Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Postpartum Shedding

It started two weeks ago.

I was in the shower, where I do my best thinking, pondering questions like, “What if cats could text? and “Should I give myself bangs?” As I rinsed out the shampoo (and thought about what a weird word “shampoo” is) I looked down to see my fingers cradling two fistfuls of dark black hair that were no longer attached to my head.

Normally this scenario would be quite concerning…but it isn’t my first hair loss rodeo.

Three years ago, after I gave birth to my daughter, I nearly went bald. When my hair started coming out in clumps around 3 months postpartum, I did what any self-respecting woman would do—I posted a picture of it on Instagram.

The flood of comments began immediately.

“One year later and I still clog the drain every other week”
“Just wait until it starts to grow back in and you have spikey little bangs”
“I legit went bald….On the plus side, when it grows back in your hair is gray.”

~Moment of silence for female commiseration and funny friends.~

I assumed this follicular shedding was due to postpartum vitamin depletion, but a rigorous Google research informed me that it’s all hormonal. When estrogen levels dip postpartum, the physical fun house of horrors includes not only excessive shedding, but also vaginal dryness, mood swings, and hot flashes. Basically, after having a baby your body acts like it’s in menopause for a bit.

This time around, after baby #2, I was less surprised about the hair lemmings leaping off my head. My mood was more the resigned acceptance of a visit from your crazy aunt you don’t really want to spend time with but are obligated to due to shared DNA. Alright Susan, let’s get this over with.

Since this was my second go-around, I also learned a few tricks on how to keep most of my locks attached to my scalp.

Here are hair hacks (pun intended 😏) for my fellow postpartum shedding mamas:

  • Take your prenatal vitamins & nosh on protein-rich foods. 
  • During shedding season, wash your hair only when needed. (Ha! Like you have extra time to shampoo frequently.)
  • To detangle your unruly, beautiful mane, use a good conditioner and a wide-toothed comb.
  • Use scrunchies, clips, or barrettes to put your hair up. Steer clear of rubber bands because they pull your hair out and that ish hurts almost as bad as chapped nipples.
  • Take a hiatus from blow-dryers, curling, flat irons, chemically based treatments (highlights, perms, straightening) until the shedding stops.
  • If your hair loss is excessive, talk to a doc. When it's accompanied by other symptoms, hair loss after pregnancy could be a sign of postpartum thyroiditis.

I have to say, as I lose my hair by the pound, I feel a strange solidarity with all the other women out there also shedding their hair: other new moms, chemo patients, women saying yes to regrettable post-breakup haircuts…and of course, female pattern baldness – something my pal Google informs me happens to up to 2/3 of women after menopause. (Now that’s a taboo topic we should tackle next!)

In these divisive times, I find myself clutching tightly to my uniquely female experiences that connect me to other women. And as annoying as it is to have to snake my drain once a week, I’m passing through a cycle that’s been part of the female experience for a long time.

Shedding is part of life. We lose hair. Most of the time it grows back. We release the old so we can make room for the new. And maybe, if I’m lucky, this fresh batch of locks will grow in grey.

~* Have you had your hair go bare? Did it grow back? *~

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