We’ve all heard about how we’re supposed to bloom in pregnancy, glowing skin, glossy hair and to be fair, there has to be a perk or two to make up for the swollen ankles, nausea and backache!! In fact for many women, pregnancy is the one time of life when their hair changes to look and feel amazing. Why is this the case and what can you expect from your hair not only during each trimester, but also once your little one has arrived? We spoke to Consultant Trichologist (that’s a hair and scalp specialist to you and me!), Sally-Ann Tarver MIT.FTTS from The Cotswold Trichology Centre & Theradome GB to find out…
First Trimester Hair Changes: grease is the word!!
During the early months of pregnancy, changes happen with your hair and scalp, as well as every other part of your body. You may notice your skin becomes more oily, whilst your hair is more lank and needs more frequent washing. This is due to the increase in the hormone Progesterone. Fear not, as with some of the other unpleasant symptoms you may be suffering, it should subside within a few months. Washing your hair more frequently does not stimulate sebum production; so to manage the problem just shampoo your hair more often with a mild shampoo until it subsides.
Some women report hair shedding in the early stages of pregnancy and are shocked, as normally thicker hair is known to be one of the more pleasant side effects of pregnancy. If you notice you are losing more hair rather than less during the first three months, hormones are the likely culprit again. Any drastic change in hormone levels can cause an increase in hair shedding a couple of months later. This could include the sudden hormonal change associated with pregnancy and if you came off the pill and became pregnant quite quickly this is certain to compound it. Stopping the contraception pill causes an increase in hair shedding around 2-3 months later. There is no treatment for this unfortunately you just have to wait it out.
Second Trimester Hair Changes: things are looking up!
This is where things start to get good and your hair changes for the better! Normally we lose around 50 – 100 hairs a day but during the second trimester, normal loss can drop by up to 75%. This means that there is more hair in the growth phase and less in the resting phase than normal, hence more hair on the head at any one time, which leads to considerably thicker hair. Sebum production begins to normalize also and hair starts to feel like it has more volume. Some of the normal causes of hair loss, such as low iron and stress have less of an impact on your hair than they would without the support from your higher level of hormones.
Third Trimester Hair Changes: simply stunning!
By this point your hair should feel thicker, have more volume and shine. It might be taking longer to dry than normal, as there is more of it. If you colour your hair your regrowth may need attending to slightly sooner than usual due to the increased hair growth rate. Make the most of it, this is the best your hair will ever look.
Hair Colouring During Pregnancy
Contrary to some belief’s, it is safe to colour your hair during pregnancy. However, due to the changes in your body chemistry, you should have a skin patch test 48-72 hours before every colour, even if your hair is foiled, your colour isn’t being changed or you have had your hair coloured very recently. Better to be safe than sorry, hair dye allergy reactions are nasty!
Hair Loss Treatments During Pregnancy
You shouldn’t need to use hair loss treatments during pregnancy as hair generally improves without any help. However, if you were using hair loss lotions, supplements or lasers before pregnancy you may be tempted to continue just in case stopping them has a detrimental effect. Look at the contra-indications on any hair loss treatment or supplement and pregnancy (and breast feeding) is usually there. This is because most hair loss treatments have not been tested on pregnant women and if they are not tested, they cannot be deemed safe to use during pregnancy.
The Postnatal 12 months
You should retain most of the hair that did not fall out during pregnancy for 2-3 months after birth. However, all good things must come to an end and the sudden drop in hormones after labour causes retained hairs to return to their natural cycle. Some women can experience rather acute hair loss at this time, which is part of the process of returning to a normal hair growth cycle. However, if you choose to breast feed your baby, the drop in hormone levels is not quite so acute and the postnatal hair-shedding period occurs slowly over a much longer period of time. Most women don’t really notice changes in their hair until a couple of months after they begin weaning their baby and hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels. The hair that is temporarily lost should start growing back again within 2-4 months.
If you feel after twelve months or so your hair isn’t growing back or it is still falling out, this warrants further investigation. Although sleep deprivation, exhaustion and the major lifestyle changes of having a new baby could certainly have a negative effect on your hair, by 12 months these factors should be considerably less of an issue.
Persistent hair loss after childbirth is often associated with low iron stores. Blood tests aren’t always carried out after birth and the tiredness associated with iron deficiency can easily be attributed to the extreme sleep deprivation and intensity of having a new baby. If your hair loss doesn’t stop within 12 months of having a baby, it would be wise to investigate your ferritin level and ensure you maintain it to an optimum level.
Your Hair After Twelve Months
After around twelve to eighteen months your hair should have returned back to its normal state, particularly if your restored your iron stores to a reasonable level. However, some women find their hair is not the same as it was and seek treatment or specialist advice. Laser therapy can really help as it uses light to increase blood circulation, stimulating dormant follicles and strengthening existing hair growth. There are little known side effects, no pain involved and is one of the most tolerable forms of hair stimulation. Many hair clinics offer laser therapy treatment but the twice weekly visits that are necessary to see a positive improvement are both expensive and inconvenient to family life.
Home use laser hair therapy devices are available in a variety of forms and far more convenient than the clinical equivalent. When looking for a home laser hair therapy machine choose one which is wearable and covers a large area, that has a high number of lasers and does not use LED’s, is rechargeable rather than mains powered so that you can move around and that has some method of parting the hair so that light can penetrate to the scalp. Bear in mind that laser therapy like any treatment takes time and consistency to work but if you choose the right device it shouldn’t take any effort to improve and maintain your hair.