The Independent Pharmacy

How Long Does Postpartum Hair Loss Last

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 6 Oct 2023

Postpartum hair loss is a common, temporary condition that many new mothers experience in the months following childbirth.

Most women notice some degree of excess shedding around 3 to 5 months after delivery, which can last anywhere from 6 to 12 months postpartum. While this timeline is typical, every woman's experience is unique - from the severity of shedding to how long it persists.

We understand that changes to your hair postpartum can be deeply distressing. It's natural to feel this way, and we're here to offer not just information but support and understanding during this sensitive time.

In this guide, we'll walk you through what to expect during this natural phase and the factors that can influence its duration.

We’ll share expert tips without any confusing medical jargon so you feel equipped to handle this natural process.

With some patience and TLC, your hair will be back to its old self sooner than you think.

The Timeline of Postpartum Hair Loss

During pregnancy, most women experience thicker, fuller hair due to surging estrogen levels. However, after giving birth, oestrogen levels rapidly drop back to pre-pregnancy levels. This hormonal change can lead to a common but temporary type of hair loss, where hair that was growing normally starts to fall out more quickly than usual.

Here's what the typical timeline looks like:

  • 2 to 3 Months Postpartum: Most women will not notice significant hair shedding in the first couple of months after delivering their baby. However, the hormonal changes have shifted many scalp hairs into the resting phase to prepare for shedding.
  • 3 to 5 Months Postpartum: This is when most women will begin to observe noticeably more hairs falling out during brushing, washing, or styling. Excessive daily shedding of 100-200 hairs is common at this stage.
  • 6 to 12 Months Postpartum: The shedding phase continues through these months for most women. Toward the latter end of this timeframe, the shedding will begin to gradually slow down.
  • 12+ Months Postpartum: By one year after delivery, most women find that postpartum hair loss has resolved, and scalp hair is no longer shedding excessively. Regrowth becomes noticeable between 12 to 18 months.

As you can see, the postpartum hair loss process can last several months. But take comfort in knowing that this growth cycle reset is temporary, and hair thickness will return.

Factors That Can Affect Duration of Postpartum Hair Loss

While the typical postpartum hair loss timeline is around 6 to 12 months, several factors can cause this phase to be shorter or longer for different women:

  • Genetics - Those with a family history of female pattern hair loss tend to experience longer and more severe postpartum shedding that may transition into chronic thinning. If hair loss runs in your family, you might have a genetic trait that makes your hair follicles more sensitive to changes in hormones, which can affect hair loss.
  • Post-Delivery Health - Illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, postpartum thyroid disorders, and other health conditions arising after childbirth can prolong excessive daily hair loss. For example, iron deficiency anaemia is common post-delivery and may extend telogen effluvium (temporary hair loss).
  • Physical Birth Trauma - Complications during childbirth, such as severe bleeding or the need for surgery, can stress the body and may lead to more hair falling out than usual.
  • Breastfeeding Duration - There is some research suggesting that breastfeeding for more than a year might be linked to a slightly longer period of hair loss, although the reason for this is not fully understood. Theories on causes include nutrient depletion over time.
  • Hormonal Imbalances - After childbirth, if your hormone levels don't return to normal, or if you have a condition like thyroid issues, or a heightened response to male hormones, this can lead to more hair loss.
  • Hair Care Routines - Over-styling with heat tools, tight hairstyles that pull on follicles, and aggressive chemical treatments can worsen the degree of shedding. Gentle handling is ideal.
  • Stress Levels - High stress levels and anxiety may contribute to longer-lasting postpartum hair loss for some women. Cortisol and hair growth cycles may interact.

While individual timelines vary, the same patience and care is required. Focus on maintaining overall health, consuming a varied diet, achieving adequate postpartum nutrient levels, and normalising your haircare routine.

If you find that your hair is still shedding beyond 12 months, or if the amount of hair loss is worrying you, please gently allow yourself to seek support from a healthcare provider. They are there to help you through this and to offer solutions.

Signs That Postpartum Hair Loss Is Slowing Down

When your hair has been shedding in distressing amounts for months on end, spotting signs that the loss is decreasing can bring huge relief. Here is what to watch for:

  • Decreased Hair Fall - During the peak loss months, you may have seen clumps come out during washing and literally hundreds of strands in your brush. As excessive shedding subsides, you'll notice fewer hairs in your hands and on your clothes. Eventually, daily hair loss will return to the normal 50-100 range.
  • Less Visible Scalp - Near the height of postpartum thinning, widened parts or a more visible scalp when hair was pulled back tightly may have been noticeable. As shedding decreases and regrowth begins, you'll see less scalp through parts or with updos.
  • Initial Regrowth - Using a magnifying mirror, look closely along your part and at the crown and hairline. The first signs of regrowth will appear as tiny, soft, 1-4 mm hairs. Seeing these subtle baby hairs means follicles are reactivating.
  • Improved Density - Part your hair into sections and look closely. As regrowth continues, you'll notice the areas between hairs are filling in, and density appears to have improved compared to the peak loss months.
  • Fading Diffuse Loss - If excessive shedding was occurring all over your head, a general thinning and lack of volume may have resulted. As hair recovery progresses, overall fullness and density will start returning to pre-loss levels.
  • Increased Width of Ponytail - The width of pulled back hair should begin increasing instead of getting thinner during the months of excessive shedding. This is a key sign that hair re-thickening is occurring.

Keep in mind that hair regrowth is a gradual process after the excessive shedding phase passes. But take comfort in knowing the end is in sight once these signs appear. Your hair is recovering its thickness.

When to Expect Hair Regrowth

Once excessive shedding starts decreasing, new hair regrowth will follow. Here is what to expect:

  • 9 to 12 Months Postpartum: Noticeable regrowth often begins around this time period. Although density still appears reduced compared to pre-pregnancy, new growth will become obvious.
  • 12 to 18 Months Postpartum: By 12 months, most women have experienced significant regrowth. From 12-18 months, hair continues thickening up toward full pre-pregnancy density for most women.

As regrowth occurs, be gentle with fragile new strands. Avoid harsh chemicals, tight styles, and overheating tools during this time. Use a wide-tooth comb and rinse with cool water. If shedding lasts beyond 12 months, see your doctor to rule out underlying factors.

If you're considering treatment options to help with your hair recovery, we want to assure you that it's a step many new mothers take, and there are gentle, safe options available to support you on this journey. The Independent Pharmacy offers proven products like Regaine for Women, which has an active ingredient called minoxidil that can help speed up hair growth.

There is a lot of interest in the use of Propecia (also available as Finasteride) for women, but it's not without controversy. Women who are pregnant or could become pregnant should not use Propecia because of the risk of birth defects.

Minoxidil, on the other hand, is more universally recommended for both men and women. However, there are side effects that you need to be aware of - such as itching and skin irritation.

It is suitable for use after pregnancy when used as directed. But while minoxidil is available on free private prescription, it's important for you to consult a healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment to ensure it's appropriate for your specific situation, especially if you're breastfeeding.

Extended Postpartum Hair Loss - When It's More Than Average

It can be especially concerning when hair loss continues beyond the typical one-year mark, but know that you're not alone, and we're here to guide you through steps that might help during this extended phase.

If excessive shedding continues past 12 months postpartum with no signs of slowing, it's considered an unusually lengthy period of hair loss. Ongoing thinning and lack of regrowth beyond the 1-year mark warrants a closer look by your doctor.

In rare situations, if hair loss doesn't stop, it may be due to long-term conditions like pattern baldness or alopecia areata, which ongoing hormonal imbalances, severe stress, or immune system disorders can trigger.

It's advised to seek medical guidance if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Noticeable hair shedding continuing past 12 months postpartum
  • No observable regrowth by 12-15 months after childbirth
  • Sudden patches of balding hair rather than overall thinning
  • Scalp pain, tenderness, or itching along with hair loss
  • Other bothersome or abnormal symptoms

Your doctor can check for hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune conditions, and other factors that may prolong postpartum hair shedding. Blood work or scalp examination may be used.

With professional guidance, effective treatment plans can be created so you can get your hair regrowth on track if you've passed the average timeline. The key is not waiting to seek help. More options are available underlying causes are identified at the earliest opportunity.

What Should You Do Next?

Now that you understand more about postpartum hair loss, it’s time to take action to nurture your hair back to its healthiest state.

Begin by being patient and speaking kindly to yourself through this transition – increased shedding is a natural phase that will pass. Maintain a balanced diet rich in proteins, iron, zinc and vitamin D to optimise hair growth. Use gentle products and minimise heat styling to reduce further hair damage.

Most importantly, remember that the road to recovery takes time. Have realistic expectations about the timeline for decreased shedding and regrowth.

For those looking for over-the-counter treatment options suitable for new mothers, The Independent Pharmacy recommends Alpecin Caffeine Shampoo. The caffeine in Alpecin can help prolong the hair growth phase.

On the other hand, Regaine contains minoxidil to boost regrowth and is easily available on free private prescription. All you have to do is to fill out our short self-assessment.

It's essential that you consult with a doctor or pharmacist before using any of these treatments for postpartum hair loss. Always follow product instructions carefully and consult a medical professional if unsure.

Reach out to The Independent Pharmacy’s experts online or by phone for personalised product recommendations and hair loss treatment advice tailored to your postpartum needs. Our caring team is readily available to support you on your journey to restored locks. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to get started.

Common Questions About Postpartum Hair Loss

What vitamins help with postpartum hair loss?

Key vitamins for healthy hair growth include biotin, vitamin D, iron, and zinc. Continuing your prenatal vitamin with higher levels of these nutrients can help optimise postpartum regrowth. A varied diet rich in proteins, omega-3s and antioxidants also supports hair health.

Can breastfeeding cause hair loss?

Breastfeeding itself does not directly cause postpartum hair loss, but the hormonal changes after pregnancy contribute to it. Many women do notice increased shedding while breastfeeding since estrogen levels remain lower. Be sure to eat nutrient-rich foods and supplement as needed if breastfeeding long-term.

Why is my postpartum hair loss so bad?

The degree of hair shedding can vary quite a bit between different women based on factors like genetics, diet, stress levels, post-delivery complications, and hair care habits. If your hair loss seems excessive, talk to your doctor about whether an underlying issue may be making it worse.

Does everyone get postpartum hair loss?

Most women experience some degree of increased shedding after pregnancy, but it doesn't impact everyone. Some women notice minimal hair loss, while others report dramatic thinning. Genetics play a big role in how much excess hair shedding occurs.

Does postpartum hair loss last longer with breastfeeding?

Some research indicates breastfeeding longer than 1 year may correlate with marginally increased hair loss duration. However, extended breastfeeding alone does not directly prolong postpartum hair loss - other factors like genetics have a larger influence on the timeline.

Sources:

9 Weeks Pregnant - Week-by-week guide - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Hair loss - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

NHS 111 Wales - Pregnancy Guide

Hair loss in new moms (aad.org)

Women and hair loss: coping tips - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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