I also tried using a volumizing shampoo and conditioner and avoided weighing my hair with heavy product. Fortunately, by around 10 months the hair loss resolved.

This post was co-authored by Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.