pregnancy

Let's talk about two completely normal pregnancy hair changes. And one that's not.

It’s news to precisely no one that being pregnant completely changes a woman’s body. After all, we’re only bring new life into the world.

But did you know those changes also extend to your hair?

Yep. Not only does growing a small human mess with your pelvic floor, sleep, gag reflex, food cravings, emotions, abdomen, skin, feet, breasts (you get the idea), but your hair, too.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to pregnancy hair changes. In fact, some pregnant women say their hair has never been better.

To get to the facts, we asked Specialist Integrative Medicine Trichologist Anthony Pearce from Anthony Pearce Trichology to explain exactly what happens to your hair during and after pregnancy, plus which hair changes are normal and which ones aren’t.

Side note – Bec Judd gets real on what no one tells you about pregnancy in the video below. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

How does hair change during pregnancy?

1. Pregnancy hair growth.

According to Pearce, pregnant women can expect to have the very best hair of their lives thanks to their good friends, hormones.

“A woman’s oestrogen and progesterone levels are much higher during pregnancy to help support the growth and development of the unborn child and that affects the hair follicle cycle in a positive way. The hair growth phase (anagen phase) gets longer and the falling phase (telogen phase) gets shorter, which means thicker, fuller and better textured hair,” Pearce told Mamamia.

“This is a normal hormonal change and the rate your hair will grow during pregnancy is very individual, but generally speaking, a woman’s hair should be as good as it ever was while she’s pregnant.”

Not only can pregnancy hormones give you more hair, but it can also tinker with the texture. That’s why some women report their usually curly hair growing straighter during pregnancy or vice versa.

“Hormones determine the wave movement of the hair – if there’s more influence of the male hormones in the body, hair will tend to get frizzier and finer, and if there’s more oestrogen, hair shafts become thicker, softer and a curl or wave can form. Again, this is all individual for each person.”

2. Hair loss during pregnancy.

While hair growth is completely normal during pregnancy, hair loss isn’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

Pearce explained sometimes a woman may experience hair loss during the initial stages of pregnancy when the body sees the developing zygote as an inflammatory process (i.e. that’s your body body figuring out what’s going on), but hair loss or thinning into the second or third trimester could indicate a deficiency.

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“Hair loss in pregnancy is a contradiction. It shouldn’t happen, especially in the second and third trimester. Hair loss after the early weeks of pregnancy always throws up a red flag because it means the body is struggling to support two human beings,” he said.

If you’re finding more hair than usual on your brush or hair coming out when you touch it while pregnant, see your obstetrician and/or GP to get a blood test to check your levels of iron, vitamin D, iodine and zinc. Your medical professional will also want to look at your thyroid gland, blood sugar and insulin.

Side note – Leigh Campbell unpacked which beauty products are safe to use during pregnancy on the You Beauty podcast. Post continues after audio.

What is safe to do to your hair during during pregnancy?

One of the biggest questions asked around pregnancy and hair is:  is dying hair during pregnancy safe?

Different websites will gives you different answers, but the reality is there aren’t any conclusive studies out there to suggest getting your hair dyed while pregnant will cause you or your unborn baby any harm.

Pearce said the concern around dying hair during pregnancy has to do with chemicals being absorbed through the scalp, but the likelihood of absorption during an average salon appointment is “statistically negligible”.

His advice? “Most women would prefer not to be around chemicals during pregnancy, so if you’re worried about hair dying, you can make sure the dye doesn’t touch your scalp or go to a salon that uses chemical and ammonia-free products.”

Same goes for keratin smoothing treatments during pregnancy – but always consult your obstetrician as the one source of truth before putting anything on your face, skin or hair during pregnancy.

How does hair change after pregnancy?

1. Hair loss after pregnancy.

So you’ve had your baby and are ready for life and your body to go back to normal…

Not so fast, because hair loss and hair thinning after pregnancy is, annoyingly, very common.

Postpartum hair loss can look like anything from noticing more hair falling out in your brush or coming out when you touch your hair, to seeing more hair around the house or experiencing up to 60 per cent of hair density loss, Pearce said.

“Even though having a baby is a wonderful thing, it puts huge physiological stress on a woman’s body. Hair loss is caused by a normal readjustment of a woman’s body and hormones after childbirth.”

“Some hardly notice it, but others will experience it massively, which is extremely distressing for a mum with a new baby.”

Hair loss after pregnancy is a symptom of the body’s hormones readjusting back to pre-pregnancy levels, as the fall in oestrogen affects the growing phase of the hair follicles that were jacked up during pregnancy. Pearce said it generally occurs two months after child birth, give or take a couple of weeks with breastfeeding. Sleep, stress and mental health may also contribute to postpartum hair loss.

Like all pregnancy hair changes, hair loss after pregnancy is individual. Some women will develop changes in the texture and the weight of their hair, as well as hair loss and thinning, and others may experience dramatic hair loss that will eventually settle down, but won’t fully go away.

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Hair loss in pregnancy
Hair loss after giving birth is just another fun thing that your pre-baby self never had to think about. Image: Getty.

Postpartum hair loss treatment and management.

So, what can you do about postpartum hair loss?

"I always reassure women that it's a natural process. Postpartum hair fall is described as the 'one true moult of human beings', which in other words means it's meant to happen," Pearce said.

"As it's an issue that comes from the inside, it's about building back up all the nutrients lost while growing life and waiting it out. Be aware it's a natural process of rebalancing, and don't get conned into hair growth products and marketing."

Pearce suggested starting with baseline pathology testing to check where your levels are. Another clinical option for severe hair loss (telogen effluvium) is laser treatment.

"Photo-biotherapy such as ‘soft/cold’ low level laser light (LLLT) is in my experience most effective in addressing effluvium-type shedding due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Between six and 12 15-20 minute sessions twice weekly helps settle postpartum hair loss in the majority of women."

If you'd prefer a more conservative approach, good quality shampoos and conditioners not only keep the scalp and hair healthy, but feel nice to use, which is just as important. If you're concerned about the amount of hair falling out after washing your hair, know that not washing it won't make a difference, other than potentially causing the scalp to become itchy and flakey.

Volumising and thickening hair products (shampoos, thickening dry shampoo or volume powders) can also help you feel better about your hair as you're riding this fun wave. Pearce also recommended cutting long hair into a shorter, more manageable hairstyle to avoid excessive styling or tying it back.

Pregnancy hair changes - summary:

  • Pregnancy hair growth is a normal, lovely side effect of growing a small human.
  • Hair loss during pregnancy is not normal, so please go and see your GP or obstetrician if this is you.
  • Hair loss and hair thinning after giving birth is a normal, not-so-lovely postpartum side effect.
  • Most women will see their hair texture return to normal, but some may find their hair texture permanently changed.
  • If postpartum hair loss is causing you anxiety, please don't suffer in silence. Speak to your medical professional about what treatments and management strategies can help.

Have you experienced any of these pregnancy and postpartum hair changes? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

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