Gotta have respect for an honest celeb: Adele recently admitted to a crowd at a concert in Glasgow that she’s still dealing with an unexpected side effect from having her baby back in 2012. “When I got pregnant I had so much testosterone in me that I grew a beard,” the UK’s The Sun reports. “I’m proud of it. I call it Larry,” she said.
If you’re thinking, “Whoa, I also sprouted those weird chin hairs” or “Yep, pregnancy made my body do some weird stuff,” you and Adele are not alone. Drew Barrymore told In Touch Weekly in 2013 that she “got a wonderful little goatee” after having daughter Olive. And Selma Blair told People that she was “going to be bald” thanks to her post-partum hair loss.
But for the most part, the hair changes that women experience during pregnancy and after are kept under wraps. So we reached out to two ob-gyn’s to find out what exactly to expect.
Picture a Pantene commercial in your bathroom, every morning. During pregnancy your locks become noticeably thicker, says Chloe Zera, MD, an ob-gyn at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Normally “your hair goes through active and dormant phases of growth,” she explains, and there’s a nice balance between the two: Some hairs in the dormant phase fall out while others in the active phase grow. “Pregnancy puts more hair into the active growing phase.” You’ll want to embrace these good hair days because, well, they don’t last.
After baby, things can turn scary in the shower when your hair seems to come out in clumps. But deep breath: You are not actually going bald, explains Nicole Williams, MD, founder of The Gynecology Institute of Chicago:“When you’re pregnant, your body is in hyperdrive, replicating DNA rapidly and utilizing all its resources. After birth, that process slows to a stop. The new hair you were growing while you were pregnant no longer has the same resources to grow.”
A sudden drop in hormones three to six months after delivery causes more hair follicles to enter the dormant phase, and that’s when you may start to notice shedding. The bad news is that you can’t really do anything about it. But the upshot is your hair will start to grow back. Hang in there!
One caveat: If your hair loss is associated with changes in bowel movements, unintended weight loss, on an intolerance to heat or cold, alert your doc. She may want to do a simple blood test to ensure your thyroid is functioning as it should, says Dr. Zera.
Sprouting chin hairs? You can blame those pesky hormones again. Unwanted hair growth in fab places like your face or nipples can happen when you’re pregnant–and postpartum as well. “If your estrogen levels remain elevated after pregnancy, the body utilizes an enzyme to change the estrogen to testosterone,” explains Dr. Williams, which can lead to a “beard.”
Laser treatments and waxing are always options; or you can talk to your dermatologist. If she recommends medication, remember to tell her if you’re breastfeeding, so she can prescribe a compatible med, Dr. Zera notes.
As your hair returns to normal you may notice … a difference, near your forehead. This is the “whispies” phase. Whispies are those tiny, baby hairs that don’t respond to any styling efforts. “You’ll get this halo of hair around your hairline that all grows in at once,” says Dr. Zera. It’s more noticeable if you have long hair, because when you try to pull it back in a ponytail, the new hairs slip out, she says. This could be why many moms opt for a bob.
You may notice that the general texture of your hair feels different too. “Due to the growth phase of hair slowly restarting, the new hair will seem finer,” says Dr. Williams. To deal, you’ll have to learn new ways to style your hair, or experiment with new products. But about a year after you give birth, the texture of your locks should finally go back to normal, she assures.