Your pregnant body
When you're not pregnant, the hairs on your head grow in a regular cycle. Each hair:
- Usually grows about 1/2 inch per month for anywhere from 2 to 6 years
- Then goes into a "resting" phase for 2 or 3 months, in which the hair stops growing
- Then gradually falls out, usually when you're brushing or washing your hair
- The growth cycle then starts again. At any one time, about 10 percent of the hair on your scalp is in a resting phase, and about 90 percent is growing.
The hair on your head may appear thicker while pregnant. This is because higher hormone levels prevent normal hair loss. During pregnancy:
- Your hair tends to stay in the resting phase longer than usual.
- Most hairs are in the resting phase at any one time.
- Fewer hairs fall out each day, causing your hair to seem thicker and fuller.
Once you have your baby, your body will try to return to its prepregnancy shape. This includes your hair. After delivery:
- The resting phase shortens.
- Normal hair loss that was delayed by pregnancy tends to take place all at one time.
- This may cause your hair to seem thinner than usual.
- Hair thinning is usually not serious enough to cause bald spots or permanent hair loss.
- While more hairs fall out, you start to grow new hair.
- Your normal hair growth cycle begins to return.
Other hair growth
Some women also develop more hair on their chin, upper lip, cheeks, arms and legs during pregnancy. You also may notice new hairs (sometimes even just one or two) on your breasts, belly and back.
Hair growth on the face, arms and legs during pregnancy is normal. Pregnancy hormones and increased cortisone cause this type of hair growth during pregnancy. This growth usually lessens within about 6 months after pregnancy. Your hair growth will then return to its regular growth cycle.
What you can do
You can do several things to have a healthier head of hair during pregnancy and after delivery:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These foods may provide protection for the hair shafts and encourage hair growth.
- Be gentle with your hair when it is fragile and wet. Avoid fine-tooth combs.
- Avoid using blow dryers and other heated hair instruments. If you must use a hair dryer, use the cooler settings.
- Avoid pigtails, cornrows, tight braids and tight hair rollers. They can pull and stress your hair.
To get rid of unwanted hair growth:
- Tweeze, wax or shave, which are all safe during pregnancy.
- Avoid using bleaches or depilatories during pregnancy. They can be absorbed into the skin.
- Permanent hair-removal techniques (such as electrolysis) are thought to be safe during pregnancy. But they can be painful or uncomfortable.
When to talk to your health care provider
If you have a lot of hair loss or lose quarter-size patches of hair, you may not be getting enough vitamins or minerals. Losing a lot of hair may also be a sign of a medical problem unrelated to your pregnancy (such as a skin disease or a thyroid disorder). Talk to your health care provider if you feel that your hair loss is unusual or excessive.