Giving birth for the first time is as exciting as it is nerve-racking. There’s a never-ending amount to prep for as your life and your body undergo so, so, so many changes. As it turns out, your hair is also affected in a big way. To find out what you should expect from your mane when you’re expecting, we consulted the pros. These experts explained the science behind your locks (and your hormones) both when you’re pregnant and as a new mom. Below, they helped answer why some women swear their hair has never looked better than when they’re carrying, to the average amount of time before hair returns to normal, and even some hacks that may help along the way.
Phases of Hair Growth
There are two phases of hair growth that we are always cycling through, though (like everything else) this becomes more pronounced during pregnancy. These phases are known as anagen (the growing stage) and telogen (the resting stage).
“When someone is either losing hair or has more hair, it’s usually because they are in one of these stages,” explains Lauren F. Streicher, MD. During pregnancy, you’re experiencing the anagen phase so hair is continuing to grow while the progression into telogen slows down. You have hair that’s growing, and more of it, which makes it seem thicker. We’ve definitely heard of the magic of pregnancy hair so this makes total sense. “Women are usually pretty happy with their hair during pregnancy,” she confirms.
Unfortunately, this is a temporary benefit. “What can happen after pregnancy is that the percentage of hair in the telogen phase will increase, and that can cause the thinning of the hair,” adds Dr. Streicher. This can happen any time from one month to four or five months after giving birth, and it takes even more time for the hair to fully recover. “Usually this will go away by itself but it takes time,” Dr. Streicher, stresses, acknowledging how frustrating waiting for your hair to grow can be.
Getting Your Pre-Pregnancy Hair Back
On average, it can take over a year to get your pre-pregnancy mane back, although, for some, it never comes back as thick as it was before. Of course, if you do experience tremendous hair loss, pregnancy might not be to blame. If this is the case, Dr. Streicher recommends seeing a medical professional, especially for potential thyroid issues. Having a baby is the most common (but not the only) cause of hair loss. “Post-partum hair loss is caused by plummeting oestrogen levels,” adds Anabel Kingsley, trichologist at Philip Kingsley. “In pregnancy, high levels of oestrogen keep your hair in the growth phase,” she explains. However, once you’ve given birth and oestrogen levels fall, all the hair that would have been shed over the past nine months falls out at once, resulting in a vast reduction in the volume of your hair.
“We’re not completely sure why some women experience hair loss after pregnancy and others do not. It can also occur during one pregnancy, but not another. If you lose hair after your first baby, it does not mean that you will experience this again after your second or third. The shedding starts six to 12 weeks after you’ve had your baby. Unless you’re breastfeeding, in which case it will be delayed until six to 12 weeks after you’ve stopped feeding. Many women don’t connect the two things and panic when their hair starts to fall out nine months after giving birth,” shares Anabel.
During pregnancy, changes to the hair are not noticeable right away. “As the hair grows half an inch a month, it isn’t really until the last four months that you’ll see a difference to overall thickness,” says Anabel. However, changes to the scalp can occur much sooner. Sebum (oil) secretions often decrease, which is again due to a rise in oestrogen levels. “This can make the hair appear more voluminous at the root and it may also make strands feel drier,” she explains. The hair condition is also more likely to deteriorate if morning sickness is severe and long-lasting, as a loss of nutrients can cause excessive hair fall.
Believe in Biotin
While there’s no way to control how your body (and your hair) will respond to being pregnant, there’s no harm in turning to biotin to help you through it. “I’m a big believer in biotin,” shares Dr. Streicher. “It’s always good for hair and nails.” Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near a cure-all. “Granted, it may help a little bit, but at the end of the day, some people are just going to lose hair when they’re pregnant and it takes a long time for it to come back,” she says matter-of-factly.
Your haircare regimen may also change while you are expecting or nursing a newborn. According to INOAR’s CEO, Inocencia Manoel, just like you have to avoid certain foods, you should also stay away from certain product ingredients. “Ammonia, peroxides, heavy metals (dye pigments), and urea are the most critical, but your doctor may restrict a more extensive list,” she explains. It’s best to err on the side of caution and invest in a natural product regimen.
Hair and Body
Though there are never any guarantees when it comes to pregnancy-related hair loss, may as well try a massage, advises Manoel. “It is possible to strengthen the scalp with circular massages around the head and products allowed during pregnancy,” she says, as it may aid in reducing the impact of loss. For pregnant and non-pregnant women alike, Manoel recommends exfoliating the scalp, rinsing, and massaging in oil before shampooing like normal. “Massage will activate circulation, replenish nutrients, stimulate healthier hair growth—and it’s extremely relaxing.”
Ultimately, aside from being at least 60% of our selfies, our locks offer a window into our bodies and what’s happening on a deeper, physiological level. “Any time a hormone-related change occurs, hair is usually the first visible part of the body being hit, it is always indicative of the metabolism and if there is any disorder,” explains Manoel. One reason for this is the rapid growth of hair cells. They respond more quickly to changes in body chemistry. “Being aware of hormone levels and their functions plays an important role in keeping a woman’s life healthy, regardless of hair problems,” she adds. We couldn’t agree more. If your strands are speaking, listen up!
Not only does pregnancy affect your mane, but so does your period. Find out how HERE!