For many of us, our hair is fused with our sense of identity and can often play a critical role in how we portray and perceive ourselves. Because our tresses hold such importance, our sense of self, self-esteem and confidence can be thrown for a loop when bald patches appear or when hair begins to thin.
Postpartum (or postnatal) hair loss is to be expected after pregnancy, and is rarely long term, but can still create these self-esteem issues, as well as increased stress and anxiety.
To understand how and why there is a sudden loss of hair post pregnancy, you need to understand how our hair grows to begin with…
The hair cycle
Our hair grows in three different phases: anagen, the active growth phase that lasts three to five years; catagen, a 10-day transition period and finally telogen which is characterised by hair shedding and hair falling out. The follicle remains inactive for three months before the cycle starts again.
Experiencing sudden hair loss is called telogen effluvium, which is a reversible, abrupt hair loss period caused by some internal disruption (ie. illness, nutritional deficiencies) or external events (ie. bereavement, giving birth).
What is postpartum hair loss and why it happens
Two-to-four months after giving birth, some women experience hair loss, also known as postpartum telogen effluvium or telogen gravidarum. According to the American Pregnancy Association, on average 40 to 50 per cent of women experience it. Usually it lasts for two to five months, but may take up to 18 months in some cases.
There are two main hormones that create this issue. Firstly, there is a rise in oestrogen, which during pregnancy prolongs the anagen phase and helps with hair growth. This is why many women tend to experience fuller hair during pregnancy. However after giving birth, these hormones return back to normal and there is an oestrogen withdrawal, which brings the catagen phase and the hair loss.
“The concentration of cortisol in the hair is found to be higher in the third trimester of pregnancy as compared to the first and it remains elevated during the first month after birth. Increased levels of cortisol are known to reduce the synthesis and increase the breakdown of proteoglycans which are essential for the normal functioning of hair follicles and the hair cycle,” explains EV Expert, Medical Trichologist and Founder of Crewe Hair and Skin Clinic, Dr Ingrid Wilson.
Many women experience hair loss after their first delivery and it is reported to be lower in subsequent pregnancies. “This is due to the stress and emotional strains of this novel event, in addition to fluctuations in reproductive and stress hormones,” says Dr Wilson.
Postpartum hair loss or postpartum alopecia is a completely normal, temporary phase. It may affect some more than others: “It's unlikely that your hair will go from extra-thick to barely there. That said, everyone's hormonal shift will manifest differently; it is a very natural process,” says EV Expert and Medical Director at Vie Aesthetics, Dr Ioannis Liakas.
Hair growth usually starts improving after 6 months. However, if you see no improvement after a prolonged time, Dr Liakas recommends a visit to your GP to rule out other causes such as thyroid issues or iron deficiency, which can be medical causes of hair loss.
Dr Wilson says that while experiencing telogen effluvium, we need to look out for other factors that may contribute to the hair loss like medication, stress, infections or nutritional deficiencies. A balanced diet and good sleep are important in the hair loss recovery, says Dr Liakas. Apart from good scalp and hair care, a consultation with a hair loss professional could be your starting point.
What's the solution?
Scalp AnalysisAt Dr Wilson’s clinic you can access a TrichoLab Image to analyse your hair and scalp. They also offer a programme called Pharma Hermetic Hair Recovery, which is a topical product that can potentially support hair loss.
There is some evidence that Low Level Laser Light Therapy and LED Light Therapy may help with overall hair health. For the former, you wear a helmet that emits non-thermal light at a certain wavelength. It is used at home, at least twice a week.
The latter is done in-clinic by a professional. Dr Liakas says that LED Light Therapy can improve hair quality and increase blood circulation. “Increasing the circulation of blood and oxygen in the area of your scalp will boost your recovery and will help nourish your hair follicles,” he explains.
Nutritional supplements and vitamins may help with the hair loss: Dr Wilson recommends a targeted routine to address specific deficiencies, set up by a professional. “Vitamins such as Vitamin A, C, E, and B can help, as well as iron and zinc supplements” says Dr Liakas, which can be given to the patient as a vitamin IV infusion or booster. “IV drips can speed up the process and help you feel well too. Be aware that an excess of some vitamins can exacerbate the problem, so also follow your doctor’s advice,” he adds.
In-Clinic: PRP, Cell Treatment, Mesotherapy
Dr Liakas is a fan of in-clinic treatments that can help you see results quicker, such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). For PRP, the plasma is separated from your blood and injected in the scalp. This targets hair follicles and helps them to rejuvenate, even if they were previously inactive.
VieStem Hair with Regenera Activa is a regenerative treatment that activates hair follicles (old and new) and stimulates hair growth. Overall this slows down hair loss while improving it, explains Dr Liakas.
Mesotherapy is a non-invasive treatment that can also be used on the scalp, not just your face. Tiny injections filled with a cocktail of ingredients are personalised to you and your needs; your doctor will be able to determine which ingredients are needed.
Ingrid Wilson, Medical Trichologist, Aesthetics Doctor
Dr Wilson is one of the few medically qualified Trichologists (Hair and Scalp specialists) in the UK. In 2012 she became the first practising doctor to...Book with Ingrid Wilson
Ioannis Liakas, Medical Director
Dr Ioannis Liakas is a shining gem in the aesthetics world. Prior to becoming an industry leading practitioner, he worked for the NHS for more than 20...Book with Ioannis Liakas