Female Hair Loss, Postpartum Hair Loss.
Part 2…a couple years in…
Shortly after Ben and I married we both knew we wanted to have kids pretty quick. We didn’t want there to be a huge age gap between Dom and his siblings. So we thought about starting to grow our family. Almost a year and a half after we were married, we were pregnant. Here is the thing about pregnancy, especially the first time around, you research the crap out of everything and every little step. At least I did!
I was obsessed with wanting to know everything about this tiny bean growing inside of me. I wanted to know all about his development but also about all the changes I was about to go through. So as I read through countless websites, blogs and books, you can imagine my delight when I read how amazing my hair was going to apparently be while pregnant.
Did you know that the changes in your hormones while pregnant will cause your hair to grow longer and to shed less? That’s right. Thicker, fuller, shiny hair! I AM IN! At this point in my hair loss story, I still didn’t really understand why my hair was so thin or fine. I hadn’t done much research. I was just dealing with it aesthetically as best as I could and living my life. So when I got pregnant I was super excited, for the first time in 7 years I had a chance at growing great hair. And IT was. My hair was at it’s best ever when I was pregnant with my boys. My hair was full, thick, shiny and healthy.
7 months pregnant with Anthony – GREAT HAIR DAY!
4 Months pregnant with Stefano
The reason for my great mane was that my hair was sitting in a longer resting phase. This was huge for me. You will learn why a little later. I was no longer losing as much hair as I normally would. Over those nine months, my hair continued to look fabulous and with all the joy that comes with having a baby, I was the happiest and most confident I had been in a long time. I LOVED being pregnant the first time and the second.
Then it happened. Just as you do when you find out you are pregnant, I was researching everything that would happen to me after baby arrived. Site after site, blog after blog…I was now going to lose my fabulous hair and a lot of it.
I was going to lose my hair and it was going to be awful. All I kept reading on threads and forums were these women posting about how when they were done breastfeeding their hair started to fall out. I didn’t want to believe it. I tried my best to avoid it. I breastfed as long as I could and I took as many vitamins as possible. Nothing helped. Sure enough, my day came. The first time around, the shed was gradual but significant. So much so that I wore hats out whenever possible or didn’t go out at all.
my widening part 2009
About 8 months after Anthony was born I decided to see my doctor about my hair. This would be the first time I go to him to talk about my hair loss. He didn’t seem concerned. He shrugged it off, said all women go through this after they have a baby and that it was normal and it would grow back. I wanted to believe him, I really like my doctor, but I knew he was wrong. This was not coming back. I just had a gut feeling about it. So I left, went home and cuddled my baby boy. Several weeks later, after a long shower and tons of shedding, I called my doctors office and scheduled another visit. I had read on a hair loss group I was following that women with low level of iron stores sometimes suffer hair loss. Also checking their testosterone and thyroid can indicate something related to the hair loss.
This time I went in prepared. I asked to get my testosterone levels, iron and thyroid tested. A couple days later I got the call to come in. I knew it! there was something wrong! When I sat in his chair he said everything looked good except my iron stores were very very low and that this could be the reason for my hair loss. IT was something! I was put on a dosage of iron supplements and was told to wait 2-3 months before any improvements or changes. After three months I got my iron stores tested again. They went up. They were in the healthy range. But my hair had not changed.
2010 The top of my head after a shed
I was devastated. My hair was at it’s thinnest. I talked to my hairdresser about options and all he could tell me was to be gentle with my hair, my hair coloring and to try using Nioxin. ugh. Sure….I’ll try it…I remember saying, to be honest, I would have tried anything. Nioxin is a hair care system for thinning hair, it’s expensive when you buy the whole kit and caboodle. At the time, I was not so educated on hair loss and was convinced that there had to be something I could use that would grow my hair back. If it said it could do that, I believed it. So here I was spending tons of money on hair products, serums, leave-in treatments, scalp treatments, scalp massagers…ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Months and months passed and nothing really changed. My hair was pretty much exactly the same.
So I went to the experts! All I wanted was my scalp not to show when I was standing in the sunlight. That’s all. So I looked into the options of a hair transplant. Oh yes, I did! I was going to do whatever it took to remedy this situation. It was that bad. I did a very good job of coloring my hair, blow drying it daily, using powders and synthetic hair fibers to create the illusion of normal hair…it was exhausting. I cried a lot and I always wondered if someone could tell. So off to a hair restoration clinic I went. Straight to the pros. I was so excited. I figured…no matter what the cost, I am going to just do this. They will be able to help and my hair problems will be solved forever. Except it wasn’t. Turns out, this was probably one of the lowest points in my whole story.
I went from being on cloud nine when I walked into that clinic to wanting to crawl under a rock and never wanting to come out again. When I walked into the office and sat down, I shared my whole story with the doctor. He sat and listened and looked over all the information I had gathered for him. He then performed a test with a special camera and had a very good closeup look of my hair follicles and scalp. He sat back down and broke my heart. I wasn’t a candidate. My donor hairs and the section weren’t good enough. I had what he referred to as diffused female pattern baldness the cause CTE. What I was seeing on the top of my head, essentially was everywhere. My hair is very thin, fine and he strongly believed it was genetic. Deep down inside I knew he was right. Both my parents have great hair…but many of my other family members did not. My little cousin was also losing her hair and wearing a hairpiece, my grandparents had fine thinning hair as early as their thirties and my closest girl cousin suffered a similar fate to mine.
Chronic Telogen Effluvium. Those three words were my diagnosis. CTE. For a long time after this visit. I didn’t believe him. That was nine years ago. He was right. Chronic Telogen Effluvium is defined as this on the Canadian Hair Loss Foundation:
CTE is one of a group of disorders known as “hair shedding” conditions
Individuals with CTE notice increased daily hair shedding.
The amount of hair loss varies from day-to-day. On some days, over 300 hairs may be lost, whereas, on other days, 40-50 hairs will be lost.
Individuals will report excessive hair in their brush, hair falling on clothes, clogged shower drains and plugged vacuums.
In addition to the above, Telogen Effluvium happens in waves. You go through months of shedding periods (3-4 and sometimes up to 6) and then it just stops. The next cycle…you don’t know when it will happen. It’s honestly the worst. Just when you think your hair is looking amazing, and is full and long, the shed starts and it’s bad. really really bad.
I left the clinic defeated. He offered me the option to try Rogaine. ROGAINE?! Was this really happening to me? I was 29 and too young to be dealing with hair loss. It wasn’t fair. I looked into Rogaine and there was no way, no chance, I was putting those chemicals on my head.
So I went on with my life. I became obsessed and examined everyone’s hair around me. As they would sit there across for me, I would wander into a daze trying to see if their hair resembled mine. Did they have thin hair too? were they suffering in silence? I just wanted to find someone that was going through the same thing.
When we got pregnant again I was so happy. Happy to be pregnant of course! and when I was pregnant that meant that the shedding phase would stop altogether! I reveled in the nine months of good hair. After Stefano was born I was determined to get the breastfeeding thing under control and to breastfeed as long as I could so I could hold onto my hair just a little longer. However as life would have it, Stefano was severely allergic to dairy at just 3 days old and I had to switch him onto a special formula. I figured that once my hormones caught on, my hair would fall out immediately….but that didn’t happen. 2…3…4…5 months went by and my hair didn’t shed. I was convinced that the pregnancy reversed my CTE. convinced.
June 2012. We were staying at our condo in Phoenix, Arizona. The boys were getting ready to head out for dinner and I had just jumped out of the shower. This day still haunts me. I noticed during my shower that my hair was shedding a bit, but nothing excessive. They said 100 hairs a day was normal. As I got dressed, the sunset pouring through the windows, I put on some makeup and started to blow dry my hair. Beautiful day…you know when you look into a beam of sunlight and you can see the tiniest dust particles floating around….ya, beautiful. Everything seems to stop in time in those moments. So still and slow and warm. I can still see that moment, feel it. I remember brushing my hair out and slowly drying my hair, trying my hardest to be gentle…and looking into the beam of light. Suddenly all I could see were hairs; long, shiny strands of blond hair floating around gracefully like feathers. I stopped my dryer. Looked down and there it was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 months of beautiful hair falling out. It was as if my body said, ok it’s time. Fall. and it did. I froze.
Ben came rushing through the door when he heard me crying. I had gathered all the hair. I know, gross. My brush was also full. He picked it up and flushed it. He knew. He understood. He told me to get through this trip and that when we got back home we would look at other available options for my hair. His reassurance once again gave me the strength and hope I needed to get up, throw on a hat and be me. Hair or no hair. This was the start of when my hair story turned around. I no longer was going to hide, be shy about it or embarrassed. My hair didn’t define me and I wasn’t going to let it get the best of me. I knew what I needed to do…and I was excited to get home and start on my new journey to a healthy relationship with my head of hair.
To be continued…
Till the next post,