Written by Nassima Iggoute
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Still something of a taboo topic, postpartum hair loss can seriously impact women’s self-esteem and mental health. Here, one writer shares her experience with Stylist.
Postpartum hair loss is something you don’t pay attention to until you experience it. Still a taboo topic, it’s not widely spoken about, despite the fact that so many women go through it. “It is believed that around 50% of women experience postpartum hair loss,” says Anabel Kingsley, consultant trichologist at Philip Kingsley Clinics. Sadly, there is a lack of concrete research to be found on the subject and exact statistics are hard to come by. But, if postpartum hair loss is so common, why did I find myself suffering in silence for so long?
What is postpartum hair loss?
Postpartum, a Latin word, means ‘after childbirth’. Postpartum hair loss refers to the excessive amount of hair loss experienced shortly after giving birth and it’s a direct result of the hormonal changes that happen in the body during and after pregnancy.
During the hair’s natural cycle, the increase in oestrogen during pregnancy causes the hair to be in an actively growing state for much longer, increasing the rate of hair growth. This explains why, during pregnancy, my hair was fuller, longer and shinier. After childbirth, the hormones change again and the drop in oestrogen results in a higher rate of hair shedding – this is known as the telogen stage. Coupled with caring for a new baby, a lack of sleep and potentially breastfeeding, the stage is set for postpartum hair loss.
During pregnancy, my hair became long, luscious and shiny. When my daughter was only three months old and I was just getting into the swing and demands of motherhood, my hair became thin, dry and straw-like.
Within days I noticed bald patches on my temples. This wasn’t something I could conceal – I was reminded of it every day when I looked in the mirror or touched my scalp. There was nowhere to hide. I felt embarrassed and stripped of my identity. I just didn’t feel like myself anymore.
Throughout pregnancy and birth, my body had gone through so many changes, some of which I was still coming to terms with, but this felt like the last straw. I felt like I had lost control, and without knowing what to expect next, I felt helpless against the relentless cycle of postpartum hair loss.
For some, my despondence might seem exaggerated but, like a lot of people, hair plays an important role both in the way I view myself and my self-confidence. Plus, the lack of conversation about postpartum hair loss makes it easy to fear the worst: am I going bald? Will my hair ever grow back? When will the shedding stop? I asked myself all of these questions and more before finally plucking up the courage to speak to a friend.
Slowly, the more women I spoke to, the more common I realised postpartum hair loss is. And, while I was consistently reassured that my hair would eventually return, I was concerned about the fact it had taken so long to find people who would speak openly about it. Why did it feel so unmentionable?
Kingsley mentions a client of hers who once described her hair as her armour. She felt that her hair helped her feel like herself and “put together” – losing it postpartum took away her sense of self and left her feeling exposed.
“So many women are embarrassed or think they’re a bad mum for worrying about something we’re made to feel is so trivial,” explains Kingsley.“Hair is not trivial at all and adds to the loss of our sense of control we feel as new mums.”
Steps I took to care for my scalp and hair
Hair loss is not uncommon. Statistics show that, on average, we lose about 100 hairs a day. Post-pregnancy, this number goes up to 400. For me, it felt non-stop. I found hair on my pillow in the morning and on my shoulders throughout the day. Whilst postpartum hair loss is inevitable, over time, I did find ways to manage it at home.
The Hello Klean Exfoliating Scalp Brush is a hand-held device that boosts circulation in the scalp and gently stimulates the hair follicles and prompts hair growth from the root. It was my favourite and the easiest way of caring for my hair and scalp, something that can help manage postpartum hair loss. Look out for key ingredients that promote hair growth such as caffeine and vitamin B7, also known as biotin. The Aromatica Rosemary Root Enhancer also contains spearmint essential oils that soothe and relax the scalp.
Finally, I introduced a hair serum, like the Virtue Refresh Topical Scalp Supplement, which will infuse the scalp with peptides and other nourishing ingredients that can also optimise hair growth. Kingsley, who is also experiencing postpartum hair loss, recommends the Philip Kingsley Density Preserving Scalp Drops, which help to reduce the rate of hair loss.
Prevention is better than cure. Postpartum hair loss is temporary and your hair cycle will revert to normal, but if you start on these before you see the first signs of postpartum hair loss, it may help decrease the volume of shedding that you experience.
Postpartum hair loss taught me the importance of self-care. When I first became a mother and my hormones were all over the place, I mourned the loss of my old self: the woman I used to be and who she used to look like. While I dedicated the first few months to my small baby, I neglected myself. Going through the emotional journey of postpartum hair loss helped me reconnect with looking after myself.
Author’s note: while the window of postpartum hair loss can differ from person to person, on average it starts shortly after childbirth and could last for up to a few months. If it persists for longer, it’s important to see your GP to rule out any other underlying health concerns.
Main image: Getty
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