Hair loss can be a complicated problem. Both internal and external factors can affect the body in a variety of ways, often manifesting as changes in the hair’s growth pattern. One of the most common of these factors is pregnancy. The hormonal shifts that occur in the body both before and after the birth of a child cause a large number of women to experience drastic changes in the thickness and density of their hair. At The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, we believe that educating people about the varying causes of hair loss can help them in their pursuit of the most effective treatment options and that understanding the impact that pregnancy can have on your hair may help prevent a great deal of unnecessary worry and concern.
The changes that typically occur in a woman’s hair during pregnancy are ultimately caused by fluctuations in the body’s hormones which, in turn, affect the hair growth cycle. Ordinarily, hair follicles progress through a regular growth cycle consisting of three stages: anagen (growth phase), catagen (transition phase), and telogen (resting phase). During the anagen phase, which typically lasts about three years, new hair is formed and gradually grows from the follicle. At any given time, between 80% and 90% of the hair follicles in a healthy scalp are in this stage. Eventually, the hair moves to the transitional catagen phase and growth stops. From there, the hair finally progresses into the telogen stage, when it loosens in the follicle and subsequently falls. Only approximately 15% of the hair follicles are in the telogen stage at any given time, so a healthy scalp can shed anywhere from 50 to 125 hairs each day. Newly growing hair in the anagen stage then replaces the strands that are lost.
However, during pregnancy this cycle is disrupted. Shifts in the body’s hormones prevent the hair from completing the telogen phase, so that even though new hair continues to grow, old hair is not lost. This, combined with the salutary effects of pre-natal vitamins, make the hair look both fuller and more vibrant than usual. Many women notice that, during their pregnancy, their hair looks better than it ever has before. Unfortunately this change does not last. After the woman gives birth, the body’s hormones shift yet again. The hair follicles resume their ordinary growth cycle and the excess hair is shed. In fact, since other hair follicles have had a chance to “catch up,” many more follicles are in the telogen stage than is normally typical. Ultimately, this results in a brief period of telogen effluvium, where a large amount of hair is shed all at once.
This period of rapid hair loss ordinarily occurs approximately three months after the child has been born, but is usually short lived. After the excess hair has been lost the body returns to its normal rhythms and the hair goes back to growing the way it did before. Only in rare cases, when hair loss is the sign of other postpartum issues, like hypothyroidism, will the shedding last longer than a few months. In those cases, please contact Dr. Griffin or Dr. Curtis to schedule a consultation so we can fully diagnose the underlying cause and determine what treatment options are appropriate. If you have additional questions about your own hair loss, or are interested in any of the hair restoration treatments we offer at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research, be sure to visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.