Up to 90 percent of women who give birth will experience hair loss after pregnancy, a condition known medically as postpartum telogen effluvium. This hair loss occurs because the high levels of pregnancy hormones prevent the normal, daily shedding of hairs (which is typically about 100 hairs a day). However, once pregnancy is over, those hormone levels drop, and all those hairs that should have fallen out on a daily basis tend to fall out either gradually or all at once.
Postpartum Hair Loss: An Overview
Under completely normal conditions, adults typically lose up to about 100 hairs a day by simply brushing and washing their hair. However, during pregnancy all of the hairs that should fall out daily stay put.
An increase in pregnancy-related hormones prevents those hairs from falling out, until those hormone levels get back to normal levels after childbirth. Beginning around three months after delivery and lasting for up to five months after delivery, women are likely to shed all of those hairs, either gradually or all at once.
This post-pregnancy hair loss is known medically as postpartum telogen effluvium, a condition that happens in over 90 percent of women following childbirth.
Understanding Normal Hair Growth
In the normal hair life cycle, a hair will start by growing for several years. The growth then stops, at which time the hair follicle enters a "resting phase," where it slowly works its way out of the root and eventually falls out.
Telogen effluvium is a hair-loss condition that affects this normal scalp hair cycle. It occurs after a shock or change in the body that causes a larger number of hairs to stop growing and enter that resting phase at the same time. There are many reasons why this can occur, with childbirth being one of the most common.
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University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner Program. Recommendations to diagnose and treat adult hair loss disorders or alopecia in primary care settings (non pregnant female and male adults). Austin (TX): University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing; 2004 May.
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