Alana Wagner had a healthy pregnancy, an uneventful birth, and nine months ago, welcomed a perfect baby girl. She and her husband were thrilled.
Then Wagner’s hair began to fall out in handfuls. She wasn’t worried – she knew it was a normal part of the postpartum process – and embraced a new hairstyle, chopping her long hair into a short bob that she hoped would disguise her thinning hair.
But the hair loss continued, with clumps beginning to fall out in the fifth month. She had quarter-sized bald patches along her hairline and could see her scalp no matter how she styled her hair. She was afraid to wash her hair for fear of losing even more of it.
“I’d joke about looking like Gollum (from Lord of the Rings), but really, every time I looked in the mirror, I wanted to cry,” she said. “This didn’t do anything for my self-esteem. I’d lost about 80 percent (of my hair).”
According to kellymom.com, postpartum hair loss usually occurs about three to six months after delivery. Nearly all new moms will lose hair due to fluctuating hormones, but 60 to 70 percent of women will lose a noticeable amount of hair. This can be traumatic at a time when women are already feeling vulnerable.
Aside from Wagner, many other new Ottawa moms told Parenting Times that they experienced the same thing.
At 18 months postpartum with her third child, Jessica Turner says, “I hardly have any hair left.”
“I find that I am just shedding constantly,” says Larissa Deacon, who started losing her hair six months postpartum with both her sons. “We don’t have any pets, but it sure feels like we do when I see my hair on everyone’s clothing in the house. I could probably make a little hair doll pet. Sometimes I am untangling it out of my baby’s silicone teethers, his toys, etc.”
Unlike Wagner, Deacon didn’t get any bald spots, but said it felt “significantly thinner to the touch.”
Some moms would see evidence of their hair loss in their showers.
“It clogged the drain in the sink in our bathroom,” says Erin Hodgins. “Hubby had to snake it. I suspect our shower is headed this way as well.”
“My husband would jokingly comment about my ‘shedding’ all the time because my hair was every where, all the time,” says Rebekah Trafford, who started losing hair at around the three-month mark. “It was very noticeable. Handfuls would come out in the shower. I was afraid to brush my hair because every time I did, so much hair would come out. Still having baby weight and with my postpartum depression at its peak, this was a very challenging time. I was struggling significantly emotionally, and the hair loss was something additional I didn’t need and couldn’t cope with at all. Fortunately, it’s growing back now, and I’m very thankful.”
For others, like Nicole Gurski and Melanie Hannaberry, their vacuums were collateral damage.
“I literally broke the vacuum last week cleaning up my hair from the carpet,” says Gurski. At five months postpartum, Hannaberry broke her Dyson. “I had to take it apart today and what I pulled out gave me a stroke,” says Hannaberry. “I’ve always had really nice thick hair, but now it’s thin and slips out of my elastic no matter what. I brush my hair before I shower, have to empty my brush, pull out a fist full, then brush after and have to empty the brush again. Plus, my daughter enjoys ripping out my hair so I may as well Britney-2007 it and be gone.”
Postpartum hair loss is very common, says Brittney McMillan, hairstylist at Ottawa’s New York New York Hair Salon.
“I see it all the time behind the chair, however it can be very different from person to person,” she says.
“Sometimes the hair will get thicker and fuller during pregnancy and then after the baby is born, hair begins to fall out at an alarming rate. Thin patches can be found at the hairline, near the forehead or ears.”
According to McMillan, hair loss can begin during pregnancy and continue for up to a year or more after the baby is born. “Your hair will be normal again, it will just take some time,” she says.
In the meantime, she advises against drastic changes.
“If you do, however, feel the need to change your style to better suit your recently thinned hair, I would recommend staying away from bangs as that is where most of the thinning seems to take place,” she says. “I would create some face-framing layers to blend in with the “breakage” around the face. Normal hair has breakage, it’s what happens when we do anything to our hair (wear hats, brush, flatiron, or colouring) and by adding layers, you will create lift and feathering around the face that will soften the appearance of the new growth or thin spots created by postpartum hair loss.
“I have seen this issue affect so, so many women and it does impact their self-esteem, but with a little care, it can be mostly overcome,” says McMillan. “Try to remember that you have just given this world a new life and you are still a beautiful new mother regardless of any hair loss you may experience.”
Wagner says that as tough as it is, she’s just going to wait it out.
“I know my daughter is worth anything and that in the end, it’s just hair, but it sure helps to know that it’s normal and that I’m not the only one,” she says.