Beauty Hair I’m Losing My Hair After Giving Birth — and I’m Learning To Accept It As a Black woman, my hair and the level of love and care I pour into it is an integral part of my existence. New motherhood challenged that in ways I never expected. By Shanetta McDonald Published on February 15, 2023 @ 08:30AM Pin Share Tweet Email Photo: Courtesy of Spencer Dryden Four months after giving birth to my daughter, my hair began to fall out. The painful day it started is forever etched into my mind. In an effort to feel somewhat normal after staying home day in and day out and learning how to care for an infant, I decided to meet a friend for lunch. The anxiety that comes from packing a diaper bag, scheduling feedings and working around naps for a newborn can be crippling. So, when I returned home, I commended myself for completing what seemed like such an arduous postpartum task. But everything shifted once I received a post-lunch text from the friend. She reached out to say thank you and also sent photos she took of me earlier. I was in shock. Staring back at me were photos showing my balding and nearly nonexistent hairline. Being pregnant was the most incredible experience of my life. While I dreaded some of the side effects that came along with it — like nausea, heartburn, and bladder pressure from my growing baby girl — I also looked forward to some of the more joyful parts, including having noticeably thicker and longer hair. It was the healthiest it had ever been. I wasn’t alone in celebrating that; I lost count of the number of times I was asked, “Has your hair grown longer since you’ve been pregnant?” What those same well-meaning people failed to disclose was that whatever growth I gained during pregnancy, I’d lose (and then some) postpartum. Courtesy The American Academy of Dermatology Association says it's common for moms to see noticeable hair loss after having a baby. The condition is referred to as excessive hair shedding and is not true hair loss. “Postpartum hair loss is a self-limited diffuse shedding of hair that occurs roughly two to four months post pregnancy and childbirth resulting in thin hair,” says Dr. Adeline Kikam, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Brown Skin Derm and Skinclusive Dermatology. “During pregnancy, the hair stays in the development or transitional stage. Around three months following delivery, with the shifts in hormones, the hair cycles through to the shedding stage, where hair loss is observed.” As a woman and specifically a Black woman, my hair and the level of love and care I pour into it is an integral part of my existence and how I show up in the world. But my journey of learning to embrace and accept my hair in its natural state hasn’t been straightforward. From my earliest childhood memories, I was subjected to the use of a hair relaxer at the hands of my mother, who was simply passing down the hair-straightening rite of passage she endured as a young girl. Unknowingly, the hour-long, bi-monthly ritual marked the beginning of my preference of European hair standards and a strong buy-in for the perceived “manageability” that having relaxed hair offered. Years later, my perspective shifted after I did the big chop following a bad dye job that wreaked havoc on my chemically relaxed hair. It was before the natural hair movement and I was left to not only figure out how to take care of and style my 4B/4C coily hair, but also how to like — and eventually love — my new look and accept how I was perceived by others. Staring at photos of my disappearing edges post-pregnancy, it became apparent that my hair meant so much more to me. Already plagued with the emotional rollercoaster of fluctuating hormones, I was now distraught. I was angry that my postpartum symptoms seemed to never end. I felt shame for being naive and not knowing about hair-shedding after giving birth. Losing my hair left me feeling afraid and alone (among other isolating aspects of postpartum, but that’s another story). I was one of many new parents who’ve endured this hair-loss process. “It’s important for women to know that this is one of the bodily changes that they are going to experience several months after delivering their baby,” says Dr. Nada Elbuluk, MD, MSc, associate professor of dermatology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “There’s nothing that can be done to prevent the process of postpartum hair shedding. Eventually the hair will return to its baseline.” Courtesy of Matt Eaton As much as I wanted to find a solution for my hair loss, I knew that spending hours searching Google for quick fixes was useless and simply a way for me to ignore my discomfort. I remembered that my hair shedding was temporary and while I couldn’t see it ending any time soon, I had hope that it would. (Though, Dr. Elbuluk notes that a lack of regrowth after one year can signal a more serious problem.) So, I made the decision to just let go and go with the flow. I sought to discover compassion for myself during this transition. Throughout life, my hair journey has coincided with my journey to loving myself. Months later, my hair still hasn’t returned to its baseline and I’m not sitting around waiting for it to happen. The way I see it, I have two choices: I can choose to focus on what I’ve lost — temporarily my hair, some self-confidence, and maybe validation from the outside world. Or, I can lean into what I’ve gained: a beautiful daughter who I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m choosing to have gratitude for my body and what it’s been through, as well as radical self-acceptance for who I am and who I’m becoming — no matter what my hair looks like.