How does pregnancy affect your hair?
There are so many changes that happen during pregnancy to your body, and your hair is no exception.
This blog explains how pregnancy changes your hair growth and how that may change once you give birth.
If you are worried about the condition of your hair, book a consultation at Kate Holden Clinic for expert examination, diagnosis, and treatment plans to help you feel better about your hair.
Changes to hair during pregnancy
You might notice changes to the thickness of your hair – this is caused by the increase in oestrogen during pregnancy. The increase in oestrogen affects the hair growth cycle, meaning that your hair stays in the growth phase for longer than normal. Normally, around 85% of the hair on your scalp is in the growth phase, when you are pregnant though this can go up to 94%! The oestrogen is also thought to keep your hair in the resting phase for longer, meaning that your hair takes longer to shed.
You may notice an increase in hair growth in other places on your body too, for example on your stomach or chin. This is a result of an increase in testosterone during pregnancy – but don’t worry, your levels of testosterone drop after pregnancy so this increase in hair growth elsewhere isn’t permanent.
Losing hair during pregnancy
While some people notice that their hair is thicker during pregnancy, some people experience hair shedding. This is likely to be telogen effluvium – the same type of temporary hair loss which can happen postpartum. Causes for telogen effluvium during pregnancy may be stress, coming off birth control or other medication, anaemia, nutritional deficiencies and illness. If you’re worried about hair loss during pregnancy, contact the Clinic.
Does breastfeeding affect your hair?
Whether you breastfeed your baby or not, it will not make a difference to your hair after pregnancy. In the first few months of breastfeeding, oestrogen levels drop as oestrogen can interfere with milk supply – this is why oestrogen-based birth control is not recommended for the first few months after delivery. So, although the drop in oestrogen after you give birth is the mechanism behind your hair growth cycle changing, whether you breastfeed or not this drop will happen. This means that breastfeeding won’t prevent or worsen postpartum alopecia.
Postpartum alopecia – Hair loss after pregnancy
Postpartum alopecia is another term for a type of temporary hair shedding called telogen effluvium. Postpartum alopecia is a result of the drop in oestrogen and other sex hormones after delivery which causes many hairs to go from the growing phase to the shedding phase at the same time. You may notice an increase in hair on your pillow, in the shower, on your hair brush, and commonly with postpartum alopecia, thinning around the temples. This type of hair loss is temporary, and your hair should return to its previous pre-pregnancy thickness within 4 - 9 months after birth.
If your hair hasn’t returned to its pre-pregnancy state after 9 months of giving birth, there might be other factors to your hair loss which need investigating – book a consultation here.
Hair loss after miscarriage
Telogen effluvium (temporary hair shedding) can occur after miscarriage, baby loss and stillbirth. Telogen effluvium is commonly caused by emotional distress, stress, surgery, and a change in hormones so hair loss after miscarriage or baby loss is not uncommon. Your hair should regrow within 4 – 9 months.
Nutrition and hair during pregnancy
The general nutritional advice that is given during pregnancy provides everything you need to maintain healthy hair growth. Make sure you:
Eat a variety of foods
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Get enough protein throughout the day
Supplement for folic acid (B9)
Have a source of vitamin D (this can be through a supplement)
Have sources of iron in your diet
Get plenty of calcium – if you use dairy alternatives make sure they’re fortified with calcium
Incorporate starchy carbohydrates into your diet
Try not to overeat, you only need an extra 200 calories per day by the third trimester
If you follow these guidelines you should have everything you need in your diet to help your hair grow strong and healthy. If you have been taking supplements before you get pregnant for your hair, check with your GP if you can continue to take them, and consider switching to a pregnancy safe multivitamin.
For more dietary advice during pregnancy, visit the NHS website.
There are of course certain foods that are recommended to be avoided during pregnancy to reduce risk of infection or other harm to your baby. For example, avoid unpasteurised dairy, raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, alcohol and certain types of fish. Limiting these from your diet will not have an adverse effect on hair growth as long as your diet is balanced.
Can I colour my hair during pregnancy?
While many women wait until after the first trimester to dye their hair, it is generally safe to dye your hair while you are pregnant. There is no evidence to show that the chemicals within hair dye will harm you or your baby. However, allergies to hair dye can develop at any age, so it’s incredibly important that you always follow the allergy testing instructions or request a patch test each time you dye your hair while pregnant.