By: Jeanne Reilly, Registered Dietitian
Hair loss is completely normal part of postpartum recovery, and tends to peak around 3 months after birth. As many as 40-50% of women will experience postpartum alopecia or hair loss. However, there are things you can do to help slow it down and/or prevent extreme hair loss. You don’t have to deal with the bald spots around your hairline that many of us have accepted as part of the postpartum journey.
Remember the shiny, thick, lustrous hair (and beautiful, strong nails) you had during pregnancy? Hardly a hair fell out for 9+ months! You can thank sky-high estrogen and progesterone levels for that. They keep hair and nails in the growth phase.
After birth, your hormones begin to plummet (this is the transitional phase for hair growth) then tend to level out around 3 months postpartum (this is the resting phase), which is when hair is released from the follicle and begins falling out…followed by new hair growth. Anyone else loathe that crown of baby hair coming in all around your hairline? As annoying as this rate of hair loss can be (about 400 strands per day!!), it’s your body’s way of catching up after very little hair shedding during pregnancy. By about 6 months postpartum, most new mothers see a slow down to the normal rate of hair loss (about 50-100 strands of hair per day).
Foods & Vitamins To Combat Postpartum Hair Loss
While some of that hair loss is unavoidable, there are ways you can prevent excessive hair loss, support healthy re-growth, and return to a normal hair growth cycle as quickly as possible.
No surprise, foods rich in vitamins and minerals that support your body’s natural processes are our first recommendation. We also know the vast majority of mamas are depleted in nutrients after growing, birthing, and especially if breastfeeding a baby, so bringing your body back to nutritional status quo is the first step.
- Postnatal Multivitamin – Many mamas stop taking their prenatals or any vitamins at all after birth, and consuming a balanced diet is a tall order when you are adjusting to taking care of a new life! This is the ideal time to switch to a high quality postnatal like New Mama that will help you restore all the depleted vitamins & minerals we list below, and more.
- Biotin – consuming protein-rich foods high in biotin may help prevent hair loss and promote hair growth if you are deficient in this B vitamin. Foods rich in biotin include egg yolks, nuts, seeds, salmon, milk, cheese, yogurt, avocado & sweet potato. Aim to consume protein with every meal to ensure you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to recover and repair. (New Mama contains 35 mcg, 100% DV (daily value))
- Vitamin A – retinoic acid from Vitamin A acts on the hair follicles and sebacious glands to help keep our scalp moisturized with the production of sebum. A deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to a disruption in the production of this oily substance and impact the hair growth cycle. Foods rich in Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, kale, eggs, milk & yogurt. (New Mama contains 1.3 mg, 100% DV)
- Vitamin E – this powerhouse antioxidant can encourage hair growth by battling the oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation at the scalp, which causes hair loss. (pssst! The form of Vitamin E studied in hair loss is tocotrienols – that’s what we include in New Mama – not the mixed tocopherols you see in most supplements!). Foods rich in tocotrienols include grape seed oil, oats, hazelnuts, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and sunflower oil. (New Mama contains 20mg, 105% DV)
- Zinc – another potent antioxidant involved in so many bodily processes. Deficiency in zinc is tied to hair loss, which is why zinc supplementation is shown to help with hair growth! Foods rich in zinc include crab, lobster, red meat, poultry, beans, lentils, yogurt, cashews & cheese. (New Mama contains 15mg, 115% DV)
- Vitamin C – yes – another antioxidant! Are you catching on yet? 😉 Combating oxidative processes in the body helps repair & healing? Vitamin C also helps produce collagen in our hair follicles, which promotes hair health & growth, and reduces hair loss. Foods rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, mango, papaya, pineapple, cantaloupe, & watermelon. (New Mama contains 120 mg, 100% DV)
What can you do if your hair loss doesn’t slow down?
- Get your iron levels checked – Low Iron levels in postpartum can contribute to hair loss. Have your doctor check your iron and ferritin levels, especially if you lost a significant amount of blood at birth or had a c-section (which can result in severe postpartum anemia). If your iron and/or ferritin levels are low, you may need to supplement with iron or be mindful of including iron-rich foods in your diet.
- Get your thyroid hormones checked – Any abnormalities in the production of your thyroid hormones – T3 & T4 – can cause changes to the hair growth cycle – including causing hair loss. Have your doctor check your thyroid levels if you are experiencing abnormal, extended hair loss.
- Check in with your stress – I know, we’ve got to be kidding, right? You have a newborn, new body, new normal, and are functioning on less sleep than those college all-nighters every. Single. Day. And we’re asking you to check on your stress?! We get it, and we know it’s much easier said than done. Just know that everything you can do to minimize stress helps all body systems function better – including the hair growth/loss cycle.
What you can do right now:
- Wear headbands as your new hair grows in and out.
- Use scrunchies instead of the traditional hair elastic or those fun new curly plastic things that seem to hold hair so well. The soft fabric on covered scrunchies reduces breakage and avoids pulling hair.
- Limit damaging high heat hair styling like blow dryers, straighteners & curling irons and brush your hair as little as possible. Try air drying and just gently combing your hair with your fingers once it’s dry. Embrace that pony tail & mom bun!
- Adjust the part in your hair to cover up any thin spots.
- Baseball caps and visors are your friend – not only for taming the baby hairs, but for protecting that beautiful skin on your face from the sun!
By: Jeanne Reilly, Registered Dietitian, Mom, Co-Founder I Am Nurtured
- Effect of Pregnancy on the Human Hair Cycle: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/82326339.pdf
- Iron deficiency and hair loss: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0190962205047456
- Diet & Hair Loss: Effects of Nutrient Deficiency & Supplement Use: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/
- Effect of Tocotrienol supplementation in hair growth: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24575202/
- Roles of Vitamin C in skin health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/