By Elizabeth Helen Spencer
I first learned about postpartum hair loss from my acupuncturist. Her long hair was thick and wavy, and she had just returned from maternity leave after the birth of her third child. It's normal to notice more hair in your shower, your brush, or around the house, she told me. Pregnancy hormones suppress normal hair shedding, so after birth, your mane needs to catch up and get back to its usual cycle of loss and growth. However, some women notice unusual hair loss while pregnant. If this happens, you're probably wondering, why does your hair fall out during pregnancy? There are several potential reasons and luckily none are an emergency. Romper spoke with OB-GYN expert Dr. Mary C. O'Toole of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California to learn more about the underlying causes of hair loss during pregnancy and how to treat it.
As for the causes of hair loss in women, O'Toole notes that the reasons are largely the same whether a woman notices her hair falling out during pregnancy or at other times in her life (outside of the postpartum period). According to O'Toole, female hair loss is most commonly caused by changes in weight or diet (including caloric restriction), stress, thyroid dysfunction, anemia, or zinc deficiency.
So how common it is for women to experience hair loss during pregnancy? O'Toole explains that "hair loss is not as common during the pregnancy; however, we might see this in a patient who has had severe morning sickness or weight loss, or may be under psychological stressors. It is more common to see the hair loss occur in the postpartum period. I usually warn patients that they may see this around three months postpartum, and I urge them to not stress [about it] and to continue their prenatal vitamins."
The first step in treating hair loss during pregnancy is to talk to your doctor, who will likely order labwork to test for anemia, thyroid problems, or zinc definciency, says O'Toole. Those conditions can be treated with iron or zinc supplementation and thyroid medication. O'Toole also suggests seeing a dermatologist for "reassurance and/or evaluation." Finally, she mentions Biotin as a possible addition to your prenatal vitamins. According to WebMD, this B vitamin supplement supports skin health, among other things, although its effectiveness in treating hair loss hasn't been tested.
You will experience many physical changes during pregnancy. It can be a time of great excitement and anticipation, but it's also normal to experience anxiety, stress, and other negative emotions. Overall, "reassurance and support are important," says O'Toole. This is especially true if stress or other psychological symptoms are the cause of your hair loss during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about getting the help you need, and reach out to family and friends for extra support.