Is Motherhood Making You Bald?
We know that after giving birth, a woman can shed hair faster than a dog in summertime, but does it ever go back to normal?
We all know that in the months after giving birth, a woman can shed hair faster than a dog in summertime. But some women claim that their hair has never gone back to normal. If you’re among them, you might be wondering if motherhood itself is causing you to go bald… or whether the cause is that tight ponytail you’ve been wearing daily now since you no longer have time to do your hair. And how about those trendy cornrows you tried last summer?
“Women should know that there are causes and treatments for hair loss,” says Joyce Davis, M.D., a dermatologist in private practice in NYC. And knowing the cause is crucial to treating it.
Below are some questions you might have about thinning hair—and answers to what you can do about it.
I feel like I never stopped shedding hair after giving birth. Is that normal?
In a word: no. Called telogen effluvium, the shedding that women experience after giving birth “usually resolves in about a year,” says Dr. Dina Strachan, an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Dermatology at New York University and director of Aglow Dermatology in Manhattan. While women “occasionally” suffer from prolonged telogen effluvium, “I would look for another cause,” says Dr. Strachan.
My part seems to be getting wider. If I change my part to the other side, will that fix the problem?
According to Dr. Davis: No. (Sorry.) This is a common sign of genetic hair loss in women, much like a receding hairline or a bald spot on the top of the head is a sign of genetic hair loss for men.
Can wearing a ponytail too often lead to thinning hair?
“When ponytails are too tight, this can lead to traction alopecia,” a term used for thinning that results from aggressive styling, says Dr. Strachan. If the offending style is corrected early, your hair will likely return to normal; but, “if a tight hair style is worn chronically, this can lead to scarring and permanent hair loss,” Dr. Strachan warns.
How to tell if your go-to ponytail style is a problem? If your ponytail is so tight it hurts or you get a headache, that’s a problem, says Dr. Davis. Her advice: “Don’t pull it bone tight, and make sure you use a pony holder that’s coated in fabric.” (That includes most holders sold by common hair accessory brands, like Goody).
What about cornrows? “That’s not a hairstyle that should be maintained,” says Dr. Davis, because it puts pressure on the roots and can lead to permanent scarring. But trying it out a couple of times shouldn’t be a problem.
I haven’t given birth within the year and don’t wear tight ponytails, so why am I thinning… and what can I do about it?
First make sure you’re eating well, advises Dr. Davis: Check that you’re getting enough animal protein (dairy counts!) and vitamin B12, also found naturally in animal sources. If you’re a vegetarian, Dr. Davis highly recommends researching how to get enough of these nutrients in your diet. Dr. Davis also advises taking a daily multivitamin that contains 100% of the recommended amount of key vitamins and minerals, including iron.
You also can try minoxidil (brand name: Rogaine), the only over-the-counter treatment FDA-approved for female-pattern hair loss. Just be sure to grab the 2% formula, since the 5% concentration can sometimes cause excess facial hair (yikes!).
If you do all these things—eat right, take a daily multivitamin, don’t pull your ponytail too tight, and apply monoxidil as directed—and you still experience hair loss, see a board-certified dermatologist sooner rather than later, says Dr. Davis.
“If one waits until it is severe, in some cases it is not reversible,” Dr. Strachan agrees.
Your dermatologist will likely do a whole health workup, since hair loss is often a sign of another physical problem, like anemia or a thyroid disorder, says Dr. Davis.
“Hair production is a low priority for the body,” Dr. Davis explains, so hair loss is often a first sign that something is not right.
Yet another reason to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well as the kids!
More by NJ Family's Real Moms of NJ Blogger, Renée Sagiv Riebling: