Your hair grows in a cycle. Ninety percent of your hair is growing at any given time, and the other 10 percent is resting. After the resting period, the hair usually falls out and is replaced by new strands. Pregnant women typically enjoy thicker hair when they are pregnant because this growth cycle pauses at the resting period, resulting in more retained hair. Sometimes, however, women lose hair during pregnancy. This hair loss can occur for a variety of reasons.
During pregnancy, your nutritional needs change to accommodate your growing baby. Many pregnant women experience anemia because their need for iron to help their growing blood supply outpaces their consumption. Inadequate intake of iron can lead to hair loss, according to MayoClinic.com. In addition, not eating enough protein can cause hair loss, as can insufficient intake of some vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, taking in too much of some vitamins, such as the retinol form of vitamin A, also can result in hair loss.
Some illnesses cause hair loss. These include diabetes, including gestational diabetes, and ringworm, which is a fungal infection that can appear anywhere on the skin. Some medications can cause hair loss, such as certain drugs to treat high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. If you suspect that an illness or a medication is causing your hair loss, consult your obstetrician as soon as possible because the illness or medicine also may be harmful for your baby.
Your hair loss may be caused by the normal hormonal changes you are experiencing as a result of your pregnancy. Any time the body experiences a dramatic hormonal change, your normal hair growth cycle can halt or become disorganized, resulting in telogen effluvium, or the excessive shedding of hair. Telogen effluvium also can be caused by the dramatic emotional changes associated with your pregnancy. This condition usually corrects itself within two to three months without intervention.
What to Do
Hair loss is not a medical emergency, but its underlying cause, such as a nutritional deficiency or an illness, can be serious for both you and your infant. As a result, consult your obstetrician if you notice that you are shedding excessive amounts of hair. In the meantime, avoid over-brushing your hair or putting it into tight hairstyles, such as a tight ponytail, that can cause your hair to break.
Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.