I lived for the luxe locks I sported during and immediately after my pregnancies. I paraded around like a supermodel, tossing my hair from side to side as if everyone in the world were mesmerized by my thick, shiny strands that seemed to grow by the second. I was even prepared for the postpartum hair loss many women experience once their pregnancy hormones subside.
What I wasn't prepared for was the wispy bangs that seemed to appear overnight around my face. I awoke one morning, about five months after delivering my son, and as I stood there blow drying my hair, I couldn't get the lion's mane of wisps to stay down. I tried different hair serums, headbands, and hats before I just gave into the baby-fine hair that seemed to stay with me for months. In fact, I would marvel in the fact that my tot was ready for his first haircut around the same time my wisps finally blended in with the rest of my hair!
So what should women know about that postpartum shedding and wispy new bangs? Dr. Alan J. Bauman, board-certified hair restoration physician, explained to POPSUGAR exactly what moms need to realize about their changing post-baby hair.
How common is postpartum hair loss?
Although it may not be one of the most discussed postpartum topics, Bauman explained that hair loss is much more common than many women realize — and has been shown to negatively affect between 40 and 50 percent of women who were recently pregnant.
What actually causes it?
Fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can cause many women to experience a surge in hair follicles, leading to thicker and more luscious hair. However, when the hormones decrease after you give birth, so can your hair. "Because of natural hair growth cycling, every day, a certain percentage of hair follicles on the scalp are 'resting' and therefore not producing hair," Bauman explained. "While pregnant, many women see a surge in their estrogen and progesterone levels, which is believed to shift many of the resting follicles into the natural 'growing' phase. After the baby is born, these hormone levels, along with the resting and growing ratios, return to the pre-pregnancy level. It is this sudden change that often causes the hair to noticeably shed and hair volume to decrease."
Is it permanent?
This type of hair loss is usually only temporary, however Bauman explains that how long and how severely a woman sheds following pregnancy depends on the individual.
When does it start?
Postpartum hair loss isn't immediate. "Loss usually occurs between three and six months postpartum, and varies in severity for each woman," Bauman said.
When does it stop?
According to Bauman, the excessive shedding usually stops as the growth cycles return to normal. This typically occurs anywhere from six to twelve months after delivery.
How long does it take your hair to recover?
Depending on the hair length that you started with, it can take a year or more for your hair to"feel" back normal but there is no guarantee. "Unfortunately for some women, especially those at high risk for hereditary hair loss, their head of hair never seems to regain its original volume," Bauman said.
Could this be a sign of something bigger?
The severe shedding that occurs after pregnancy could be indicative of things to come later in life. "Many women with significant hereditary female pattern hair loss during menopause often tell me that their shedding and hair loss after pregnancy was severe and that their hair unfortunately never returned to its normal pre-pregnancy state," Bauman said. "If there is a hereditary hair loss history (mother's or father's side and either gender), and postpartum hair loss is severe, this warrants tracking by a hair restoration physician who can create a 'master plan' for intervening if necessary."
What can women experiencing excessive shedding do to treat it?
There are several options for women who are experiencing worrisome postpartum shedding. To help maintain hair follicles and stimulate healthy hair growth, Bauman advises talking to your doctor about nutritional supplements. "Keep in mind however, that these are not going to change the rate of hair growth or the amount of follicles in a growth phase. In order to favorably influence hair growth cycling, after childbirth I usually recommend low-level FDA-cleared laser light therapy, because it is non-chemical and has absolutely no side-effects," he said. "We could also consider applying an effective prescription topical medication to the scalp or performing a 'Vampire' PRP Platelet Rich Plasma treatment, as long as the new mom is not nursing."
— Additional reporting by Lauren Levy