Pregnancy, Thin Hair & Hair Loss

Long and stringy thin hair
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Q: I have developed VERY THIN, stringy hair since child #3 was born 10 months ago. Now, come to think of it, really only in the last 5-6 months. Anyway, I am breastfeeding and I take a multivitamin (prenatal) still daily. Do you think that's why? After the other 2 children I noticed some hair loss but it seems as though it had rebounded by this point. I nursed them too, but not this long.
A: You've experienced hair loss before after pregnancy, so you know that it can happen. However, every pregnancy is different, and a woman's body chemistry can change and may not respond the same way each time, even under the same circumstances.
What you are experiencing is most likely post-partum hair loss. There are three stages in the life cycle of the hair. And these cycles can be on different timelines for each individual hair. Roughly 85-95% of your hair is in the growth phase at any given time. The remaining hairs are in either the resting phase or shedding phase.
When a woman is pregnant and even for a period of time afterward, the estrogen levels are elevated. This causes the growth phase to be prolonged. When the estrogen in the body returns to its pre-pregnancy levels, the hairs that should have shifted into a resting or shedding phase will make their transitions. This results in an increased number of hairs being shed at once.
Such hormonal changes can also cause some of the hairs to change from their growth phase before their normal time, which can further increase the loss of hair. The increase in the amount of hair you've lost after this pregnancy may simply be a matter of timing (more of the hairs being slated to transition during the period of elevated estrogen) or a greater response to the drop in estrogen after the birth of the child.
Breastfeeding can be a factor in this, because of the fact that breastfeeding causes a reduction in the level of estrogen in the mother. While studies have shown that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial for babies, and also for nursing mothers (reducing the risks of cancers, preventing the likelihood of post-partum depression, increasing the amount of post-partum weight-loss, etc.) it can inadvertently lead to increased amounts of post-partum hair loss.
Once you've decided to stop breastfeeding and your body's hormones return to their normal levels, you should see a gradual return to your hair's normal density. If you are concerned that there may be something more serious going on, talk to your doctor.
See also:
Hair loss
Hair and pregnancy
The 3 hair growth phases