Pregnancy brings with it many different side effects, some are fairly well known, while others are less well publicised. One of the lesser known side effects is what pregnancy hormones can do to your hair.
Women tend to feel that their hair is thicker during pregnancy, which is true, although it is not that your head is producing more hair, it is that it is retaining more hair. Typically, we lose around 100 strands of hair per day, and this is completely normal. During pregnancy, higher levels of the hormone oestrogen means that the natural cycle of hair growth and hair fall slows down, results in thicker locks.
Exceptions to the rule
As with any condition and any expected side effects, there are some notable exceptions. During pregnancy, a small number of women can experience the condition ‘telogen effluvium’ which is a disorder of the scalp that results in hair thinning. It can be triggered by increased levels of stress or a sudden shock, but is also experienced by some women in the first trimester of pregnancy due to the different balance of hormones in the body. Thankfully, this condition is often temporary, and hair will grow back eventually.
In severe cases, women can lose all of their hair during pregnancy, like the case of US woman Molly Erdman, whose situation was reported recently in the Huffington Post. Total hair loss during pregnancy is rare, and usually linked to an underlying medical condition – in Molly’s case this was an underactive thyroid gland, a condition known as ‘hypothyroidism’. This means that the thyroid gland is not producing the required levels of hormones it should be.
Seek medical advice
If you concerned about sudden hair loss during pregnancy and are noticing thinning of hair then consult your GP. Other symptoms of this condition include tiredness, weight gain, sensitive to cold and aching muscles – all of which can be hard to separate from ‘normal’ side effects of pregnancy, so don’t worry alone, speak to a doctor.
An underactive thyroid can be treated with daily hormone tablets, and if this has occurred during pregnancy then it typically corrects itself once the pregnancy is complete. In Molly’s case, three months after she had given birth her hair growth had returned to normal and her hair was growing back with even coverage.
Molly’s bravery in facing this condition, and most importantly sharing her story, will help offer reassurance to other women that if they are facing this type of side effect during pregnancy, they are not the first to experience this, and will not be the last either. Most reassuringly, this is most often a temporary condition, which should correct itself in time.