Most pregnancy side effects are a drag, but your hair? Oh, that thick, full, healthy hair! Now that the baby’s out, though, it seems your lustrous locks are, too.
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What gives? Ob/Gyn Deidre McIntosh, MD, explains how pregnancy affects your tresses — and whether your hair will ever go back to normal.
Telogen effluvium: Say what?
Hair grows in cycles. While some of the hairs on your head are actively growing, others are chilling in a resting phase. Eventually, the hairs in the resting phase fall out, and new hairs sprout in their place.
During pregnancy, more of your hair stays in the growth phase, says Dr. McIntosh. That’s nice while it lasts. But as estrogen levels fall after pregnancy, the hairs finally make their exit — all at once. “Women usually shed a lot of hair during those postpartum months,” she says.
This increase in shedding is known as telogen effluvium. (Though you might know it as “clogged shower drains” and “wimpy buns.”) It usually begins 1 to 6 months after childbirth. While it can last as long as 18 months, most women find their hair bounces back much sooner than that.
Some women’s hair will always be a bit thinner than it was before they became a mom. (Sob!) “But it will return to normal phases of hair growth,” Dr. McIntosh says.
Hair, hair everywhere
Some women report that pregnancy does even weirder things to their hair. Straight hair becomes wavy, or curly hair relaxes. While such changes can happen, Dr. McIntosh says they’re pretty rare. After birth, hair typically returns to something close to your pre-pregnancy look within a year.
There’s more to the story than the hair on your head. During pregnancy, increased levels of androgen hormones can cause more hair to grow on the abdomen or face, notes Dr. McIntosh.
That extra fuzz usually goes away by about 6 months postpartum. In the meantime, feel free to wax or shave if it bothers you, she adds.
Dealing with postpartum hair loss
While postpartum hair loss is normal, there are medical conditions that can cause hair loss, such as thyroid problems or anemia. If you feel like you’re shedding a whole lot with no end in sight, mention it to your doctor to rule out other problems, says Dr. McIntosh.
The only treatment for post-pregnancy hair loss, though, is patience. There’s no magic vitamin or secret supplement that can prevent the shedding, she adds.
If your thinner hair is bugging you, try a new haircut or invest in a volumizing shampoo. And look on the bright side: With a new baby demanding your time and attention, your hair was probably going to end up in a ponytail, anyway.