Pregnancy and postpartum hair loss
Reviewed by our clinical team
During pregnancy, hair loss is quite unusual as hair growth can increase, but it does sometimes happen due to a vitamin or iron deficiency.
After giving birth, it’s common for women to lose more hair than usual for up to three months, usually due to the extra hair grown during pregnancy.
In this article, we will explore the causes of hair loss during pregnancy, postpartum hair loss, and other causes of hair loss in women.
Causes of hair loss during pregnancy
It is normal to lose 50-100 hairs per day. If you notice more than what is normal for you during pregnancy, or hair falling out in clumps, it could be one of these reasons:
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that is responsible for producing hormones that your body needs to work. If the thyroid is underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism) this can cause a range of symptoms, including hair loss.
During pregnancy, the volume of blood in the body increases, meaning that the amount of iron required is greater. Iron deficiency is a common cause of anaemia during pregnancy and its symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, restless legs and hair loss.
Is hair loss a sign of early pregnancy?
If you are trying to conceive or think you might be pregnant, then you might be looking for early signs of pregnancy. Hair loss isn't a sign of early pregnancy.
Is hair loss common in new mums?
Postpartum hair loss, also known as telogen effluvium, is quite common and reported to affect 40% of women in the three months following their child’s birth. Anecdotally, the percentage of mothers who experience some degree of hair loss is believed to be higher.
What causes postpartum hair loss?
Many new mums will experience noticeable hair loss after giving birth. It usually occurs around three months postpartum but is temporary - some research suggests hair loss rarely continues beyond 15 months of having a baby.
Postpartum hair loss is caused by hormonal changes after having given birth. Your oestrogen levels plummet and this can trigger hair loss. Your hair transitions from the resting phase to the falling out phase quicker than normal, leading to an increased amount of hair loss between two and four months postpartum. Most women will only lose the extra hair they've grown during pregnancy, but it can look quite alarming.
Is postpartum hair loss normal?
Hair loss is a normal part of the postpartum cycle and is experienced by many new mums. As has already been mentioned, it occurs due to the fluctuation in hormones after pregnancy. These changes cause the hair to move from the anagen (growth) phase to the telogen (shedding) phase, resulting in excessive shedding of the hair.
How to deal with postpartum hair loss
There are no specific treatments for postpartum hair loss due to it being a temporary condition that usually resolves itself with time. However, there are some steps that you can take to help your hair feel fuller and improve your overall hair health.
The cells that make up each hair strand require essential nutrients to keep hair healthy and strong so a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals can be beneficial. Vitamin D, iron, omega 3, zinc and selenium all contribute to scalp, root, follicle and shaft health.
Hair care routine
If your hair is thinning and/or falling out, it is likely fragile and easily damaged. Therefore, a hair care routine that keeps this in mind is important. Use a gentle shampoo followed by a moisturising conditioner. Avoid using heat on the hair through the use of hair dryers, straighteners, and curling tongs when possible, opting to let your hair air dry instead.
Also, refrain from hairstyles that pull tightly on the hair.
Because vitamin requirements are different in pregnancy and not all vitamins are safe for the baby, it's best to check any supplements you are thinking of taking with your doctor. There are special, pregnancy-approved hair supplements on the market, so you should look into those first.
Speak to your doctor
If you're concerned about your hair loss, it's particularly severe, you're losing clumps, have patches or it's been happening for more than six months, you should speak to your GP. It may be that there is another underlying problem contributing to your hair loss.
Other causes of hair loss in women
Even as a new mum, being postpartum and the resultant hormonal changes may not necessarily be the sole cause of your hair loss. Other causes of hair loss include:
- Family genetics
- Medical conditions
In summary, postpartum hair loss in women is common and is a result of changes in hormone levels. It is usually only temporary, beginning around three months after birth and resolving itself after about six months.
Women’s hair loss can be caused by other factors, however, so if you are concerned about the duration or severity of hair loss, you should seek advice from your doctor.