Your Postpartum Hair Loss Questions Answered
Why is my hair falling out, and when will it grow back?
During pregnancy you may have revelled in your full head of hair. After all, hair loves estrogen and progesterone - two hormones that are consistently high when you’re pregnant. However after giving birth, both of these hormones drop, unfortunately resulting in hair loss.
The life cycle of hair is quite unique, and consists of three main phases.
- Anagen Phase: This is the hair’s growing phase, which can last anywhere between 3 to 6 years.
- Catagen Phase: This is the dying phase of the hair, which can last between 10 days to 6 weeks. During this time, hair stops growing and part of the hair begins to detach.
- Telogen Phase: This is the resting phase of the hair. Hair is released from the follicle and falls out. The follicle will remain inactive for about 3-6 months before re-entering the anagen phase.
Each hair follicle follows its own cycle - otherwise all of our hair would fall out at the same time! This is why we normally lose 50-100 strands of hair per day. During pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone keeps the hair in the anagen phase. Once those hormones decline (because of birth), the hair that was kept in the anagen phase moves through the the rest of the phases and falls out.
Other factors associated with hair loss include:
- Thyroid disease
- Iron deficiency
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Hormonal contraception
- Chronic inflammation
The most common two conditions that I see in my practice are thyroid disease and iron deficiency.
Many women experience postpartum thyroiditis after pregnancy - whether it be due to a previous thyroid condition, or if they’ve just given birth. They can cycle through hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism - the latter being the most common with hair loss. Normally, doctors will take a look at a woman’s thyroid hormone panel to determine if her hormones are within the normal range.
Some other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism are: lower body temperature (below 37C), inability to lose weight, low energy and depression.
For more information check out this guide to postpartum thyroiditis.
The most common reason why women have an iron deficiency is due to blood loss through menstruation. Even when pregnant women are not having their period, their ferritin levels (iron storage form) can still remain low as baby takes mom’s iron for itself, or their ferritin was low to begin with.
For optimal hair growth, ferritin levels should be about 50ng/mL, and even higher for menstruation. Before supplementation, it’s best to get a baseline test of your iron status (which your Naturopathic Doctor can run) . Some food sources to help increase iron are red meat (ideally antibiotic and hormone-free), leafy green vegetables and pumpkin seeds. To help facilitate iron absorption, you can supplement or eat foods rich in Vitamin C.
Hair growth requires patience (and sometimes a little nudge!). Once a strand of hair falls out, the follicle rests for about 3-6 months before hair begins to regrow. If you’ve passed this point and you’re still unhappy with your mane, it may be prudent to partner with a Naturopathic Doctor, like myself, to assess the what’s going on and have some blood work done. Remember, there’s a big difference between ‘normal’ and ‘optimal’ blood levels. I want you to feel and look your best as you raise your new bundle of joy!
Alexsia Priolo is a Toronto-based naturopath. Healthy Moms will soon be able to receive a discount on her services, but for now, find out more here.