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Can Pregnancy Lead to Hair Thinning?

Dr Murray

Around 40% to 50% of women encounter hair thinning during or after pregnancy, a phenomenon you needn’t face alone. Your body undergoes changes, and your hair might transform along with it. It could become stronger and denser, adopt a curlier or straighter nature, or even experience a reduction in volume.

For many women, hair thinning occurs after childbirth, and it’s prevalent enough to be termed “postpartum hair loss.” Yet, a minority of women notice hair thinning during pregnancy, typically in the third trimester. Regardless of the timing, pregnancy-related hair loss is generally temporary. By the time your baby’s first birthday comes around, your hair will likely restore naturally.

If this isn’t the case, there’s a chance an underlying issue exists. It might be prudent to consult a medical professional to explore alternate reasons for hair loss, such as androgenetic alopecia. But before delving into that, let’s delve into why hair loss can occur during or after pregnancy and the potential steps for recovery.

 

Can Pregnancy Trigger Hair Loss?

Should you find yourself pregnant or having recently given birth and you notice more hair shedding than usual, you could be experiencing telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is often triggered by stress-inducing events, and pregnancy certainly qualifies as a stressor. This condition may also accompany the more common androgenetic alopecia.

Your hormones are undergoing significant shifts, and your body is adapting to accommodate a new life. These hormone changes are often responsible for pregnancy-related hair loss. However, there might be other contributing factors. Let’s investigate some of the primary reasons for hair loss during pregnancy.

 

Hormonal Fluctuations

The initial stages of pregnancy bring about hormonal transformations that can be quite jarring for your system. A surge in estrogen, a hormone known to stimulate hair follicles and promote hair growth during pregnancy, is common. Nonetheless, some women experience a decrease in estrogen due to factors like discontinuing oral contraceptives, hormonal imbalances during pregnancy, or events like abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

An estrogen imbalance could trigger telogen effluvium. This condition often causes around 30% (or more) of your hair to enter an early resting phase in the hair growth cycle, leading to subsequent shedding. However, the shedding might not be immediately noticeable, taking roughly 2 to 4 months after the triggering event (typically in the first trimester) for thinning to become apparent.

Fortunately, this is usually a temporary phase. Hair loss typically doesn’t extend beyond 6 months, and it often reverses once the underlying stress is resolved.

 

Thyroid Irregularities

Hair loss while pregnant could signify a thyroid issue. Changes in thyroid hormones during pregnancy might contribute to thyroid disorders such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism affects up to 3% of women during early pregnancy and between 5% and 10% after childbirth. Additional symptoms encompass sensitivity to cold, weight gain, constipation, muscle cramps, and intense fatigue.

A blood test ordered by a doctor can diagnose a thyroid problem, offering a range of treatment possibilities.

 

Iron Deficiency

Your body consistently requires iron to generate red blood cells for oxygen transport. Insufficient iron leads to anemia due to a dearth of red blood cells. While pregnant, you’re sharing your blood and oxygen supply with a developing fetus. Thus, mild iron deficiency can arise, particularly during the second and third trimesters. The risk heightens if you’re carrying multiple fetuses, experience severe morning sickness, or became pregnant shortly after giving birth.

Hair loss can be an indicator of iron-deficiency anemia, alongside fatigue, chest pain, headaches, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath. Treatment might involve iron supplements prescribed by a healthcare professional.

 

Other Underlying Health Conditions

Various reproductive health conditions might manifest during pregnancy, any of which could provoke the kind of stress leading to telogen effluvium. Such conditions encompass high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and hyperemesis gravidarum. If hair loss accompanies these symptoms, consulting a doctor promptly is advisable to rule out underlying causes.

 

Post-Pregnancy Hair Thinning

Although hair thinning during pregnancy is relatively rare, it’s more common in the postpartum period and is typically not a cause for alarm, despite feeling extreme. The good news? It’s not technically hair loss; it’s actually heightened hair shedding.

This excessive shedding generally peaks around 4 months postpartum, followed by the emergence of new hair growth that eventually restores your hair to its natural state.

 

Understanding Post-Pregnancy Hair Thinning

Your hair adheres to a natural growth cycle where individual strands grow for years before a resting phase of 2-3 months, after which they fall out and are replaced by new hair. With pregnancy, hormones shift (hello, estrogen!), altering your hair growth cycle. This often leads to a longer growth phase and decreased hair shedding, resulting in thicker hair around the 15-week mark.

However, these celebrations are fleeting. After childbirth, hormone levels plummet to pre-pregnancy levels. The surplus hair that thrived during pregnancy now transitions to the resting phase, and more shedding than usual occurs. While it might seem like an excessive amount of hair loss, remember that you’re not losing more hair than you had before pregnancy. Your body is merely returning to its pre-pregnancy status quo, and your hair growth cycle will normalise as time passes.

 

Addressing Post-Pregnancy Hair Thinning

For most women, hair will eventually restore itself after pregnancy, requiring nothing more than patience. If a year passes and hair thinning persists, it could be prudent to consult a medical professional who can pinpoint the underlying cause and propose potential treatment avenues.

Options to address post-pregnancy hair thinning include:

  1. Hair Loss Medication: A common hair loss treatment, though not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It might be an option post-breastfeeding.
  2. PRP Therapy: is a medical procedure that involves using a patient’s own blood to promote healing and tissue regeneration and is safer for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals than certain medications.
  3. Scalp Massage: Massaging the scalp enhances blood circulation, stimulating hair follicles and promoting regrowth.

 

In summary, while pregnancy-related hair thinning is often a temporary phase, if concerns persist, consult a medical professional for guidance. The options available for managing post-pregnancy hair thinning encompass various treatments that align with your circumstances and needs.

 

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