Women Need to Know Prolactin and Breastfeeding

Prolactin is a hormone produced in the brain via the pituitary gland. It plays an important role in controlling many body functions, including ovulation, metabolism, and immunity, but its primary purpose is to stimulate the mammary glands to start producing milk. Increased hormone levels are vital to ensuring a sufficient supply of milk for nursing mothers. Increased hormone levels are vital to ensuring a sufficient supply of milk for nursing mothers. However, if not nursing, a prolactin imbalance may be indicative of a serious health condition that needs medical evaluation and treatment.

Producing milk

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A woman’s body begins developing higher than average levels of prolactin during pregnancy. This hormonal rise allows the mammary glands to start preparing for milk production but high levels of the hormone progesterone prevent the breasts from lactating before birth. The development of progesterone declines shortly after birth as prolactin begins to rise, induced in part by the baby’s first attempts to suckle at the breast, and this encourages the breasts to start lactating.

The Mothering Hormone

Prolactin plays an important role in promoting bonding between babies and new mothers. Prolactin acts in combination with another hormone, oxytocin, to activate and release the mammary glands into the breast. They also feel intense feelings of connection, calmness, and waves of contentment or euphoria as mothers breastfeed. These emotional responses are partially caused by elevated levels of prolactin and oxytocin, helping to create lasting bonds between mothers and their babies.
High levels of prolactin are thought to help a female transition to her role as a mother and to encourage good development of the immune system in babies after giving birth. In comparison, low prolactin levels may lead to a woman trying to breastfeed. A prolactin deficiency might also weaken a woman’s deep bonding feelings with her child. Therefore it is helpful to help the body produce prolactin before and directly after birth.

Hyperprolactinemia: Too Much of a Good Thing

High levels of prolactin are necessary for pregnant women and nursing mothers, but in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding, when the body produces too much of the hormone, it can be a sign of a serious health disorder called hyperprolactinemia. There may be several causes of this hormone imbalance. Benign tumors on the pituitary gland called prolactinomas often cause hyperprolactinemia or complications related to kidney or liver disease, hyperthyroidism, or anorexia nervosa may cause the condition.
Hyperprolactinemia common signs include headaches, excessive facial hair growth, acne, vision impairment, irregular or absent menstrual cycle, infertility, sexual intercourse pain, and/or lactation in the absence of childbirth or breastfeeding. Hyperprolactinemia is a severe disease that can affect men and women alike.

Test and Hyperprolactinemia Therapy

Hyperprolactinemia can be tested by a simple blood test. For non-pregnant women a typical range is < 25 ng / mL. For pregnant women, a good number ranges from 34 to 386 ng / mL. The levels of prolactin differ during the day, and certain drugs will increase levels, so it is necessary to discuss the test with a healthcare professional before testing.
Hyperprolactinemia is extremely treatable. Hormone levels may be restored, depending on the source of the prolactin deficiency, through treatment and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise adjustments. If prolactinomas are causing hyperprolactinemia, surgery may be necessary if medicine can not effectively treat the tumors. People dealing with hyperprolactinemia are also advised to lower their levels of stress and maintain stable levels of blood sugar.

The levels of prolactin and your health

Appropriate levels of prolactin play a critical part in the overall health of a person. In women who are pregnant or nursing, increased levels are required for adequate milk production, but if levels are raised in the absence of pregnancy or breastfeeding, the cause may be a serious health condition. The good news is that testing for a prolactin deficiency is simple, and many successful treatment options exist.
Cabergoline is the best medicine to treat low levels of prolactin hormone in the body.

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