In the normal cycle of hair growth, some hair is lost every day.
Scalp hair grows in cycles with each hair follicle undergoing 10 to 30 cycles in its lifetime. Each cycle consists of an active growth phase (anagen), involuting phase (catagen) and a resting phase (telogen).
During pregnancy, the increased levels of estrogen in the body freeze hair in the growing phase of the cycle. Hair that would normally fall out stays put, resulting in thicker hair.
However, once one gives birth and estrogen levels decline, a lot more hair enters the telogen stage, and starts to fall out. This is known as telogen gravidarum.
This unusual shedding usually tapers off and hair generally goes back to its pre-pregnancy thickness about 6 – 12 months after childbirth.
We speak to Dr Ram Nath, Medical Director of The Wellness Clinic, to learn more about postpartum hair loss.
What is the main cause of postpartum hair loss?
Many new moms experience hair loss a few months after having a baby. This is normal, and not true hair loss. We refer to this condition as postpartum hair loss. The excessive shedding is caused by falling estrogen levels.
What factors can affect hormone levels and result in excessive hair loss in the postpartum period?
Estrogen levels are elevated during pregnancy. These levels naturally return to their normal lower levels during the first 6 months after giving birth. During this period, there can be noticeable thinning along the hairline, so the hair looks very fine in the front, or as if one is going bald.
However, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition and stress can cause further disruption of hormone levels and aggravate hair loss. Sometimes hair falls out all over the head, or clumps may come out when brushing it, or in the shower.
What does the typical treatment involve?
For mild cases, often no treatment is required as the hair loss gradually stops after a few months. But patients are advised to use a volumising shampoo that helps to make the hair appear fuller, and avoid intensive conditioners because heavy conditioners can weigh down the hair and make it look limp.
What other steps can be taken to mitigate the hair loss, such as supplements or diet?
I would recommend the following supplements that have proven to be extremely effective in addressing certain skin issues:
Biotin encourages the production of protein for hair growth. In addition, it also stimulates new hair growth and promotes healthier texture by protecting against dryness, scalp flaking and increasing elasticity of hair to prevent breakage. I recommend it to my patients who have any concerns with thinning hair or brittle nails.
Marine Fatty Acids
When consumed, marine fatty acids such as omega-3 work to combat dry and damaged hair, hair loss, and a flaky scalp. The DHA and EPA found in omega-3 adds elasticity and shine to dull hair, and promotes hair growth. Marine fatty acids also help to protect and repair skin cells, moisturizing the skin from the inside out.
I will suggest to my patients to have at least one to two capsules daily of a supplement containing Biotin and Marine Fatty Acids.
How long does it typically take for the hair growth/thickness to return to its pre-pregnancy level?
It can typically take 6 months for hair thickness to return to normal.
What steps should be taken if the hair loss does not improve after this period?
Cases where hair loss lasts for longer than 6 months will require further investigation. Consult a doctor to do blood tests to assess hormonal levels and to ascertain if you are suffering from iron deficiency.