Ask Dr Libby: What can I do about hair loss after pregnancy?

Hair health is intimately related to our levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

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Hair health is intimately related to our levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

I know it’s kind of normal to experience hair loss after pregnancy but I am losing masses of it and I’m starting to get concerned that I’m going to go bald! Do you have any remedies for this? I wasn’t able to breastfeed so I can take anything. Appreciate it, Stacey.

Hi Stacey. You’re right it is common for women to go through a period of hair loss after pregnancy. This is because once we have given birth we experience an enormous change in our sex hormone ratio. Amongst other things, our hair health is intimately related to our levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Pregnancy is the time when a woman has the highest level of circulating progesterone however, once a woman has birthed the placenta, her progesterone level plunges from 400 units to virtually zero. Add to this that adjusting to life with a new baby can be stressful (as well as exciting of course) and a woman’s body can fast become depleted.

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To remedy this, it’s important to promote the restoration of progesterone levels. Given that the majority of progesterone is made from the ovary after ovulation, and that after childbirth, ovulation doesn’t typically begin again immediately, the only other source of progesterone is the adrenal glands. Yet, if the adrenals are relentlessly churning out stress hormones, they won’t make adequate amounts of progesterone.

To ensure this begins to replenish, carve out some time to rest and nourish yourself. Do what you can to prioritise some time for you to sleep undisrupted or take a yoga class (especially a restorative class) or gentle walk on your own. Take a few breathing breaks through the day (while your baby is sleeping for example) to focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Nothing lowers stress levels faster than diaphragmatic breathing.

Herbs such as licorice help the adrenals to be more adaptive to stress and help restore their function. Paeonia helps foster efficient communication between the pituitary and the ovaries to foster regular ovulation and enhance progesterone production. Also promote efficient liver detoxification pathways. Herbs that help include St Mary’s thistle, turmeric, dandelion, gentian and globe artichoke. You can also eat dandelion leaves by tossing them through a salad or add them to smoothies. Broccoli is also a wonderful support for the liver.

Eat real food. Ensure that what you eat is rich in plants, not only to make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs for great hair health, but also because plant foods contain substances unique to each plant that help liver detoxification, immune function and substances that help to decrease inflammation. Have your zinc and iron levels tested by your GP, as they are both needed for healthy hair follicles. Food sources of zinc include oysters, red meat and seeds. Food sources of iron include red meat, eggs, green veges and dates. Iron deficiency is a particularly common cause of hair loss in all women.

Also, promote good digestion, particularly the gut bacteria. They can create or lower inflammation and every other body system relies on the optimal functioning of the gut. Make sure you chew your food really well (remember your oesophagus doesn’t have teeth!) and having either a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or the juice of half a lemon in some water helps to promote stomach acid production and therefore also supports good digestion.

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