While postpartum hair thinning is commonly a self-limited issue requiring nothing more than time and patience, for some women, this period of increased shedding can be prolonged or even permanent. Why does this vary so much from woman to woman? It may have to do with other hair-related risk factors.
Some experts debate how common postpartum hair thinning truly is. It’s been suggested that the true underlying issue may be a missed indicator of androgen-sensitive thinning. Cases of hormonal related hair thinning can affect both men and women, despite its common referral as “male pattern baldness.” In women, it commonly presents as generalized hair thinning over the top of the head. But why would this hair shedding suddenly become more apparent after pregnancy?
With androgen-sensitive hair thinning, an individual’s hair growth cycle is shorter than typical, meaning their hair is quicker to switch from the growth to resting phase in addition to a process called miniaturization, where the hair follicle becomes smaller and smaller. But during pregnancy, some scientists believe that individuals who commonly have a shorter growth phase enjoy a temporary exemption, as their pregnancy hormones allow more hair follicles to stay in the growth phase longer. The downside? Once the hormonal changes of postpartum hit, all of these hairs are shifted out of the growth phase of the hair cycle.
Because we believe that typical postpartum hair thinning happens when hair goes from an elongated growth phase to being hastily forced back into its usual shedding cycle, someone with a shorter growth cycle may have more hair loss. This means that more hair than typical would suddenly be forced into the resting and then shedding phases at once.
If you have a family history of hormonal-related hair thinning, it’s a good idea to talk to your dermatologist about a postpartum plan of action. Your best support strategy may be different from others experiencing postpartum hair thinning.