Ah, the gifts Mother Nature delivers in the postpartum period. If the leaking breasts and loose skin weren't enough to make you feel unattractive, the thinning hair certainly is. Don't get me wrong — I'm generally in awe of what my body can do. After all, I've nurtured three humans in my body, birthed them, and fed them. Well done, body! But, still, I could have done without the year of bad hair that seems to follow each delivery. First it starts as baldness, then it quickly turns into crazy wispies while the bald spots slowly fill in.
I'm now three months postpartum, and I've been experiencing steady hair since I gave birth. When I exit the shower with a fistful of hair, I often wonder: could there possibly be any left? Lately, the hair loss has suddenly accelerated. So I decided to track my postpartum hair loss for a week to see if it was really as bad as I suspected.
There's this consensus that your hair will look amazing during pregnancy. And the reason for this is because, suddenly, you stop shedding hair. (Thank you estrogen!) According to Today's Parent, before pregnancy we shed an average of 100 hairs per day. Each follicle is nicely staggered so that we don't lose all of our hair at once. Until it pauses during pregnancy. So, no, it has nothing to do with your prenatal vitamins (although a good diet in general is good for your hair growth.)
The postpartum hair loss is particularly depressing because there's a widespread belief that your hair will look amazing during pregnancy. According to Today's Parent, before pregnancy we shed an average of 100 hairs per day. Each follicle is nicely staggered so that we don't lose all of our hair at once. But that hair loss is put on pause during pregnancy, due to the influx of hormones like estrogen.
Every time I shower, I'm convinced I'll step out with a brand new bald spot.
After delivery, however, a lot of those hair follicles enter the "resting stage," which means that instead of growing, your hair decides to shed all at once. That results in the lovely handfuls of hair that you lose in the shower. The fancy name for this is telogen effluvian, and, according to American Pregnancy, it affects 40 to 50% of women that are one to five months postpartum.
For the most part, telogen effluvian is perfectly normal, though in certain cases it might be a sign of a postpartum thyroid disorder, which affects about 5% of new moms. (And if your hair loss is truly concerning, it might be worth going to your doctor for a checkup.) But it's hard to keep reminding yourself of that when you're losing fistfuls of hair in the shower. Yes, fistfuls. Every time I shower, I'm convinced I'll step out with a brand new bald spot. In fact, below is an image of just two showers' worth of hair loss.
Now that I have an adorable 3-month-old to snuggle, I find myself picking stray hair off of everything (baby included). I change my baby's diaper, and oh, look, a hair in there. I get out of the car and see maybe a dozen more hairs clinging to the upholstery. I fold a load of laundry and find a tangled ball of my hair in the dryer. If I hand any object to any person, they're likely getting a strand of my hair with it. Sorry, cashier at McDonald's: I likely handed you more than my credit card.
Part of the reason why it's so shocking to lose all this hair is because no one tells us it's going to happen.
With all this hair loss, of course I notice a difference when I look in the mirror. Those bald spots I feared I'd develop? They're there, all right. Luckily for me, they're limited to my temples and right by my ears, so they're not super noticeable, but I sure as hell notice that they're there.
It pretty much sucks. Even though I know it'll grow back in. The baldness is temporary; but even when it does start growing back in, that all happens at once, and my temples will be covered with inch-long baby hairs that refuse to be tamed. I have to laugh about it, to keep from crying. In fact, given my hair's
I know my hair will grow back, and that the baldness is temporary. But even when it does start growing back, that will all start happening at once, and my temples will be covered with inch-long baby hairs that refuse to be tamed. In fact, given my hair's curly and frizzy texture, once these hairs at my temples hit the two to three inch mark, I'll get what I refer to as my "George Washington curls."
Even though most resources suggest that the shedding I'm currently experiencing will only last another month or so, in my experience, the postpartum hair weirdness lasts about a year. I'm not a vain person, and as someone who generally has pretty thick hair, I should probably count my blessings. But that doesn't change the fact that I get distraught in the shower when I'm trying to comb through my hair, because I'm sure I'm not the first woman to feel traumatized by this loss.
Truth be told, I'm embarrassed that I care so much about how I look.
Part of the reason why it's so shocking to lose all this hair is because no one tells us it's going to happen. For instance, I think most new moms know they should expect a looser tummy with stretched-out skin postpartum, and they should also expect to be constantly tired. But if you aren't expecting the crazy hair loss, it can be shocking. This is my third go-around with the Great Shed, but I am still surprised constantly at just how much hair I seem to lose.
But now that my ponytail has half its usual thickness and my hairline is less-than-ideal, I've started to pay more attention to it. So like many moms facing the Great Shed, I've gone to the salon and asked for bangs. Maintaining the fringe is good for both hiding the bald spots and camouflaging the wispy new growth once that starts making its appearance. And instead of high ponytails that slick the front of my hairs straight back, I've taken to wearing lower ponytails, or braids, or just wearing it down. I only pin the bangs back when I want to check out my growing bald spots. Which, I admit, I do check out a lot.
When I got my hair cut, I asked my mom to come with me and hold the baby while my bangs were trimmed. I know I shouldn't have felt guilty for going to a nice salon after giving birth, especially when such minor acts of pampering keep me from feeling self-conscious. But truth be told, I'm embarrassed that I care so much about how I look.
I know I should be grateful for my healthy baby, and of course I am. I also know that losing my hair shouldn't even be on my radar as a concern. But I think it's OK to look at those two piles of hair from just this week, and to look at those two pictures of my bald spots (which were only taken five days apart) and feel a little sad about them. But hey — if you, like me, are experiencing telogen effluvian, at least you know you aren't the only one. Now go ahead and cut those bangs.