Breast feeding and post-partum hair shedding

Women who breast feed experience less shedding at month 4 post partum

Many women notice that during pregnancy their hair is fuller and by the third month post-partum they are shedding more and more hair every day. This is a normal physiological process that is experienced to some degree by nearly all women.

The hormonal changes in pregnancy, especially the changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone seem to support the growth of hair and limit the shedding of hair. Normally about 10 % of hairs in the human scalp are preparing to shed within the next month or two. During pregnancy, this number drops markedly to just a few percent. The result of having less hair falling out and more hair growing in the scalp is thicker hair.

Despite the 353,000 mothers that give birth every day, there is actually little research about post-partum telogen effluvium. In 2014, Gizlent and colleagues performed a study involving 116 women. 28 women were in the 24th week of pregnancy, 30 pregnant women were at term gestation, 29 women were in the 4th post-partum month, and 29 in the first post-partum year. The number of breastfeeding mothers in the post-partum period and the month in which they were examined were also recorded. The researchers evaluated the ratios of growing hairs (anagen hairs) and telogen hairs using a Trichoscan instrument.


The authors found that the mean anagen rate in the 4th post-partum month was significantly lower than that in the 6th and 9th month of pregnancy. The average telogen rate was significantly higher. Interestingly, women who breastfed had a mean anagen rate in the 4th post-partum month that was significantly higher than that in women who did not breast feed. The mean telogen rate was significantly lower. By the end of the first year, women who chose to breast feed had similar hair cycle rations as women who did not.


This study was interesting as it suggested that breast feeding was among one of the only known modifiable factors that has the potential to affect the severity of post-partum telogen effluvium.


Gizlenti S, et al. The changes in the hair cycle during gestation and the post-partum period. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2014.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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