Being a new parent comes with plenty of surprises, some more welcome than others. As country singer Jessie James Decker explained on Instagram this week, one of those less pleasant surprises is that your hair might start falling out.
“Any other mamas losing their hair like me right now?” she captioned a gif of herself carrying her baby. “I really thought this time it wouldn’t go because it held off for so long."
Decker pointed out that she had postpartum hair loss “right after” she had her two previous children, but she’s just now noticing it after having her son in April. “Maybe there are some good vitamins I could take for that?” she asked.
Fans sympathized in the comments and offered up suggestions, ranging from biotin supplements to collagen powder. So we talked to experts about what really causes this phenomenon and if there's any way to deal with it.
Postpartum hair loss is actually a form of a condition known as "telogen effluvium," and it’s surprisingly common, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Technically, telogen effluvium is actually a form of hair shedding rather than hair loss, the organization says, meaning that your hair is falling out earlier in its cycle than usual, but it will be replaced by new hair.
Under normal circumstances, your hair goes through three major phases: a growth phase, a transitional phase when your hair stops growing, and a resting phase. After the resting phase, your hair falls out.
When new hair grows in later, it pushes out that old hair and causes shedding. In fact, it’s normal for you to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day. But, in some cases, your body might shed an excessive amount of hair (telogen effluvium).
Added stress (like giving birth) can interfere with this cycle and send your hair into the resting phase early.
Then, when your hair sheds, there’s a lot more of it than you’d typically see because your hair was in the resting phase for longer than usual, Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City–based board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, tells SELF.
Hormones can also play a role, particularly the decreasing level of estrogen in your body after giving birth, the AAD says. Technically this could happen any time in the immediate weeks and months after you give birth, but it’s more common when your baby is 2 months old, the AAD says.
The shedding is usually at its worst when your baby is 4 months old, and then tapers off. By around six to nine months, your hair should be back to its normal fullness, according to the AAD.
So you can rest assured that this is a temporary process that goes away on its own. But there are some things you can do to help while you wait.
As you can imagine, most people aren’t thrilled to lose their hair after they give birth. “This is something that drives women berserk,” Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells SELF.
In general, because this is something that usually stops on its own, the AAD says it's preferable to avoid treating it (and just cover it up if you really need to). For instance, you can try using a volumizing shampoo (which coats your hair and makes it appear fuller), avoid “conditioning” shampoos (these can weigh your hair down and make it look limp), use conditioners made for fine hair that don’t weigh down your hair, avoid applying conditioner to your scalp (since this tends to weigh down your hair), and avoid “intensive” conditioners that are heavier and can weigh your hair down.
Minoxidil (Rogaine), estrogen supplements, and platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatment are other options, but they aren't great choices for everyone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that minoxidil shouldn't be used while breastfeeding. As for estrogen supplements, using them to aid hair growth isn't an FDA-approved use of them, Dr. Minkin points out. And PRP is a bit more extreme of a treatment than most cases of childbirth-related hair shedding require (it involves drawing your blood, separating the plasma from the red blood cells, and injecting the plasma back into your scalp).
But, if your postpartum hair loss is really bothering you, it's worth checking in with your doctor or dermatologist. For one thing, your shedding could be a symptom of another issue, such as hyperthyroidism, especially if you have any accompanying symptoms, like anxiety, an increased appetite, or unexplained weight loss.
But even if your hair loss is just what it seems, your dermatologist can talk to you about your options.