Can you really lose hair after giving birth?
The short answer is yes. It’s a condition called telogen effluvium and it occurs about 1-3 months after a traumatic event such as childbirth, a major operation or an accident.
The bad news is:
- A lot of things can cause it, even oral contraceptives, crash dieting and fever.
- It causes a generalised thinning all over.
- For an unknown reason it affects a lot of women between ages 30-60
The better news is that:
- There are no bald patches
- It is temporary, and normal hair growth will resume.
- Sometimes iron or zinc supplements can reduce its effects.
What is Telogen Effluvium?
Your terminal hair (the hair that grows from your head) has a growth cycle; and like any cycle it has a beginning and an end. It starts with anagen which is the period during which hair is growing, it last between 2-6 years. The next stage is catagen which is where the hair follicle shrivels up and so becomes cut off from its blood supply so that it can no longer grow, this lasts around 2 weeks. After this it enters the telogen phase with last 2-3 months. The telogen phase is also known as the resting phase which expresses that the hair is not growing. The end of the telogen phase is exogen which is the active shedding of hair; it falls from the root.
Our hair growth phases are asynchronous meaning not all the hairs are at the same point in their growth cycle. At any given time 90% of the hair on the head will be in the anagen phase (active growth) and 10% will be in the telogen phase (resting phase.) We lose about 80-90 hairs a day on a healthy head of hair- yes, a day. Telogen effluvium is when a greater percentage of the hair in anagen phase is pushed into the telogen phase prematurely; the hair growth cycle is interrupted. This is why there is a time lapse between the traumatic event (e.g. childbirth) and the hair shedding, because the telogen phase usually lasts 2-3 months.
Instead of 10% of the hair being in telogen phase, this can go up to 30% when an individual has telogen effluvium, you can imagine that when 30% of your hair fall out in a short period of time, it can make a noticeable difference. The density of hair decreases, it feels thinner.
No worries though, once this shedding passes, normal hair growth will resume, though if your hair is long it might take several months to restore the same thickness back to the hair.
I mentioned that zinc and iron supplements can help with these conditions. Persistent shedding of hair may be caused by zinc or iron deficiency instead of trauma hence supplementing the said elements can stop the onset.
Any more questions? Just comment and I’ll get back to you