Hair is one of the most precious assets for a lady. It defines one’s vanity and adds a special charm towards their natural beauty. Though women take care of their hair all of their life but during pregnancy special care is needed as hormonal changes that occur, result in alteration of hair cycle.
Some pregnant women experience changes in hair growth, hair becoming thick and lustrous during pregnancy. That may be deemed as accurate for some women, thanks to the elevated levels of the hormone estrogen, which decelerate hair shedding. Other expecting mothers, however, experience thinning hair or hair loss either during pregnancy or in the months immediately following birth.
To understand about hair care and how to take care of hair during pregnancy, we first need to understand the hair cycle itself.
Hair grows from the roots, underneath the skin known as follicles. Hairs get their food from blood vessels at the follicle base, which gives them the nourishment they need, to grow. Between the growing stages to the hair falling out years later, each hair undergoes four stages: Anagen phase, Catagen phase, Telogen phase and Exogen phase. Every hair at any given time can be at any of these stages in their lifetime.
- Anagen Phase– Also called as the growing phase, it lasts 2-6 years and determines the hair length. The cell division occurs rapidly, the older dead cells get keratinized when they are pushed outside the hair bulb and little baby hairs start to grow from the follicles. On an average each hair grows by half an inch every month. At any given time 80% of hair follicles tend to be in growth phase.
- Catagen Phase-Catagen is referred to as the resting phase or transitional phase. This transitional stage lasts for about 7-10 days. At this stage the hair follicles experience shrinkage. However, they do not fall out and stand firmly for quite some time. At any time an average of 1-2% of hair can be in resting or Catagen phase.
- Telogen Phase-This phase is known as the resting phase. 10-20% of the hairs tend to be in this phase. While the old hair is in resting phase, a new hair may begin its journey towards the growth phase. Once the old hairs again fall out, the hair follicles re-enter the Anagen or the growth phase.
- Exogen Phase– This phase is actually a part of the resting phase where the old hair sheds and a new hair may still continue to grow. Approximately 50 to 200 hairs can fall out on a day to day basis; this can be considered as normal hair shedding.
If hairs enter the resting phase or Catagen phase too early, excess hair shedding and quite a noticeable thinning of hair may occur.
What Causes Hair-Loss?
Women lose an average of around 50 to 100 hairs every day. During pregnancy, rise in estrogen levels decelerate the natural cycle of hair follicle shedding. As a result of which some women may sometimes lose fewer hairs while pregnant. But that’s not always the case.
During pregnancy, hair loss can also occur due to the following reasons:
Some women experience hair thinning and shedding due to stress or shock. This condition is known as telogen effluvium, and it affects a minute number of women during pregnancy. The first trimester sometimes stresses the body as the balance of hormones shift dramatically to support the growing baby. Stress may put more of the hairs of one’s head, 30 percent or more, into the telogen or “resting” phase of the hair life cycle. So, instead of losing the average 100 hairs a day, they may lose 300 hairs each day.
Health issues like thyroid problems, iron deficiency, zinc and vitamin and nutrients deficiency may arise during the time pregnancy for some women. Iron deficiency occurs when there is a lack of enough red blood cells to get oxygen to different tissues in the body. It can cause thinning of hair. Pregnant women are at a much higher risk of developing symptoms like iron deficiency anemia, especially if their pregnancies are spaced closer together, they are pregnant with multiple or have severe morning sickness.
A large amount of pregnant women are deficient in Vitamins D, C, A, K, B-6, E as well as iron, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium and choline according to studies. Due to supplement intakes women may also be at risk of taking excess amounts of sodium and folic acid.
Here are the lists of food items containing certain vitamins and nutrients required during pregnancy.
Vitamins & Nutrients required during pregnancy
- Vitamin D– Though sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D and expecting mothers are highly encouraged to soak up the sun for Vitamin D, eggs, milk, salmon, catfish, herring also contain ample amounts of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin C– Vitamin C also known as ascorbic acid is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the health of cells. It also promotes healthy gums and helps resist infection. Foods like papaya, citrus fruits, strawberries and vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, dark leafy greens like kale and mustard greens can provide good amount of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin A– This fat soluble nutrient helps in getting healthy skin and bones and prevents viral infections from attacking your body. Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, spinach, winter squash are great provider of Vitamin A. Vitamin A can also be found in paprika, red pepper, cayenne pepper and chili powder.
- Vitamin K– This vitamin is useful for blood clots formation. Without it a person might bleed to death. Dark leafy greens, parsley, lettuce, asparagus, broccoli are some of the vegetables rich in Vitamin K.
- Vitamin B-6 – This is quite essential for proper functioning of brain and vitamin B-6 also prevents anemia. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk are sufficient for people lacking in this vitamin.
- Vitamin E– Vitamin E is also an anti-oxidant like Vitamin C. It helps protect cells from damage and also helps the body to repair muscle cells. Sunflower seeds, almonds, bell peppers, asparagus, spinach, turnips and greens have high amount of Vitamin E in them.
- Calcium– Helps to build strong bones. Main source of it includes milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Iron– Helps deliver oxygen to the fetus. Sources of iron include lean red meat, dried beans, peas, and iron fortified cereals.
- Folate– Also known as folic acid is very important on the production of blood and protein; it also reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Folate can be found in green leafy vegetables, orange juice and nuts.
- Choline– It is a nutrient required for healthy brain development and muscle movement and also development of the nervous system and metabolism. Pregnant women need about 450mg per day. Eggs, cauliflower, broccoli, soybean oil and chicken liver contain large amounts of choline, enough to fulfill the requirement needed for pregnant women per day.
While these foods might be consumed in order to gain the certain vitamins and nutrients, it is also advised to check with your doctor regarding any allergies you might induce, also for lactose intolerant and vegetarian women, supplement might be an option to replace these foods for vitamin intake. But the supplements should always be prescribed under consultation of a doctor or a healthcare professional.
Trauma and inflammation
Trauma and inflammation of hair follicles can also lead to hair shedding and loss.
Stress is one of the biggest reasons for hair fall in pregnant women. Stress can cause irregular hormonal and sleep cycle resulting in excessive hair fall. When you are experiencing stress, your body may release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that often alert your body for the physical tendency of fight or flight. Eventually, these hormones get dissipated and your body returns to its normal, balanced state. At the times nearing to giving birth, sometimes high levels of stress occur and don’t usually go down. This can lead to a decrease in your health and developmental problems for the fetus. ADHD and even impaired cognitive development can occur due to excessive amounts of stress. That’s why it’s so important that you keep your chronic stress levels to a bare minimum. So, de-stressing is the best option for a mother-to-be, to calm herself down both for her own health and also not to let the baby get into harm’s way.
Ways to De-Stress
- Listening to calming music.
- Drinking Herbal Tea or peppermint tea.
- Reading a good book.
- Doing Yoga.
- Taking a warm bath.
- Manicure, pedicures.
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Talk about your worries instead of bottling it inside.
- Eating well.
- Concentrating on breathing and doing breathing exercises.
Pregnant women often get a nauseous feeling every morning during the first trimester of pregnancy. This term is often called “Morning Sickness”. It can trigger vomiting and can happen not only at mornings but any time of the day. Increase in hormones in a women’s body can cause this sickness. Morning sickness can also sometimes be triggered by smell of certain foods. Many doctors believe that “morning sickness” is a sign of a well developing placenta.
Don’t have your favorite tea at home and you’re suffering from a bad case of morning sickness here is a tea recipe to help you out:-
Honey, Lemon and Ginger Tea-
- Put 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger in a bowl or teapot. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over it and let in soak for about 5-6 minutes.
- In a separate bowl combine lemon juice and honey as per your taste and pour the ginger tea over the mixture. Make sure to strain the ginger pieces and enjoy the tea while it is hot.
While you are enjoying your tea, why don’t you trying reading some of the books recommended in this list-
- The pregnancy handbook for indian moms by Dr. Vinita Salvi
- Nectar in a sieve by Kamala Markandaya
- Midnights children by salman rushdie
- The white tiger by Aravind Adiga
- I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
- Eat, prey, love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- What to expect when you are expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Sharon Mazel
can also be considered as a stress reliever. Aroma Therapy has been around since ancient history where it was used to treat ailment and gain relaxation. Infusing essential oils with warm bath water or infusing them in massage oil can help pregnant women in the time of extreme stress or if she is suffering from back aches. Some of the most popular essential oils used in aroma therapy and found in every market place are:-
- Tea Tree
But it should be noted that these essentials oil are not to be applied directly on your skin. They are to be diluted with base oil or mixed with bath water. If you are using a diffuser or a vaporizer, do not leave it on for more than 15 mins as the overpowering smell may lead to nausea. Always consult with your doctor before using any of these essential oils.
Instead of going to expensive parlors and treating hair with harsh chemicals here are some of the more natural ways hair can be cared for:-
- One of the best ways to keep hair healthy is to oil it properly and let the hair follicles soak in the oils and nutrients.
- Making a hair mask out of Curd, Besan and Olive Oil can help rejuvenate dull and lifeless hair into healthier looking hair.
- Instead of drying the hair with a hair drier and towel, letting it dry overtime can be better as towel drying and applying heat can damage the hair.
- Instead of using store bought shampoo which may contain harsh chemicals, shampoo can be made by soaking reetha (Indian soapberry) in water.
- Like shampoo, conditioner can also be made at home, just by adding Aloe Vera gel, glycerin, vitamin E capsules.
- Trimming the edges of hair to avoid split ends, so that the hair can grow longer.
- Like skin, every person has different hair and during pregnancy, a woman’s hair is very different from her pre pregnancy state. So, understanding your hair type would be the best way for you to properly care for your hair.
Here are some of the hair masks recipes you can try at home.
Hair masks recipes
For Dry Hair
- Mix 5 tbsp each of besan and curd along with 2 tbsp olive oil.
- Apply the mixture to dry hair.
- Leave it on for 20 minutes and apply shampoo to rinse off. Make sure apply conditioner to your hair properly to prevent frizz.
For Normal Hair
- Prepare a mixture of 2 tbsp each of gram flour and almond powder along with one egg white.
- Mix and apply the mixture to hair evenly.
- Apply Shampoo and rinse off after 30 minutes.
For Oily Hair
- Mix two tbsp each of besan and ground methi seeds in coconut milk.
- Massage this mixture into your scalp thoroughly and leave it on for an hour.
- Rinse off the hair mask in warm water.
- Shampoo and condition after this.
If you really want to commit to the “au naturel” hair care lifestyle here are some shampoo, conditioner and hair oil recipes that are chemical free and harm free for even pregnant ladies:-
Reetha (Indian Soapberry) Shampoo
The main attribute of reetha is that it contains chemical compound called saponins, which is a natural disinfectant substance, meaning it cleans and sterilizes. The oil glands with their increased secretions tend to make hair oily more often during pregnancy thereby requiring frequent shampooing.
- 15 reetha soap nuts
- 1 litre of water
- Remove the seeds from inside the reetha soap nuts.
- Mix the soap nuts with a litre of water in a glass container.
- Let the mixture soak overnight.
- The following morning, gently mash the reetha soap nuts in water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Simmer very mildly for 15 minutes.
- Mash reetha(indian soapberry) nuts in water once again.
- Let the mixture cool.
- Filter the mixture in a cloth like material and squeeze excess liquid.
- Store in a bottle.
- You can also add coconut oil, olive oil and other essential oils for the shampoo to have more nourishment and a pleasant smell.
Henna Shampoo Bar Recipe
- 10 grams shikakai pods
- 10 grams reetha berry
- 5 gram amla pieces
- Take all ingredients in a pan, add 750 ml of water and let them soak for about 8 hours. Or you can start making the shampoo right away.
- Heat the mix till it starts to boil, reduce the flame slightly and let it boil for 5-15 minutes. The longer the cooking time, the more concentrated and thick the mixture will become. More water can also be added.
- Remove from the heat, cover and let it cool. When the mixture turn to room temperature, crush the reetha, shikakai, and amla/peels with a wooden spoon or preferably with your hands.
Strain before use.
- The liquid can also be frozen as soap bars before applying for ease of application.
- Depending on length of your hair, more ice cubes can be used.
Aloe Vera Gel Conditioner
Aloe Vera is rich in antifungal properties that help fight off dandruff too.
Recipe number 1(Rinse off conditioner):
- Slit an Aloe Vera stem into two parts.
- With a spoon scoop out the gel from it into a bowl.
- Skip step 1 and 2 if you have store made Aloe Vera gel available.
- To the gel, add two capsules of Vitamin E and 1 tbsp of Glycerin.
- Apply the mixture directly to your hair after shampooing.
- Leave it on for about 15 minutes.
- Rinse your hair well till no residue is left.
Recipe number 2(Leave in conditioner):
- Slit an Aloe Vera stem into two parts.
- With a spoon scoop out the gel from it into a bowl.
- Skip steps 1 and 2, if you have store bought aloe gel, use that instead.
- Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the gel and some water to make it into runny water like consistency.
- Mix it well till all the ingredients are mixed properly.
- Pour it into a spray bottle and use it as you’d use a leave-in conditioner.
- Leave the conditioner on overnight for better results.
Amla Hair Oil
Amla has been used in our hair since ancient times. It is rich in Vitamin C and helps condition your hair, minimizing the effects of hair graying and stops hair loss. To make a homemade version, mix about 120 grams of amla powder, 1 liter or less of water and about 250 ml of coconut oil or sesame oil(whichever is available at home).
How to make it-
- Take a pan and combine about 100 grams of amla powder with water.
- Bring it to boil and simmer until half the liquid is evaporated. Strain this amla concentrate in a container. Keep it aside for a while.
- Now, take another pan, and put coconut oil and the remaining amla powder (20 grams), and the amla concentrate that you have kept aside.
- Bring it to boil, reduce the flame and let the mixture simmer very slowly until all the water evaporates. After this is done, you will see the oil starting to change color.
- Strain the residual oil at once and store in a tight lidded container or bottle away from direct sunlight.
Since pregnant women are more prone to illness and allergies occurring during their pregnancy, they should always consult a doctor before using any product or medicine used in health and hair care. Some women tend to be allergic to few fruits/nuts or other food items or any essential oils. They should avoid using them.
Things to Avoid
Here are some of the lists of things to avoid for the betterment of your own hair growth:-
- Avoiding stress is the top priority for an expecting mother. Be it her first time giving birth or the birth of her 4th child. A woman is always vulnerable during the time of pregnancy. Stress can cause harm both mentally and physically. So avoiding it is strongly advised.
- Skip the tight braids, buns, ponytails, and other hairstyles that may pull at your hair. Also it’s better to resist twisting, pulling, or rubbing your hair. Applying extra tension to your hair follicles may cause more hair fall.
- After washing the hair, avoid using hair brush or any other brushes with many teeth. A wide toothed comb is much easier to detangle hair and causes less damage to hair as well. Hair is weakest when it is wet. When combing wet hair, there is a risk of breaking off the strands of hair when they get caught in the comb.
- Avoid using cotton pillow cases while sleeping as the friction caused from the rough cotton pillow cases can cause hair fall and breakage. Instead sleeping with satin pillow cases is a better option to prevent hair damage.
- Avoid using harsh treatments like using hot rollers, curling irons, or hot oil and permanent treatments on your hair.
- Avoid chemical treatments and coloring. The chemicals and color could be absorbed by your scalp and get passed on to the developing baby. They could also cause allergic reactions. So, avoiding treatments like bleaching, perming coloring etc. would be better.
- Avoid consumption of alcohol in any form as it can result in serious problems for the baby.
- Caffeine should be avoided as much as possible as too much intake of it can cause interference to sleep, add to nausea and morning sickness for pregnant ladies and lead to severe dehydration.
A good and healthy diet and enough rest for the body can do wonders for your hair. So making sure you get ample amounts of sleep and proper vitamins and nutrients via foods and supplements can go a long way for the betterment of your hair needs. Being stress free and relaxed is also an important factor during the time of pregnancy. As the saying goes, A healthy mind promotes a healthy life.