The human body is a hardy organism and yet, at the same time, the systems within the body are set with delicate balances. Hormones drive many of the functions of the body and when those hormone levels are off, they can have a big impact on the body. Such is the case with prolactin, one of several hormones produced by the pituitary gland.
Prolactin plays a vital role in stimulating the milk production after childbirth. The levels increase during pregnancy. This causes the mammary glands to enlarge as the mother’s body prepares for breastfeeding. When the baby is feeding, prolactin also helps release the milk in the mother’s breast.
The high levels of this hormone not only help with feeding the newborn; for several months while breastfeeding, ovulation is inhibited as well. High levels of prolactin can also cause infertility.
Prolactin and Infertility
Under normal circumstances, a woman will have low prolactin levels if she is neither pregnant nor breastfeeding. When a woman is not pregnant or breastfeeding and has high levels of prolactin, she may have difficulty conceiving. High levels of the hormone is called hyperprolactinemia.
Hyperprolactinemia can stop ovulation. The woman’s menstrual cycles will stop. Depending on the level of severity of the condition, ovulation may stop intermittently. This leads to irregular periods or they may be infrequent. In mild cases of hyperprolactinemia, she may ovulate regularly but lack the proper amount of progesterone production after ovulation. This can prevent the uterine lining from allowing an embryo to implant.
Some women with high prolactin levels may have discharge from the breast. The breast is stimulated to produce milk, a condition called galactorrhea. The breast may spontaneously discharge a milky substance, or it may come out if the nipples are squeezed.
Causes of Hyperprolactinemia
A benign tumor growth on the pituitary is a common cause of this condition that can lead to infertility. Hyperprolactinemia can also be caused by hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. Certain medications can also elevate prolactin levels. Sometimes the cause for hyperprolactinemia is not readily discernable.
As with most conditions, treatment for hyperprolactinemia depends on the cause. Thyroid medications can be prescribed for patients experiencing hypothyroidism. A tumor on the pituitary gland may be treated with medication to shrink the tumor. When prolactin levels return to normal, your menstrual cycle should become regular, and normal ovulation should occur.
Neway Fertility provides diagnosis and treatment for a variety of infertility issues. When you want to build your family and run into roadblocks, contact our office. Schedule an appointment to speak with one of our fertility specialists. We offer hope and answers.