Prolactin, Prolactin Levels, Infertility Treatment

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When you are looking to become pregnant, you will quickly find that there are many hormones that can affect your fertility. One hormone that plays a role with healthy fertility by obstructing the hormones responsible for triggering ovulation and allowing the eggs to develop and mature, FSH and GnRH, is prolactin.

1. What is Prolactin?

Your pituitary gland, which is found in the middle of the brain, is responsible for producing prolactin. Both men and women are found to have prolactin and it is released during various times of the day and night. However, it is most often released when the body is trying to produce milk for pregnant woman. This may also cause a woman’s mammary glands to become enlarged as she is preparing to begin breastfeeding.

Pituitary-gland-is-responsible-for-producing-prolactin

The release of prolactin is actually triggered and affected by various other hormones in the body, such as dopamine, serotonin and thyroid producing hormones. While dopamine actually blocks the release of prolactin, the others increase its release.

2. Prolactin and Infertility

Not only does prolactin increase the amount of milk that is produced, it can also affect a woman’s ovulation and menstrual cycles as well. This is the reason that it is so difficult for a woman to become pregnant while they are breastfeeding; during the first months after birth prolactin is 90% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Prolactin works by blocking two hormones that are extremely important when you are ovulating, FSH and GnRH. These hormones are responsible for causing your eggs to develop and mature.

prolactin-affects-ovulation-and-menstrual-cycle

When you have a lot of prolactin in your bloodstream, ovulation will not be triggered and your eggs will not be released. This means that you will not become pregnant. Another area that prolactin may affect is the regularity of your menstrual cycle.

3. Why Would You Have Prolactin Levels Checked?

If you have been struggling to become pregnant, you may need to have your prolactin levels checked. It is also a good idea to have them checked if you have stopped having a period or have noticed discharge from the nipple.

womans-menstrual-cycle

These levels will be checked during your menstrual cycle. The exact timing of the test is not important, but you should keep in mind that the levels do vary throughout the day. They are the highest when you are sleeping and first thing in the morning, so it is suggested to wait until about three hours after waking in order to have the test completed

4. Testing Prolactin Levels

In order to have the test completed, a sample of your blood will need to be taken. The test will then measure the level of prolactin that is found in your blood. High levels of prolactin may prevent ovulation from occurring. This is also the reason that breastfeeding women are less likely to become pregnant.

difficulty-getting-pregnant-with-hypothyroidism

Sometimes there is a tumor that is growing on the pituitary gland when high levels are found. This tumor will produce excess amounts of prolactin in the body. Other reasons that there may be higher levels of prolactin may be in relation to liver or kidney disease, PCOS, shingles or hypothyroidism.

Strenuous exercise, lack of sleep and certain types of food and medication can also raise these levels. You should talk to your doctor in order to receive information on how to prepare for the test properly.

5. Prolactin Levels and Fertility

If testing occurs and you do find that your prolactin levels are not normal, you should seek out the cause of the issue and treat it. Sometimes treatment may be simple, such as changing a prescription or stopping taking it. Other times, you may need to be treated for an actual condition, such as hypothyroidism.

hypothyroidism

For best results, you should work with your fertility doctor to find the cause of these high levels as well as a treatment method. When these levels are brought down, the chances of becoming pregnant increase tremendously.

6. Conclusion

If you have been struggling to become pregnant, it is possible that prolactin is causing issues with your fertility. Elevated levels of prolactin can prevent your menstrual cycle and ovulation from occurring. Testing for prolactin levels is completed through a simple blood test. This may be something that you discuss with your doctor in order to determine if a test should be completed for you.

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Valerie Wisniewski, RN

Ms. Wisniewski has over 15 years experience as a labor and delivery nurse, having also worked previously as a nurse midwife in the Philippines and India. She enjoys empowering women and providing family centered care to women from all cultural and educational backgrounds.