‘Will my hair fall out after pregnancy?’ We answer your pre and post-pregnancy haircare questions, here…

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A beautiful baby is on the way! All’s well with the little one, so, let’s talk about how growing a human can effect your bouncy barnet…

Worried about hair today, gone tomorrow? Our editor, Catherine Hudson, (who was beauty and fashion editor of Prima Baby & Pregnancy magazine for three years), has enlisted the experts to help explain how pregnancy can effect the growth of your hair, why it might start to shed, and what some of the benefits could be…

Will I have bald patches? When will my hair be shiny? Do I have to have a ‘mumsy’ hairdo, now?

There are bound to be plenty of questions you have about how pregnancy will affect your body. Questions about the changes that your hair might undergo are often some of the most pondered when it comes to outer appearance. Should you really dare hope for luscious, traffic-stopping locks, during pregnancy? And then there’s the issue of post pregnancy shedding: do all women really lose their hair after they have given birth? Never fear, we have enlisted the experts to tell all (the good, the bad and the hairy), about the journey your barnet is about to embark upon.

Did you know? NHS choices say that up to 90% of women notice thinning hair post-pregnancy

Shiny, happy people

The good news is that, yes, indeed, for the majority of women, hair will be looking at its best while they are pregnant. Unsurprisingly, there are scientific reasons behind that pregnancy, glossy ‘glow’. Dr Bernhard Irrgang, Head of Research and Development for haircare brand SALON SCIENCE®, says, “During pregnancy, hormone levels increase, which could ultimately cause a sudden change in the appearance of your hair. This can be noticeable, as it usually grows and sheds in a regular cycle.”

Hormonal changes

Here comes the real science bit: “At any one time during a ‘normal cycle’ approximately 90% of hair is actively growing,” says Irrang, “with the remaining 10% in a ‘resting phase’, before shedding. But, during pregnancy, the increased levels of hormones, including oestrogen, can reduce shedding and instead maintain and increase the body and thickness of your hair as more strands remain in the ‘resting phase’.” It’s worth knowing that each hair follicle is independent, and always goes through this growth cycle at different times – otherwise all of your hair would fall out at the same time!

Did you know? The average non-pregnant woman sheds around 100 hairs a day. Post-pregnancy this can increase to up to 500 – this is normal!

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The hair growth cycle – explained simply by Rockin’ it Napptural, if you want to read more. Image from Rockin’ it Napptural

So, contrary to popular opinion, hair doesn’t grow any more rapidly while you are pregnant. Instead, you will simply be losing less of it, which gives the illusion of faster growing hair. You might also find the condition of your hair is taken to the extreme: beautifully shiny (hooray!) or seriously oily (boo!), or a combination. Those pesky hormones are also likely to create a change in texture; so straight hair may become a little curly.

Secrets of shine

If your hair has turned extremely dry, you might consider adding oil into your daily routine. Hair and oil might sound like a scary combination, but used in a restrained manner hair oils can work wonders on split ends, add shine and smoothing, tame flyway ends and provide and locking in moisture.

It’s also worth remembering that over washing your hair will strip it of essential oils, bad news for dry and oily hair, so try sticking to washing every other day and try out loose hairstyles, such as a side plait on those in-between days.

Mummy me time

Award-winning celebrity hairdresser, Andrew Jose, recommends not being too rash when deciding to go for the chop – just because you are a new mum, it doesn’t mean you need a bob… “Thick hair can often remain so until the end of breastfeeding,” says Andrew, “So I’d recommend not changing your hair during this period of time.”

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Andrew Jose’s London hair salon

Andrew’s top style tips for mums to be:

– Don’t choose a drastic cut. A lot of women feel that this is good time for a shorter do, however, my advice is to think once, think twice and then think about it again! Stay with familiar styles and colour. Now is not the time for a big change.

– Short hair may actually be harder and more time-consuming to style than long hair, which can be pulled back into a ponytail – also useful when your baby arrives.

– Don’t worry if your face shape changes from water retention or other hormonal factors during pregnancy, as it will change again. It is only temporary! It’s worth remembering that long, straight hair can create the illusion of a slender face.

The science of shedding

Between three and six months after giving birth, a woman can find that clumps of hair will probably start to fall out. Don’t panic. This is absolutely normal and usually resolves itself within a year. Irrang explains: “Post-pregnancy, the process of hormones returning to normal level can actually increase the shedding process. Hair loss can occur following the baby’s arrival or once breastfeeding has stopped. The hair that was temporarily retained during pregnancy may now begin to shed. This can be worrying, however it is important to remember that this is usually the excess hair that falling out. Once the shedding has passed, the hair will usually return to the original density that it was before pregnancy, within six months.”

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Kent Airhedz Mega Taming Brush, £10.25, lookfantastic.com

For all hair types, this will protect your hair from damage during and post-pregnancy and detangle with ease.

Simple solutions

There are plenty of things you can easily work into your daily hair care routine to help ease the rate of shedding. Such as using a gentle shampoo, a tangle tackling brush, avoiding tight hairstyles, avoiding using too many hot hair tools and steering clear of chemical hair treatments. Colouring your hair is always a good subject for debate, during pregnancy. Andrew clears things up, with this advice: “During pregnancy try to avoid hair colour that is applied close to the skin. Although each individual strand of hair absorbs the chemicals that cause the hair shaft to change colour, it is only when hair dye comes into direct contact with the scalp or skin that it is absorbed by the body. For this reason, colouring your hair occasionally throughout pregnancy is fine – I always recommend foils and products that avoid skin contact. If you are concerned it is always best to check with your health professional first.”

Cue, confidence!

There will be plenty of things about your body that will change when you become pregnant, but keeping up a good hair routine is one thing you can control and will help boost your confidence. Andrew explains, “Not only is the general wellbeing of your hair care important during and after pregnancy, but it will also have a positive effect on confidence and self-esteem levels. Taking care of your hair and embracing any changes will make you feel pampered and great!”

And remember – everyone is different. Dr Irrnag explains, “Fuller, thicker hair is one benefit of pregnancy for some women and a myth for others. Pregnancy hormones can affect every woman’s hair differently. For some, the increased oestrogen causes their hair to grow thick and fast, while others find that their hair goes limp and even falls out. To encourage healthy hair, make sure you eat well and get all the essential nutrients. The healthier you are, the healthier and more beautiful your hair will be.” And shedding or no shedding, rest assured, your baby will still be looking at you with adoring eyes!

The best hair care products for the ‘pregnant effect’

DURING PREGNANCY

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Percy & Reed No Oil Hair Oil, £14 for 60ml, qvc.com

A lightweight oil that smoothes and adds shine, without any stickiness or oily residue. An absolute wonder!

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Salon Science Swiss Apple CELLUTENSIVE™ MASQUE, £19.00, boots.com

Keep dry hair in great condition by using a treatment once a week

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Nanogen Thickening Hair fibres, £18.95 for 15g (one month’s supply), nanogen.co.uk

Shake in these ultra fine hair fibres to fill in any balding patches or thicken thinning areas. Tried and tested!

POST PREGNANCY

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The Salon Science Proaccelerant Anagain System, ProAccelerant™ shampoo, £15, conditioner, £17, treatment, £35, boots.com

This is a three-step regime formulated with AnaGain™: an organic pea sprout extract that is rich in restorative proteins, starch and fibres. The trio enables your hair to grow more efficiently by rebalance the hair lifecycle increasing vitality and reducing hair loss for thicker and fuller hair in three months.

Remember… Always seek further advice if your hair loss is excessive or is accompanied by other symptoms.

TOP TIPS: You are what you eat…

Since there is no substitute for a balanced diet to increase hair and all round health, dietician and nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker gives us her top 5 eats for shiny, happy hair

  1. Eggs, for protein, zinc and biotin
  2. Nuts, for vitamin E, magnesium and selenium
  3. Yoghurt, for protein and vitamin B5
  4. Mango, or any orange or red fruit or vegetables like melon, carrots, red pepper or berries, for vitamin A
  5. Watercress, or spinach, for vitamin C, iron and folate

NB. Check the latest info about what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy, by asking your healthcare professional

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Looking good can taste delicious! 

[A version of this feature first appeared in Prima Baby & Pregancy magazine in 2015 and 2016]

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