What Really Happens to Your Hair After Pregnancy

A mom recently shared a photo that showcases what happened to her hair after she gave birth because the struggle is real. Should you expect something similar to happen to you? An expert weighs in.

Woman losing her hair after having a baby Pavel Ilyukhin/Shutterstock
A few days ago, a woman named Giovanna Fletcher shared something that spoke to countless other new moms on her Instagram feed. The photo showed a small tuft of freshly grown hair sticking straight up, and it prompted plenty of other new mamas to express that they have seen similar tufts on their own heads.

As it turns out, pregnancy doesn't just change a woman's body—it can also cause some strange, unexpected changes in her hair. The bad news? You might notice some excessive shedding a few months after you welcome your baby. The good news? It's probably not forever—and in a strange way, that excess shedding may actually keep your hair looking...pretty much exactly the way it did before you got pregnant.

Confused yet? We asked Sejal Shah, M.D., a dermatologist and RealSelf contributor who regularly treats female patients who are dealing with hair loss, to clarify. “During pregnancy there are lots of hormonal shifts happening and one thing that those hormonal shifts do is promote hair growth," Dr. Shah told Fit Pregnancy. "They’re actually preventing you from shedding—you shed every day, everyone sheds every day, but if you really pay attention, typically during pregnancy you don’t have that daily shedding. After pregnancy, once your hormones go back to normal, there’s a drop in estrogen. What that does is it sort of triggers that shedding to resume. But keep in mind: You’ve not been shedding for several months at this time. That hair that's been sticking to your head needs to come out.”

But as always, every woman will have a slightly different reaction. Though Dr. Shah explained that for many women, this shedding will set in at around the three-month postpartum mark, but there's no real "normal." It's probably unlikely that your hair will go from extra-thick to barely there, but everyone's hormonal shift will manifest itself differently. "It's a very natural process," she said. "If you have shedding postpartum, it's quite normal. It eventually will sort of go back to your normal."

The phenomena is called telogen effluvium. "Generally with telogen effluvium, there's some sort of event —in this situation it's giving birth, but there can be other causes—basically a larger amount of your hair than normal is triggered to enter this resting/shedding phase," Dr. Shah said. "It takes about three months for that hair to shed out. That's why most people notice shedding around the three-month postpartum mark."

But if your hair has been feeling especially thin, don't fret. While there are exceptions, Dr. Shah reassured us that most of the time, that hair loss will spontaneously normalize. "The time to recovery varies. In some people it's three months, in some people it's six months. Occassionally it can last a year," she said.

Can you stop this hair loss? Probably not, but you may be able to control it. According to Dr. Shah, good nutrition is essential for postpartum women, and it can help keep your hair strong, healthy and intact, at least to some degree. Don't skimp on your protein and iron intake! On the flipside, if the shedding seems out the ordinary, you may want to check in with your doctor to check for thyroid disorders or other health issues.

So there you have it—Fletcher (whose own hair is probably just returning to normal at this point) is certainly not the only woman who has experienced some hair-related side effects after pregnancy, and she won't be the last. If you're noticing some wacky changes in your hair's volume, rest assured: It will probably return to normal sooner rather than later. "You can't actually prevent this. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. You just have to know that there's been a hormonal shift, " Dr. Shah said. "But in most women, they're going to go back to where they were pre-pregnancy."

View this post on Instagram

The regrowth... waaaah! I look like a troll! Xx

A post shared by Giovanna Fletcher (@mrsgifletcher) on