Q: I gave birth a few months ago – why is my hair falling out?

A: Postpartum hair loss is one of those little-but-big parts of new motherhood that can come as an alarming surprise. From two to six months after giving birth, many women start to notice more-than-typical shedding while hair brushing or shampooing in the shower. The three-month mark is pretty typical. For some, it’s just a few strands, but for others, the loss can be significant for the time being and create noticeable thinning or bald spots, particularly around the hairline.

At a time when you may already be feeling self-conscious about your appearance, this new development can feel pretty scary, frustrating, and upsetting. But you’re going to be okay. It’s common and usually not a sign that something is seriously wrong (almost 90% of women lose hair in the months following delivery). Your hair will grow back.

The technical name of this unwelcome phenomenon is telogen effluvium, more commonly called postpartum alopecia. It happens when higher hormone levels during pregnancy slow down the normal shedding and give hair a healthy, shiny growth boost. Those hormones level out after birth and cause hair growth to enter a resting phase where you may see little to no growth. After a few months of that, not only does your normal shedding come back, your body basically kicks out the old, stagnant hair to make room for new hair to grow in its place. You know, those fuzzy “baby” bangs that pop up along your hairline. This loss/growth pattern should return to your pre-pregnancy normal after about six months.

If there’s significant hair loss stretching past the six-month mark, it might be a sign that there’s an underlying health issue. Things like thyroid changes and anemia can happen during or after pregnancy, so if that’s the case, a call to your doctor is a good idea.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict who’ll have postpartum hair loss. Some moms may even have it following one pregnancy but not another. For others, it happens each time.

If you do start noticing hair loss after baby’s birth, there are a few things you can do to help your new hair grow back.

Make nutrition a priority. Your body needs fuel to do a LOT right now – healing after birth, producing breast milk, keeping you going on less sleep, carrying a baby around. And also, re-growing hair. While it may not be realistic to get perfectly balanced meals into the juggling act that is life with a newborn, try to sneak in easy snacks packed with protein or fruits and veggies high in vitamins and minerals. You can also continue to take your prenatal vitamins.

If you’re breastfeeding, keep at it. Contrary to popular myth, breastfeeding does not cause or worsen postpartum hair loss. So don’t stop for that reason.

Wash your hair. It’s natural to think that shampooing your hair will cause more to fall out. In truth, it’s going to fall out whether you wash it or not. Shampooing regularly will actually give remaining hair the body and lift to help it appear fuller and cover up any sparse areas. Try a volumizing shampoo without built-in conditioner. Also, avoid heavy conditioners that can weigh hair down. Either skip it entirely, or use one designed for finer hair.

See a stylist. If you can make arrangements for an hour to yourself, visit an experienced stylist. They may be able to recommend new ways to wear your hair to cover thinning areas or give you a shorter cut to boost the appearance of volume. And maybe even shorten your morning routine.

• Try to reduce stress. If your obstetrician gives you the OK, start light exercise or yoga. Getting sleep can also help.

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If you feel that you’re in deep depression and you fear that there is immediate danger, such as self-harm or harm to your baby, please call 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help.

To find support and resources outside of Western PA, contact Postpartum Support International at postpartum.net or call 1-800-944-4773.

To find out more information about how AHN Women is innovating the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety, follow AHN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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