Hair loss after pregnancy
Losing hair can be upsetting at any time, but it can be especially distressing if you’ve just gone through childbirth.
You may have noticed that your hair was thicker during pregnancy, when you shed less hair than usual. However, it can then start to fall out more and get thinner a couple of months after giving birth.
Known as postpartum hair loss, this can feel alarming. But it’s actually just your hair going back to its usual cycle of growth and loss after the changes of pregnancy. It’s completely normal, and temporary.
Here, we explain why postpartum hair loss happens, how long it’s likely to last and what you can do about it – as well as looking at other possible causes of hair loss after pregnancy.
Why is my hair falling out after pregnancy?
Like many of the changes your body goes through during and after
While you’re pregnant, your levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones rise dramatically. These hormonal increases push more of your hairs than usual into the growth, or ‘anagen’, phase of the hair growth cycle, which can lead to your hair looking and feeling healthier and thicker.
But after you give birth, your hormone levels fall dramatically, particularly oestrogen. And this causes more of your hairs than usual to go into the resting, or ‘telogen’, phase of the hair growth cycle. This leads to a drop in hair growth and an increase in hair shedding, which is known as telogen effluvium.
Telogen effluvium compensates for the extra hair growth you enjoyed during pregnancy, and it’s completely normal to lose a lot of hair in the months after you give birth.
Find useful information on other areas of female hair loss with our
When does postpartum hair loss start?
Hair loss after pregnancy usually starts 2 to 4 months after your baby is born. But if you’re breastfeeding, you might find you don’t lose hair as soon, as your hormones can stay at a higher level.
You might start to notice that you’re losing more hair than usual (remember it’s normal to shed up to 100 hairs a day). This will probably be most obvious when:
- brushing your hair – you may find more hairs in the brush
- showering – you may see more hairs in the plughole
- getting up – you may see more hairs on your pillow
Occasionally, people with telogen effluvium also notice that the skin on their head (scalp) is tender or uncomfortable. But you shouldn’t notice any itching or a rash.
When does postpartum hair loss stop?
Getting hair loss at the same time as dealing with all the emotions of giving birth and having a newborn can be upsetting, but you should be reassured that it won’t last forever.
Telogen effluvium usually starts a few months after giving birth and can continue for anything from around 6 weeks to 6 months. In most cases, however, your hair will go back to its normal growth cycle within 1 year.
It’s a good idea to speak to a doctor if your hair isn’t back to its usual thickness after 1 year. Occasionally, postpartum hair loss can last up to 15 months, but they may want to check that there isn’t another reason for your hair loss.
When to see a doctor about hair loss after pregnancy
Postpartum hair loss is common and it’s usually nothing to worry about. However, you should see a doctor if you have other symptoms as well – and particularly if you have symptoms of the other causes of hair loss after pregnancy listed below.
You should also talk to your doctor if your hair doesn’t go back to normal after 1 year.
Hair loss can be caused by lots of different things, and your doctor can check the cause and prescribe treatment if necessary.
Other causes of hair loss after pregnancy
While it’s usually nothing serious, excessive hair loss after giving birth can sometimes be caused by another condition that needs medical attention.
Losing a lot of hair at once can be a symptom of
At first, thyroiditis causes symptoms of an
- a fast heart rate (
- feeling nervous or ‘on edge’
- weight loss
After about 4 to 8 months, thyroiditis can then cause symptoms of an
- trouble pooing (
- weight gain
You should see a doctor if you have symptoms that suggest your hair loss might be caused by thyroiditis – they can do blood tests to check your thyroid function.
Having low iron levels in your blood – known as iron deficiency – can also cause excess hair loss. It’s common after giving birth because being pregnant uses your body’s iron stores and then labour – where you bleed a lot – means you lose even more.
Low iron levels can lead to
- pale skin
- shortness of breath during exercise
See a doctor if you have any signs of iron deficiency anaemia alongside your hair loss.
Both pregnancy and childbirth can be physically and emotionally stressful, and stress can also trigger hair loss. Read more about
Symptoms of stress can vary a lot. You may notice physical or mental changes, or changes in your behaviour. Signs can include:
- trouble concentrating
- feeling overwhelmed
- headaches, muscle tension or pain
- being more irritable than usual
Read more about
What can I do about postpartum hair loss?
For many people, it can be disappointing to lose the thicker hair that they enjoyed during pregnancy. But while you can’t prevent postpartum hair loss, there are things you can do to look after your hair while you wait for it to go back to normal, including:
- using a volumising shampoo – to help make your hair look thicker and fuller
- using a conditioner designed for fine hair – and applying it to the ends of your hair only
- avoiding ‘conditioning shampoos’ and ‘intensive conditioners’ – these will be too heavy for your recovering hair
You might have to try a few products before you find a new routine that works for you. You may also want to try a different hairstyle to help disguise any postpartum hair loss or thinning. A shorter style can help your hair look thicker, and may also be more practical when caring for a new baby.
And remember, once your hair returns to its normal volume, your haircare routine can probably go back to what it was before pregnancy.
Hair supplements and postpartum hair loss
It’s best to get the nutrients you need for hair health by eating a
Certain vitamins are important for hair growth. If your hair loss is thought to be caused by something other than hormonal changes after pregnancy, your doctor may do blood tests for iron, B12 or folate, and suggest a supplement if your levels are low.
Some other vitamins, including zinc, biotin and selenium, have also been linked to hair loss, but they’re not usually tested for.
If you don't think you’re getting all the nutrients you need from your diet and you’re not breastfeeding, you could consider taking a multivitamin that contains a balanced amount of these nutrients. If you’re breastfeeding, you could try a supplement that’s designed for breastfeeding mothers.
Unless recommended by your doctor, it’s best not to take a large amount of any 1 nutrient, as occasionally this can lead to you getting too much, which can be harmful.
Your health questions answered
Does breastfeeding affect hair loss after having a baby?
“Breastfeeding doesn’t cause or prevent postpartum hair loss. But because your hormones may not drop as quickly after the birth if you’re breastfeeding, there’s some evidence that any postpartum hair loss can be delayed. It’s important that you get enough protein in your diet when breastfeeding, and low levels can also contribute to hair loss. The amount of iron you’ll need is usually lower than during pregnancy, until your periods start again – unless you lost a lot of blood during delivery, in which case your doctor may recommend a supplement.”
If I lose weight after giving birth will that affect my hair loss?
“Losing a lot of weight in a short period of time can be a trigger for hair loss, but this isn’t linked to giving birth. You may want to lose any extra weight you gained during pregnancy, but it’s important to do this safely and avoid very low-calorie or ‘crash’ diets. These aren’t healthy or sustainable, and can mean your body isn’t getting the calories and nutrients it needs – especially if you’ve chosen to breastfeed, as this can use up to an extra 500 calories a day.”