The fallout: Dealing with post-partum hair loss
Author and illustrator Zenovia Grant shares her journey of coping with hair loss after pregnancy, plus, expert tips for new mums.
When people think about pregnancy, their thoughts are often centred around the kind of experience it will be. Should they go for a water birth, perhaps? Will their body snap back and how will it affect their finances? Hair loss is never usually at the top of the list.
I’m a mum of four and my first encounter with postpartum hair loss was after the birth of my second child. While I remember the time fondly, it wasn’t the same when it came to my hair. Like most pregnant women I noticed an uptake in the growth, so I didn’t pay attention to the spareness.
It felt wafer thin but what was lacking in volume I was receiving in length. So that’s got to be a win, right? Wrong.
I’ll never claim to be a ‘birth pro,’ however I’ve always been intuitively connected to my body. I can detect changes before they fully manifest, and yet somehow, postpartum hair loss took me to a whole new mama stomping ground.
Two days after giving birth I remember running my hands through my hair and seeing clumps of it coming out in my fingers. I internalised the panic until I noticed my hairline was breaking – badly. That’s when I turned to Dr Google. I searched for answers to questions like: ‘Why is my hair falling out after giving birth? Does hair grow back after childbirth? What are the top tips for faster hair growth?’
Of course I knew at the time that Google wasn’t the beacon for medical advice, but I was desperate for answers - and it didn’t take long for me to find them. I clicked on the first link, which had the description: ‘Postpartum shedding, also known as postpartum hair loss, is caused by the change in hormones after giving birth.’
What the expert says
'Postpartum hair loss affects most women to some degree, but it can be quite alarming for some. Following childbirth a larger number of hairs than normal enter the resting phase, which is followed by hair shedding (and regrowth). New mothers will experience greater than normal hair loss once the resting phase ends. This is temporary and isn’t related to breastfeeding.' - Michael Van Clarke
Losing your crowning glory for the first time
My hair loss made me feel vulnerable, unsexy, insecure and emotional. In a nutshell, I didn’t feel feminine anymore. And everyone was so preoccupied with the newborn that I felt like I didn’t exist, which meant I couldn’t share what I was experiencing with anyone. I started researching ways to revive my hair. Natural products were at the top of the list because I was breast feeding. I started with DIY protein hair treatments mixing argan oil, aloe vera, avocado and egg treatments to strengthen my follicles. I started to cowash every day and leave my hair to dry naturally. I found this to be effective yet despite seeing results after eight weeks I wanted more.
I moved onto washing my hair with rice water. The idea was to try and shock my hair back into a new growth phase. It didn’t work. I needed a solution that would get me out of this rut, so I looked up the big chop (BC) online. The testimonies were intoxicating. Women swore they found the experience liberating and felt a regaining of power. This made sense to me as I felt like my hair was holding my mental state to ransom. I Googled women who were similar in complexion and had my hair type; having 4C hair, I needed to feel certain that my hair pattern could carry the look.
“I am not my hair"
My hair ‘misbehaving’ and not growing as it should made me feel a deep sense of failure. When I finally committed to going through with the BC I felt liberated, especially from those crippling anxious thoughts. I knew that I needed to allow myself time to grow into this renewed sense of self and appreciate the journey.
My advice to anyone going through a similar experience is to keep it simple. Pregnancy is a whirlwind time for any woman so be kind to yourself and your mental state. Your body is going through a lot and you must be prepared for the process. What helped me the most was discovering the community support and wealth of information for natural hair online. Sisters are sharing their stories, which in turn erases the feeling of shame or embarrassment. I’ve come to learn a woman’s true beauty lies in her soul and her journey - and that has nothing to do with the length of her hair.
Feature image by Ismail Hadine.