The normal hair growth cycle is a complex phenomenon. The human hair follicles are subjected to signals, which causes the hair follicles to undergo three major stages. These include the anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen or resting phase.
The anagen phase reflects the growing phase of the normal hair growth cycle and lasts for 2-6 years. The catagen phase is the transitional phase and lasts for only 2-3 weeks. The next phase is the telogen or resting stage, which lasts for 3 months. The hair follicle then enters the shedding phase, during which the hair falls. The normal hair growth cycle is responsible for replacing the scalp hair every 3 to 5 years. Hair shedding is a characteristic feature of the resting phase. There are different patterns of hair loss. Patchy hair loss represents tinea capitis, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata. Telogen effluvium commonly involves diffuse hair loss. There can be a specific pattern or diffuse pattern of hair loss in the case of androgenetic alopecia.
What is Postpartum Hair Loss?
Telogen effluvium is a hair loss condition characterized by hair loss as a result of emotional or physiologic stress. After the removal of the stress that precipitated hair loss, hair loss stops, and new hair growth occurs. Telogen effluvium, which also occurs in postpartum hair loss, occurs three months after the onset of the triggering event. This type of hair loss is self-limited.
Other stresses related to telogen effluvium include stress, an increase in androgen levels, febrile states, and an increase in thyroid hormone levels. It shall be noted that the levels of pregnancy hormones during and after pregnancy tend to be drastically different. Pregnancy hair growth is under the influence of high levels of estrogen and progesterone.
After giving birth, as the pregnancy comes to an end and the placenta is removed from the body, the levels of pregnancy hormones decline. The progesterone and estrogen levels return to normal levels 2-4 days after giving birth. This is also associated with an increase in the levels of prolactin. The variation in the levels of hormones in the postpartum period, most women find themselves losing hair.
Postpartum telogen effluvium occurs following a few months postpartum. Besides variation in the hormone levels after giving birth, hair loss after pregnancy is also the result of psychological stresses related to body changes.
Changes in Hormones Affect Your Hair
During pregnancy, the hair remains in the resting stage of the hair growth cycle, which lies between the growing phase and the telogen phase. The latter is delayed during the period of pregnancy. The hair growth cycle becomes more synchronized after giving birth to the baby. During this time, excessive shedding or hair loss occurs, which represents the loss of additional hairs present in the resting phase.
Compared to women who have previously experienced pregnancy-related hair loss and consider this to be totally normal, new moms panic at the unpleasant surprise of hair loss after giving birth to their babies. Postpartum hair loss continues for up to 6-24 weeks after the end of pregnancy but the continuation of hair loss up to 15 months is a rare occurrence. While new moms experience diffuse hair loss from the scalp, the hair loss is often accentuated along the frontal hairline. The new hair grows and replaces all the scalp hair after several weeks of giving birth and shedding the extra hair.
10 Tips to Prevent Postpartum Hair Loss 2023
The following strategies are important to prevent postpartum hair loss. These strategies also constitute postpartum hair loss treatment that can be useful for new moms.
A cleaner or conditioner containing vitamin B complex is useful for the prevention of postpartum hair loss. Biotin, also called vitamin H, is useful in the formation of keratin. Keratin is a hair protein important for the normal health of hair.
A healthy diet that can mitigate the risk of postpartum hair loss includes food sources rich in iron, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin B complex. These food sources include yeast, curd, buttermilk, peas, oranges, soya, nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and sprouts.
Curd for Hair Growth
Curd is an excellent conditioner for the scalp, improving the nature of the hair. The application of curd on the scalp hair, supplemented by the addition of curd in diet is useful for promoting hair growth and enhancing the nature of the scalp hair.
Eggs for Hair Growth
The application of a hair mask constituting egg white, olive oil, and honey is beneficial for improving the growth and nature of the scalp hair.
Overcoming Nutritional Deficiencies
The nutritional deficiencies that contribute to hair loss during the postpartum period include zinc, iron, and folic acid. Moreover, over-supplementation of individuals with certain nutrients may also lead to hair loss. These nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium.
Using Volumizing Shampoo
Hair products that help prevent or conceal postpartum hair loss include the use of a volumizing shampoo. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends volumizing shampoos containing proteins that increase the apparent fullness of hair.
Using Lightweight Conditioners
The use of lightweight conditioners is particularly useful for women with fine hair as such hair products are composed of lighter formulas, which do not weigh down hair. The conditioners should only be applied to the ends of hair instead of applying it to the whole scalp. Individuals should also refrain from using intensive conditioners that have heavy formulations.
The application and massage of castor oil on the scalp are useful for normal hair growth and the prevention of postpartum hair loss. Castor oil is rich in omega-9 unsaturated fats. This component functions as a moisturizer and promotes advanced hair development. For using castor oil, one shall blend the oil with coconut or almond oil and massage it gently on the scalp.
Fenugreek Hair Mask
Fenugreek seeds promote the development and growth of healthy hair. To make the fenugreek seed hair mask, one can soak the seeds in water overnight, followed by straining of water and blending the fenugreek seeds. One can then apply the fenugreek seed hair mask on the hair and scalp for about 30 minutes, after which one can rinse the hair with strained water.
Avoid Conditioning Shampoos
Conditioning shampoos constitute heavy conditioners, which weigh down the hair. This may be of greater concern among new mothers suffering from postpartum hair loss and shedding excessive hair.
Hair Falls Out for Lots of Reasons
There are several other causes of hair loss. Hair loss influences the quality of life of individuals. Compared to telogen effluvium, which occurs in response to experiences of stress, other causes of hair loss are associated with some kind of pathology. Trichotillomania is related to psychiatric conditions, which are associated with impulsive pulling out of hair.
Another important reason why hair loss occurs is explained by the disorder called trichorrhexis nodosa. The hair breaks in response to trauma. The trauma includes heat application in the form of flat irons or curling irons or blow dryers, tight hairstyles such as tight ponytails, and excessive brushing. Moreover, increased exposure to salt water and harsh chemicals such as intensive conditioners, bleach, dyes, and relaxers.
Should You Be Afraid of Postpartum Hair Loss?
Compared to other pathologic conditions that cause chronic hair loss, postpartum hair loss is a temporary condition, occurring a few months after giving birth to a baby, however, this is followed by new growth on the scalp. Hence, one should not be too concerned about excessive hair loss after pregnancy as this process is perfectly normal for new moms. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends mothers remain aware of the risk of hair tourniquets in the baby. Hair tourniquets are a result of wrapping individual strands of hair around the finger or toe of the new baby. This may either cease blood circulation or result in the development of an infection.
Postpartum hair loss can be worrisome for new mothers, while this phenomenon is perfectly normal and can be controlled with the employment of several preventive measures. Postpartum hair loss is a form of telogen effluvium resulting in response to psychological stress and variations in hormone levels. The employment of preventive strategies can also reduce stress levels and improve the quality of life of new moms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Postpartum hair loss is excessive hair shedding resulting from a hormonal variation following the birth of a baby. The hair escapes the resting phase and enters into the shedding phase of the hair growth cycle.
A hair tourniquet is a condition where individual strands of hair may wrap around the finger or toe of a baby to an extent that it leads to the development of infection or stops circulation to the finger or toe. While mothers suffering from postpartum hair loss should remain cautious of this condition, this is a rare occurrence.
Different preventive strategies can be employed to prevent postpartum hair loss including the use of castor oil, fenugreek seeds, curd, vitamin and mineral supplements, and the consumption of a healthy diet comprising food sources, which are rich in zinc, vitamin B, and vitamin C.