If you are here reading this, chances are you are in the midst of it. The constant hair fall and shedding that covers your bathroom floor. The glimpses you allow yourself to catch as you walk by a mirror noticing how much thinner your hair looks. The patchy scalp you try to cover up by changing your hair part, yet agonize over in the privacy of your own room. The hair strands themself dryer than the summer you splashed in chlorine every day barely conditioning. You are experiencing intense postpartum hair loss and it's scary.
You may be wondering what is going on. Why is your shedding so intense? There are many factors to consider so let's layout a few.
Synchronization of the hair cycle:
The hair follicle itself is made up of the papilla and the bulb. The papilla contains tiny blood vessels that deliver blood supply to the hair follicle. The papilla nourishes the hair follicle with the necessary nutrients for hair growth.
As new hair is made in the follicle, it pushes out the hair shaft, creating longer hair. Hair grows about 0.3mm to 0.4mm each day, which adds up to about six inches per year. That said, not all hair follicles are growing new hair at the same time. Hair growth will occur in a cycle.
At any time a strand on your head can be in a different part of the hairs cycle. This is good, otherwise, we would shed all our hair at once... Now, unfortunately, the stress of pregnancy can cause synchronization of the hair cycle. This means the likelihood of the follicles shedding all at one time is more likely and what you are experiencing with the sudden shedding.
During pregnancy, there are lots of hormonal shifts happening and one thing that those hormonal shifts do is promote hair growth. After pregnancy, once your hormones go back to normal, there’s a drop in estrogen. The drop triggers shedding to resume.
The hormonal shifts can additionally affect women during pregnancy. Some women experience thinning of hair and shedding as early as the first trimester due to stress or shock. Telogen effluvium is the condition. It affects a small number of women during pregnancy. The first trimester may stress the body as the balance of hormones shifts drastically in an effort to support the growing baby.
Vitamin or mineral deficiency:
While post partum hair loss is extremely common and very normal, if you are experiencing high or unusual loss or shedding this may be occurring because of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Some of the best vitamins for encouraging hair growth can be found in foods or supplements containing Vitamin A, B-Vitamins (biotin, folate), Vitamin C, D, & E, Iron, Zinc, and Collagen. You may choose to give your body back these vitamins needed to promote hair growth in an effort to let it know it's time to get to the Anagen or hair growth phase of the hair cycle and not to linger in the Telogen (resting hair cycle phase), or Exogen (hair shedding phase).
So... am I balding?
So let's go back to our original question that more than likely sent you down the google rabbit hole. Are you going bald because of postpartum hair loss? The answer is: Unlikely. This is a phase you will have to get through as your body figures out how to resume its normal hair cycle. For some, that's three months, six months, or over a year but it typically will settle down. It certainly doesn't help that its common to lose the hair along the hairline, in the front of the head, giving the illusion that one is going bald at a time when you could probably use a boost on how you are feeling about your appearance.
What do I do?
Since it probably only marginally reassuring to learn you aren't going to go completely bald when you see patchy scalp in the mirror, let's bring up how you can cope. While it's unlikely you can stop it completely, the best thing to focus on is how can you control the shedding, hair fall, and changes to your hair texture.
Getting good nutrition is important for postpartum women. It's important for your hair and for your body. Ensure you are consuming enough protein and iron. Look at your vitamin intake. Is it checking the boxes for vitamins that promote healthy hair growth? Would a supplement like the Baby Blues postpartum hair vitamins be a good boost for you to replenish the vitamins shed?
My final thought is to de-stress as best you can. Stress itself (and yes that includes stressing over post partum hair loss) is associated with pushing follicles into the resting phase of the hair cycle instead of the goal you most likely are pursuing and that's to get them to grow. Hair lost to stress or anxiety will grow back when the anxiety subsides but again this could take 3 months or more so take some deep breaths and do your best to work on a way to cope in the meantime, you will get through this.