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How long does postpartum hair loss last?
There are shockingly few studies specifically focused on postpartum hair loss. We tend to place postpartum hair loss in the category of telogen effluvium. It is thought to be triggered by major hormonal shifts resulting from pregnancy as well as the physical stress of childbirth. It typically starts 2-6 months postpartum and can last about a year.
Does it vary from woman to woman? If so, why?
The amount of hair loss certainly can vary from woman to woman. Given how poorly it has been studied it is difficult to state with certainty how much it varies. The population of patients I see with postpartum hair loss is a skewed population as these are people specifically seeking out care for concerns about hair loss.
The degree of hair loss varies widely from those that see some transient increase in shedding to those with significant loss of volume leading to a widened hair part of the ability to see the scalp easily. This can be from varying experiences of stress, health challenges during pregnancy, multiple additional stresses experienced at a personal level in addition to physical stress, etc.
What can women do to support their return to normal hair growth?
The most important thing women can do to support a return to normal hair growth in a timely manner is to avoid compounding stresses. Avoid other major life changes, and avoid excessive therapeutic interventions to trigger hair growth, for example. Knowledge is power when it comes to resuming normal hair cycles. The stress of hair loss can always potentially lead to more hair loss.
Has there been any research looking at postpartum hair loss?
I am always shocked at the paucity of medical literature and studies focused on postpartum hair loss. Much information we use to educate patients on this phenomenon is based on anecdotal data.
Are there any supplements or treatments you tend to recommend?
In terms of vitamins or supplements, it is first important to verify that there are no specific vitamin deficiencies that need to be addressed by your doctor. If there are low iron levels, for example, then this must be supplemented. it is not unreasonable to consider a multivitamin to start. Beyond a multivitamin consideration to taking Nutrafol or Viviscal, supplements created specifically for hair loss can help provide the nutrients needed to help promote hair growth or at least improve the quality of hair. I personally do not recommend taking biotin unless you have a diagnosed biotin deficiency. There is so little research to really support the use of biotin for hair growth. However, the FDA issued a warning in 2017 on biotin’s ability to interfere with hundreds of laboratory tests. This can result in false lab results when obtaining bloodwork.
What should be avoided for managing postpartum hair loss?
The most important thing to avoid in treating or managing postpartum hair loss is a false cure or treatment. I have often said that the fastest "get rich quick" scheme a company can pull off is claiming to treat postpartum hair loss. Why? Because hair growth is a cycle. If you did nothing, the hair will more than likely regrow. These false cures are focused on recognizing that the hair would grow back even without treatment however those that take the treatment or supplement will attribute their success to the "treatment" and not time alone. The best thing to do is avoid spending money unnecessarily. After all, if you are postpartum this money would be better spent on self-care or your family! Talk to your Dermatologist and verify that there are no other triggers or causes that need to be addressed and do not waste your time or money on products with lofty claims.