Giving birth to a child is a feeling that is unlike any other. The immense pain just goes away once you have your baby in your arms. Everything seems to be sunshine and rainbows – up until hundreds of hair strands end up on the bathroom floor.
This might sound like a nightmare, but it’s a reality to most new moms. Dare they say welcome to motherhood – and the hair fall that comes with it.
What is Postpartum Hair Loss?
Also known as postpartum alopecia, this condition affects as much as 90% of new mothers worldwide. It usually starts two to six months after childbirth and usually peaks during the fourth month.
In postpartum alopecia, the number of fallen hair can go as high as 400 locks per day. The is in stark with the usual hair fall that is 100-150 strands per day.
What Happens during Postpartum Hair Loss?
During pregnancy, the body produces increased amounts of estrogen and progesterone – hormones that make the body more suitable for pregnancy. They make the womb conducive for a growing baby, and they help develop the placenta – the means through which the baby receives his/her nutrients from the mother.
While estrogen and progesterone focus on making the body baby-friendly, they play a huge role in hair health as well. With these hormones, you get to enjoy thicker, stronger strands.
Apart from a surge in estrogen and progesterone, there is also more blood being circulated in the body during pregnancy. This helps provide more nourishment to the baby and the mommy with the growing belly. The increased blood volume has implications on hair growth as well, as this helps deliver more nutrients to the strands. This explains why some mothers have strong and sturdy strands during pregnancy.
After childbirth, however, blood volume and the number of hair-boosting hormones return to their normal levels. As a result, the hair remains in the ‘resting stage’ where they don’t grow. This lasts for three months – until the strands eventually fall out. And when these strands grow back, they take the appearance of ‘baby hairs’ that are usually thinner and more prone to breakage.
While postpartum loss can take a toll on your physical appearance, the good news is that it is not permanent. You can expect your hair to grow back to normal after a few months.
While postpartum alopecia is temporary, those who are genetically predisposed to hair loss (think about your mom, granny or aunt and if they exhibit sparse heads of hair) may exhibit worse female pattern hair loss symptoms with each subsequent pregnancy.
How to Combat Postpartum Hair Loss
While postpartum alopecia is temporary, the act of taking care of a new baby can prolong – if not accelerate – hair loss. With that being said, new mothers are recommended to follow these tips on how to combat postpartum hair loss:
Nutrition plays a big role in hair health – whether you have just given birth or not. While you are no longer eating for two, you need to eat more than your usual intake (an additional 500-600 calories per day) especially if you are breastfeeding.
Experts from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggest this daily diet for lactating mothers:
For vegan mothers, meat sources can be replaced with food sources that are rich in iron and zinc, such as nuts, seeds, dried beans, and dried fruits.
More than just providing the nursing mother with the nutrients that she needs, this dietary recommendation can also boost hair health. These foods are rich in vitamins, iron, zinc, and protein – just some of the necessary nutrients for better hair growth.
If you are a vegan – or if you are allergic to some food products, then taking a supplement may be your best defense against postpartum hair loss. According to a study published in the Journal of Dermatology and Therapy, these are the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that may help reduce the severity of postpartum hair loss:
Just because you have given birth already does not mean that you should no longer take care of yourself. You and your baby need to be checked regularly. This is especially the case if the hair loss persists after 6 months. You might have low levels of the nutrients stated above – and they may be the reasons why you shed hair continuously.
Stress is a normal part of life. It is your body’s reaction to a demand or a challenge. It can be helpful – meaning it can help you respond to a deadline or avoid dangers along your way.
The stresses of motherhood, however, can be different. You need to juggle breastfeeding, raising your other children, and caring for your husband. But wait, there’s work too.
This may explain why the American Psychological Association survey has shown that women were more likely to experience the physical and emotional forms of stress. More ladies reported manifestations such as headaches, indigestion, and just the innate need to cry.
Stress is not only harmful to one’s mental health, it can worsen postpartum hair loss as well. With that being said, new moms are encouraged to minimize stress by trying any (or all) of these techniques:
If you are fond of strengthening or curling your hair – or tying it up in a high pony – then you should avoid doing these for the time being. These styles can make your hair weak and more prone to breakage/hair loss. Let your locks hang free in the meantime. Try a hair product that contains any of the nutrients stated above. Once your postpartum hair loss goes away, you can try these hairstyles once again.
Postpartum hair loss is an eventuality that most mothers face. Although this is the case, they can be reversed with the right nutrition and mindset. If you have a dramatic amount of hair fall, don’t panic! Just follow these tips and you can regain a healthy head of hair in no time.
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