Have you ever heard about prolactin? If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably heard about the effects of prolactin on milk secretion.
An excess or lack of prolactin can produce various effects on a pregnant woman’s body.
In this article we’ll share with you everything you need to know about this important hormone.
Prolactin is a hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain.
It has many important functions but it’s best known for its role in breast milk production. It’s found in high levels in the bloodstream during pregnancy.
The fact that prolactin levels are high during pregnancy or breastfeeding doesn’t mean that it’s not found during normal conditions. It’s a hormone that is permanently found in our bodies.
The hormonal system governs many important functions in the body. When you get pregnant it’s important to perform a complete blood test in order to make sure that your hormonal levels are optimal.
Prolactin will become a great ally during pregnancy and lactation, however high levels can prevent women from getting pregnant.
Functions of prolactin
This hormone has many functions that go beyond pregnancy and breastfeeding. Here are some of its important functions:
- It plays a role in the production of breast milk. It’s activated when stimulated by the baby suckling on the mother’s nipple.
- Prolactin inhibits the secretion of other hormones, sending a message to notify the body that you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
- It plays a role in breast development during pregnancy.
- Prolactin prevents successive pregnancies. It’s not a 100% effective contraceptive, however it does prevent ovulation while the mother is breastfeeding and it plays a role in normalizing menstruation.
- It modulates menstrual cycles in non-pregnant women.
- Prolactin also plays a role in sexual libido.
Prolactin excess or deficiency
Excess or lack of prolactin can be a sign that something isn’t occurring as it should in the body. Blood tests can help determine prolactin levels. Here are the normal levels:
- Non-pregnant women: 25ng/ml.
- Pregnant women: 34 to 386ng/ml.
- Men: 15ng/ml.
Excess prolactin production
Excess of this hormone is called hyperprolactinemia. There is a significant increase in this hormone when it exceeds 25ng/ml in non-pregnant women and 15ng/ml in men.
There are processes that need increased levels of this hormone, however when these increases occur outside physiological conditions, they can produce anomalies such as:
- In men, excess prolactin production can produce breast development, infertility and impotence.
- In women it can cause menstrual abnormalities. It can also influence ovulation which can hinder the process of fertilization, which could prevent pregnancy. Prolactin excess can also reduce sexual desire and it can cause recurrent headaches.
There are many causes of hyperprolactinemia. A few of them are: anorexia, hypothalamus diseases, hypothyroidism, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and kidney disorders.
There are natural remedies that can help control high levels of prolactin. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables are helpful along with a balanced diet that contains vitamins A, B6, C and E.
Folic acid, iron and zinc should also form part of a balanced diet.
Prolactin deficiency is called hypoprolactenemia. It doesn’t have any repercussions on non-pregnant women or men. In pregnant women, hypoprolactenemia can hinder the production of breast milk.
It’s important to regulate this hormone since it intervenes in many important processes. The highs and lows of this hormone can be linked to other disorders that require immediate medical attention.
There are medications that are available to balance prolactin levels. Consult your doctor to find out which medication best suits your needs.
If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate, contact your doctor.