Here's some good news. You're not! And there are things you can do to help slow down the loss and even disguise it so it doesn't look so bad. But lets first talk about what post-partum hair loss is and why it happens.
During pregnancy your hormones go haywire. One hormone in particular, estrogen, can be found in its highest levels during pregnancy. Estrogen is responsible for a number of things but during pregnancy one of the effects it has is to prolong the growth cycle of hair. According to Babycenter.com 'Normally, 85 to 95 percent of the hair on your head is growing and the other 5 to 15 percent is in a resting stage. After the resting period, this hair naturally falls out (often while you're brushing or shampooing your hair) and is replaced by new growth.'. During pregnancy that 85-95% of your hair has an extended growth period, thus greatly reducing the amount of hair falling out at any given time. It would be wonderful if this kept up after deliver but the fact of the matter is that that majority of women see some sort of hair loss beginning around 3 months after delivery. This is because it takes a while for your hormones to get back to normal, and if you're breastfeeding it can take even longer for the hair loss to begin. Mine didn't start till Elsa was about 6 months old, even though I didn't stop breastfeeding till she was 9 months. Why does the hair loss happen so rapidly? That's an easy question to answer. Once your estrogen levels drop, and they can drop pretty dramatically after delivery, your hair resumes its usual growth cycle and those hairs that were living on borrowed estrogen time suddenly realize that they were supposed to have fallen out months ago. The follicle then shrivels and dies, allowing the hair to fall out of the scalp.
In some cases, though this is relatively uncommon, the hair loss is excessive and may fall out in large sections leaving bald spots or areas of extreme thinness. This may be indicative of a post-partum induced hypothyroidism, a condition requiring medical help to treat or reverse, or possibly a scalp infection such as ringworm which young children and post-partum women are particularly susceptible to. If the hair loss is concentrated mostly on the crown of the head this could be a sign of an upswing in testosterone production and requires hormone therapy. But the majority of PP hair loss is just regular, good old fashioned post-pregnancy crap that we women have to deal with on top of all of the other things we have to learn to handle as a parent and a mother.
So what can you do to make the loss less noticeable or even slow it down?
The information on this contradicts a bit so you may want to experiment and find out what works best for you, or visit your local salon to get some professional tips on what you can do to make it less noticeable. But here are the tips I found that sounded like they would be of benefit, as well as some of the things I used myself.
Use a gentle, volumizing shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair looking fuller longer to help minimize the appearance of hair loss. If your hair is naturally curly or wavy now may be the time to try to rock a more natural look as the curls will help disguise hair loss that would otherwise be quite noticeable with a straight style. If your hair is naturally straight you might try using velcro rollers to give your hair a non-chemical boost... be warned though, velcro rollers are not particularly effective with long hair. This goes for most other volume treatments. Long hair is heavy and will weigh down the root, so you may also want to consider cutting off a couple inches to give your hair more bounce.
Avoid wearing your hair up in a tight style. The extra tension on the hair shaft and root can cause the dying hair to pull out of the scalp sooner. So whenever possible wear your hair down, or in a loose bun. Try using clips or headbands to keep your hair out of your face instead of a hair tie. And ALWAYS avoid using rubber bands or rubber coated hair ties, these tend to cause breakage and can pull hair out when you pull the tie out of your hair. Also, let the hair air dry when possible and avoid heat treating it. The constriction and relaxation of the scalp when it is heated and cooled can allow hairs to fall out that may have held on for a couple more days. This was what I found to be most helpful for myself. It saves you time and money too. I mean, seriously, what new mother has time to do her hair anyway?
You can also use volumizing mousse or other similar products to give your hair more oomph. These products also have the added benefit of literally gluing the hair in its follicle. This wont keep the hair there forever, but it will help cut down on loss during the day, though you may see more hairs in your shower when you do this.
You may also want to change the way you part your hair. If the hair loss is most noticeable around the hair line then try parting from the side, rather than the middle. This may also be a great time to try out those sexy side swept bangs you've been fantasizing about! Also, as mentioned above, this might be a time to consider a hair cut. If your hair is particularly long it can give a flat and weighted look to your roots, which will only accentuate your thinning hair line. If you're not entirely opposed to shorter styles you may want to consider chopping off a few inches to take some weight off your roots. Also, shorter hairs are less conspicuous when they fall out, as where a 10 inch hair would almost certainly be seen. Not to mention the fact that if the hair is long it may look like you're losing more hair than you really are when you brush or wash.
When brushing your hair use a wide toothed comb or a brush that has a large head with pins that are widely spaced. To avoid tangles that can pull out more hair, use a detangling spray or leave in conditioner when combing through damp hair after your shower. Avoid brushing or running your fingers through your hair as much as possible to cut down on day time losses, and avoid brushing hair when wet unless you're using a wide toothed comb. Hair stretches more when wet, and this stretching causes tension on the root as well as creating weak spots in the hair that leads to breakage later on.
Be sure to use a gentle shampoo and a moisturizing conditioner, and rinse the hair with cool water. Harsh shampoos can cause more hair to fall out, so if you must use a harsh shampoo try to use it less frequently. In fact, try to shampoo your hair less regardless of how gentle your shampoo is. The massage your give your scalp when you lather up can coax hairs out of the follicle that may have had a few more days left on them. As far as conditioning goes, be sure to use a moisture rich formula. Moisture rich formulas help infuse the hair with protein and nutrients that are vital to healthy hair. Healthy hair is shiny hair, and shiny hair looks fuller, even if it isn't. Rinsing your hair out with cool water will cause your scalp the constrict which may help your head hold on to a few more hairs a little longer.
Some sites I've looked at suggest avoiding color treatments, as this can weaken your hair and cause further hair loss. However, others recommended getting highlights around your face to help camouflage your thinning hair line, especially if your hair is dark. Hair loss in dark haired women is much more noticeable than hair loss in women with lighter shades. If your hair is looking rather dull and you want to pep things up a bit without dying it you can try a glossing treatment. Glossy hair looks more plump and can help reduce the appearance of thinning hair.
Diet and Vitamins
You should eat well and take vitamins regardless of what is going on in your life but eating healthy and continuing your prenatal vitamins will help ensure that what hair doesn't fall out is as healthy as it can be, as well as prevent any hair loss that might occur due to post-partum malnutrition. PP malnutrition is not tremendously common but if you had a poor diet before getting pregnant, continued a poor diet during your pregnancy, and are still eating a poor diet now that your little one is out, you may well experience increased hair loss due to poor nutrition. Poor nutrition leads to dry, dull, and lifeless hair... which will only make your hair look more pitiful as it thins. So be sure you're getting proper nutrition, especially if you're breastfeeding. This is just as important for having a healthy body and baby as it is to healthy hair. As I've already mentioned, healthy hair is shiny hair, and shiny hair looks fuller, even if it isn't.
This one might be hard to achieve, but you've got to cut down on the stress. Stress can cause hair loss all by itself, even if you aren't in the post partum months. Cut down on stress by mixing things up or cutting a few things out. This might mean changes in routine, getting on an anti-anxiety or anti-depression med, or making some changes in your diet.
Start exercising or doing yoga. The increased blood flow is important to healthy skin, and if your skin is healthy chances are your hair is healthy too. After all your skin is the soil your hair is planted in. If the soil is poor the plants will be too.
Depression or excess anxiety can cause you to lose more hair, or the hair loss can cause you to stress more which causes increased hair loss... its a vicious cycle. So if you're concerned that this may be the case with you be sure to talk to your doctor about it.
And just like I mentioned in the previous section your diet can impact hair loss. But it has a much greater impact on your stress level. If your diet is high in refined sugar and caffeine chances are you're a much more high strung individual... not to mention the fact that sugar and caffeine, and many of the other things that come in foods that are high in those two things, are actually toxic to the body and impairs the body's ability to handle stress. As much as you might want that cup of coffee to get your day going it, just remember that its going to make you crabby later on, so opt for something a little more nutritious like a homemade fruit smoothie with eggs and toast or a whole grain cereal! You might still wish you had drank the coffee but after you get past the caffeine withdrawals you'll thank yourself for doing it, and so will your waist and hairline.
Will Those Hairs Grow Back?
Yes. You're only losing so much hair right now because you're finally losing all the hair that should have fallen out over your 9 months of pregnancy and however many post-partum months it took for your estrogen to come down. That hair will eventually start to grow back in... and this can be just as annoying as when it fell out. For a while you will have a 'halo' of baby hairs, which can have the effect of giving you an angelic look when you're back lit, but can make you look like you just walked out of a static machine the rest of the time. And believe it or not, many of the same styling tips for hair loss work to keep the baby hair frizzies at bay! Hair loss and its eventual regrowth is the main reason, that no one ever seems to talk about, that new moms choose to go with a short, high volume hair cut. Its not just ease of care and styling that moms are going for!