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25th February, 20214 min read

What is postpartum hair loss?

Medical reviewer: Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author: Helen Prentice
Last reviewed: 24/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

After giving birth, or ‘postpartum’, your body goes through many changes – but hair loss can come as a surprise.

You might be worried when you see hair coming out when you brush or wash it, but rest assured that postpartum hair loss is completely normal.

Read on to learn why this is, what to expect, and what you can do to look after your hair.

What causes postpartum hair loss?

As with many things pregnancy-related, your hormones affect your hair both during pregnancy and after the birth.

While you’re pregnant, your levels of several hormones rise, including oestrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, and prolactin. It’s the increase in oestrogen that stops your hair falling out at its usual rate (which is generally between 50 and 100 hairs a day).

An increase in blood volume and circulation will also mean your hair falls out less than usual during pregnancy. In fact, many people find that their hair is particularly thick and shiny.

After you have your baby, however, your oestrogen and progesterone levels will quickly drop back to normal. Your blood volume also decreases in the weeks following the birth. This means your hair will start falling out again – and it can sometimes seem like you’re losing more than usual.

How much postpartum hair loss is normal?

Your hair will be making up for all the time it wasn’t able to shed while you were pregnant, so it may feel like it’s coming out in larger clumps than usual.

However, you probably won’t lose more hair than you normally would over the course of 9 months. It just seems like more, because it’s falling out in a shorter period of time.

So, how long does postpartum hair loss last? Well, it starts any time after the birth and can last for up to a year, but it normally peaks when your baby is about 4 months old.

What can you do about postpartum hair loss?

If you’re wondering how to prevent postpartum hair loss, there’s no specific ‘treatment’. But there are things you can do to help keep your hair healthy, including:

  • eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins. Foods that contain vitamins and nutrients that may be good for hair health include:
    • eggs – for vitamin D
    • oily fish – for omega-3s and magnesium
    • dark green leafy vegetables – for iron and vitamin C
    • sweet potatoes and carrots – for beta carotene
  • avoiding too much styling with heat (such as a hairdryer) or brushing, as this can damage your hair, especially when it’s wet

When to seek medical advice

In most cases, postpartum hair loss isn’t a cause for concern. But If you’re particularly worried about it, or it’s still happening more than a year after the birth, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.

You should also get medical advice about hair loss if:

  • you have sudden hair loss
  • you get bald patches
  • you’re losing hair in big clumps
  • your head also itches or burns

Your doctor will be able to check that there isn’t another reason for your hair loss and advise on suitable treatment options, if necessary.

Key points

  • postpartum hair loss is completely normal
  • hormones cause changes to your hair during and after pregnancy
  • it may feel like you’re losing a lot of hair after the birth, but it won’t usually be more than you would have lost over 9 months
  • postpartum hair loss usually stops by the time your baby is 1 year old
  • eating a balanced diet can help to keep your hair healthy
  • speak to your doctor if you’re worried about your hair loss
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