New mom Kate Middleton is known for her beautiful, lustrous blowouts, which is why she might be worrying about an issue that affects a bevy of women: postpregnancy hair loss. And for good reason. "Losing your hair can be quite dramatic and traumatic, especially if you don't know it's coming," Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, a trichologist at the New York Philip Kingsley Clinic, says. "Emotionally, we're connected to our hair. And we're in a very vulnerable place postpregnancy." So in the spirit of knowledge, here's the brass tacks of postpregnancy hair loss.
Why it happens:
"Elevated estrogen levels make hair follicles hold on to hair longer than it should," Phillips says. When you finally give birth and estrogen levels regulate, your follicles release all of the hair you should have been shedding naturally . . . but it comes out all at once. That's a backlog of three to six months' hair. So if you do experience hair loss, then it will start to happen about three months postpartum and last for another three to six months.
There are also secondary issues that can spur the great shed. "A few weeks postpartum, we're not taking optimal care of ourselves. It's all about the baby," Phillips explains. Low iron levels paired with stress and exhaustion? That's enough to make anyone's hair fall out.
To find out if postpregnancy hair loss will happen to you and what you can do about it, just keep reading.
Will it happen to me?
According to Phillips, about 50 to 60 percent of women will report postpregnancy hair loss, but not everybody experiences it. There are some signs, however. "If you find yourself thinking that your hair has never looked better, it may be because you're hanging on to hair. That means you might shed postpregnancy."
It goes both ways, though. If you feel like you don't see much of a change, then you might be in the clear. But Phillips stresses that it's not 100 percent either way for anyone. Breastfeeding also has a touch to do with it, as it keeps hormone levels in flux, which can lead to longer shed times.
What can I (realistically) do?
The best thing you can do? Keep yourself healthy. "You're not going to be able to influence the chemistry side of it," Phillips says. "What is critical is that you are superattentive to your own health postpartum." That means eating healthy and getting your vitamins (Phillips actually suggests sticking with your prenatal vitamins for about three months after you've given birth). "At your six-week checkup, have your doctor check your iron levels to make sure everything is on track," she says.
Emotionally, things might be a little tougher. "Information helps you control the scenario," she says. It's important to keep this in mind: your hair follicles aren't dying; they're simply releasing. Now it's time to focus on whether or not you're creating an optimal environment for hair growth. "It's easy to focus on the hair that just left, but you should focus on the ones that just started growing," Phillips says. So give yourself a scalp treatment, make sure to hydrate, and talk to your stylist about giving you a haircut that will make the hair loss a little less noticeable. And the most important thing? "Stress management and rest," advises Phillips.