New mum, new hair? Or new mum, no hair?
When I was pregnant with my daughter Sunny, it was the best and worst of times in many ways. In this post, I’ll talk about one challenging part – postpartum hair loss. What may have caused it, how it affected this self-proclaimed ‘proud baldie’…and what I’ve done about it.
Most of my pregnancy was amazing. I was so excited to be a mother for the first time. I felt beautiful, even – dare I say it – sexy, in my growing body. I felt healthy and strong. (Well, I did after the first trimester. That was like a really bad hangover, when I felt both ravenous and nauseous…All. The. Time.)
I knew how important it was to stay healthy for this growing mini-me. But I also knew I shouldn’t stress about any strict diets – so I threw myself off the AIP diet wagon I’d previously glued myself to, in the hopes that my hair would grow back.
Instead, I surrendered to whatever gluten or dairy cravings took hold. With this liberation, the mental chatter eased and the headaches I’d been experiencing daily for three years vanished, too. I’ve never enjoyed croissants more!
In my second trimester, I did my prenatal yoga teacher training and began teaching classes in my local community. To ward off stiffness and pains, I kept up my own practice nearly every day…which meant, strangely enough, I was in better shape with a giant bump attached to me than I’d ever been before. Birth dancing kept my heart pumping and my mood joyful. In fact, with all those new pregnancy hormones, Andy and I joked that I’d never been more balanced, and maybe I should just stay pregnant forever!
On the hair front, my tiny mohawk thickened into a mullet. It still didn’t fill in at the sides or grow at Rapunzel speeds, as I may have naively assumed. But when I began using Vegamour’s products, its condition improved fairly dramatically – so I had a mass of glossy, nourished curls to pin back rather than the frazzled strands of pre-pregnancy. I was so proud!
Unfortunately, I had less success with my eyebrows. Because my right one, which had become a little Gweneth Paltry over the years, continued its descent into nothingness until, by my third trimester, I hadn’t a hint left. (I was more like Ruby Waxed.)
The Curious Case of My Missing Eyebrow didn’t bother me that much, though. I had bigger fish to fry (ie, babies to grow). And those happy hormones I mentioned kept whatever hair-based anxieties I may have had at bay. So I watched my eyebrow disappear into nothingness as I grew ever more excited about the birth…
…Which I can only label as ‘traumatic’, to say the very least. Giving birth in super-strict lockdown in Vietnam, when I needed special letters from my embassy to get me through checkpoints before getting stuck in a hospital I didn’t trust but couldn’t leave…it was more challenging than I could ever have imagined. Luckily, my baby girl Sunny was born healthy and is now thriving – and Andy (Mr Alopecia) is the best co-parent I could ask for.
But still. Trauma is trauma. A positive ‘end result’ doesn’t take that away; instead it can manifest in all kinds of physical and mental ailments. Which I was about to find out.
I was thrilled to get home from that hospital. Excited to begin my ‘incubation period’, as is custom here. In Vietnam, new mothers typically don’t leave the house with the baby for up to a month; in many cases, it’s three. So I welcomed the chance to hibernate and get to know this little human, especially after such a difficult birth. I needed a chance to heal, physically and mentally…and that’s what I did over the coming weeks.
Although I started to feel much better in myself, and as a mother, my hair had other ideas. The thick, strong locks which had grown in my second trimester quickly began to thin. Then I noticed a small bald spot right on my crown. And then…the handfuls of hair again. It had been so long since I’d experienced sudden hair loss, I’d almost forgotten how scary it is. But there was no denying it, now – whenever I showered, chunks of my remaining hair would remain on my hands. My pillow was littered with the stuff. All too soon, that little patch grew to cover the entire top of my head.
LA Says: I know now that postpartum hair loss is extremely common, especially in the first two to six months after birth. (While typically we might shed up to 100 strands a day, mums can experience up to 400 strands lost in the weeks and months after having a baby.) And I know that hormones play a massive part in it, as all that lovely progesterone and estrogen, which skyrocket during pregnancy, start to level out again But I’m also very aware that the trauma surrounding my birth caused a huge amount of stress and anxiety, which surely made my hair loss far worse.
Just like regular alopecia, there are plenty of triggers and causes behind postpartum alopecia. And I’d drive myself mad trying to pinpoint exactly what’s behind my own recent hair loss. I can only look at where I am now: at a point when Sunny’s old enough to grab at and pull things. It brings her so much joy, but she’s left with strands strewn across her face or clutched in her fists. (Now there’s a worry I hadn’t anticipated about motherhood – how to stop your newborn wrapping the hair you’ve shed around her fingers in case it cuts off circulation?! Hmm.)
To be honest, my physical appearance was of zero concern to me in the first few months after birth. I was so absorbed in my baby, so excited about being with her, I didn’t care about the shedding. But now that she’s nine months old and I’m out and about in the ‘real world’, I must admit that it has gotten to me. Alopecia has started taking over, again.
Why does hair loss feel so much harder to deal with this time around? I’d gotten used to my look as Lady Alopecia – I actually quite liked it! The mohawk gave me an edge, made me appear more confident than I actually was. Fake it til you make it, right?!
I guess this time I can’t pretend it’s a style choice; my new bald spot ate my mohawk right up. It also revealed a very big bump on my head, which I haven’t had exposed since shaving my head all those years ago. Plus the fact that my eyebrow is gone, too – so even when I wear headscarves I imagine people’s unvoiced questions. It feels like I’m a new alopecian, as well as a new mum. If I’m really honest, it’s a lot to handle.
This site has always been about empowering people. To help them live happily, with or without hair. And I’ll be honest, you guys – it’s tough for me to feel that way right now. Maybe it’s because I’m at the in-between stage, watching my hair fall out more, wondering if it’ll come back… I’m tempted to just shave it off again and get the liberation I felt the first time around (bumpy egghead, be damned!) At the same time, I’m cautiously optimistic that if I keep using Vegamour, it’ll work its magic, or maybe my hair will just return all by itself once it moves onto the next phase of the growth cycle.
In the meantime, I take comfort in the fact that I’ve been through this before. I can do it again. And becoming a mother has shown me a whole new level of strength – surely, I can handle whatever arises, or whatever else falls out?!
Finally, I remind myself that everything is temporary. We’re constantly changing. This is the stage my baby’s at now, this is the stage my hair (or lack of) is at, too. Maybe I won’t enjoy every moment, but each of those moments is an opportunity to learn, and to grow. And for that, I’m very grateful.
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!
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