Everyone who’s had a bun in the oven knows that one of the biggest pregnancy perks is that you suddenly look like you could be in an Herbal Essences commercial, but where exactly does that new hair growth come from? And what makes it fall out after the baby’s born? We went to Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Medical School, for answers on this hair-raising situation.
“The prevailing wisdom is that hair grows so nicely during pregnancy because women are making a lot of the estrogen hormone,” says Minkin. That’s due to the placenta, which weighs about a pound and looks like a cross between brisket and cooked liver, says Minkin. “You can think of it as being attached to the uterus. It nourishes the baby through the umbilical cord and is also like a hormone factory that keeps pregnancy going and pumps out things like estrogen and progesterone.” While the medical world isn’t exactly sure how estrogen might be linked to hair growth, they do know it can stimulate follicles. “In general, people often don’t realize how much of a role estrogen plays in pregnancy,” says Minkin. “It’s also what gives your body the message to fill your breasts with milk, and it also helps trigger the milk’s release after the baby’s born.”
When you give birth, you’re pushing the placenta out after the baby, losing out on all that extra estrogen you were getting for months. Minkin suspects that sudden decline in hormones could be at the root of post-pregnancy hair loss. So can you use estrogen-based treatments to grow your hair back if you miss its lush pregnancy state? “Some people find them helpful, and some don’t,” says Minkin. Basically, it’s a toss-up.
Another factor that may be at play is that even though giving birth is a natural process, it can be somewhat traumatic. “Sometimes things like having surgery or getting anesthesia can trigger hair loss, but it could even just be the stress of the event of giving birth itself. We see significant hair loss with people who have undergone tremendous shocks or events, so that could be the cause,” says Minkin.
Although it can be terrifying to see more hair in the shower drain than usual, Minkin emphasizes that this is pretty normal. “The majority of women have some degree of hair loss,” she says. If you’re seeing more than you used to before you were pregnant, just think of it as your new normal until your body hopefully evens out. However, if you start pulling out entire clumps of hair or see major thinning, you can make an appointment with your gynecologist to get checked out. “Around three to five percent of women have more severe hair loss than normal after a pregnancy,” says Minkin. “In that case, I’ll perform a test to check thyroid function because its hormones can be involved.” Otherwise, check out these tips to fake thicker, fuller hair—whether you’re a new mom or not.
Source: Hair and Pregnancy