Prolactin is a hormone released from the anterior pituitary gland that stimulates milk production after childbirth.

For better understanding,below the the hypothalamus at the base of the brain is this wonderful pea sized structure called the Pituitary Gland attached by nerve fibers.

The pituitary gland as a part of the endocrine system is responsible for the production of critical hormones which are chemical substances in charge of controlling various functions in the body.

Of which prolactin is one of them.
Prolactin is also referred to as milk hormone,PRL, luteotropic hormone LTH OR luteotropin

Functions of Prolactin

Usually during pregnancy, prolactin level increases causing the mammary glands of the breast to get bigger or fuller. This is to adequately prepare the mother for breast feeding when her child is born.

Therefore the most important function of prolactin is stimulating milk production in women in preparation for the delivery of a baby and also after the delivery of the baby

Other functions of prolactin includes the maintenance of the immune system which is also very important.

This makes the hormone prolactin a very important hormone in the female.

Normal values of prolactin

Like every other hormone in the body, prolactin hormone has its normal values such that any level outside the range (either lower or higher) causes hormonal imbalance.

You must understand that prolactin levels vary throughout the day. when you are asleep, prolactin attains its highest level and shortly after you wake up.

The most common way of measuring prolactin levels is by collecting blood samples and testing for the hormone prolactin.

As a guide I have provided a reference range which indicates the level to which prolactin must fall into to maintain a healthy balance

I have come to understand that there are variations of range and units used to measure prolactin from lab to lab.This simply means that the range values for ABC Lab and diagnostics may be different from the range of values for XYZ laboratories and diagnostics. And as such may have different range  of values from what is normal or possibly what I will be listing here.

This means that values that do not fall within the range of normal values I provide here may be normal for you or the the lab you ran the blood test.

This is the reason I like having the complete results either as a photo shot or scanned copy for easy interpretation of hormonal profiles.

Below are normal values measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or micrograms per liter

Prolactin for Non pregnant women –  4-23 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 4-23 micro grams per liter (mcg/L)

Pregnant women – 34-386 nano grams per milliliter (ng/mL) or 34-386 micro grams per liter (mcg/L)

If your prolactin level rises above or falls lower the provided range of values ( in hormonal profile result) then your prolactin levels are high or low respectively and as a result your hormones are not balanced.

What is High prolactin?

Prolactin levels are said to be high once it goes beyond the range of values given above.

Below are the symptoms of high prolactin

Symptoms of high prolactin

  • High prolactin levels affects ovulation thereby causing infertility.
  • It also interferes with menstrual flow by either stopping it completely or making it very irregular.
  • Production of breast milk or breast discharge from a non pregnant woman either when squeezed or spontaneously. This phenomenon is called Galactorrhea.
  •  Lack of sex drive.
  • Painful intercourse as a result vaginal dryness.

Causes of High Prolactin

Here are a few reasons why women experience high prolactin levels. Prolactin levels do not rise on its own there is always a cause. Knowing these causes can help you make few adjustments.

1.Prolactinoma – Prolactinoma is a non cancerous tumor in the pituitary gland. They are formed by a group of small cells that forms a cyst or tumor in the pituitary. This causes an increase in the level of production of the hormone prolactin.

These cysts called adenoma come as micro adenoma (smaller cysts) and macro adenoma (bigger cysts). Smaller cysts (microadenoma)are very common usually less than one cm in diameter as they can found in very healthy people that have normal prolactin levels.

Medications can be used to treat smaller cysts.

However, they do not grow large and will not require medications if the prolactin levels are within the normal level range.

There are also cysts bigger than 1cm known as Macroadenomas.They have usually have tremendous effects on other organs such as the eye when they begin to push the optic nerve which is the closest structure. This results in blurred vision and consequently partial blindness.
Medications can be used to treat them but in more severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

2. PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) – Women with high PCOS may also have slightly elevated prolactin levels. PCOS inhibits ovulation thereby causing infertility.
PCOS also may high prolactin levels.

3. HYPOTHYROIDISM
This is usually an under looked reason for high prolactin levels.A woman with a thyroid gland that is under performing will force the hypothalamus ( a part of the brain) to secrete hormones to stimulate the thyroid gland.
The secreted hormone may cause the pituitary gland to produce high level of prolactin.
Treatment usually involves the correction of the underlying under active thyroid gland which in turn corrects the thyroid and high prolactin levels.

4. MEDICATIONS – There some medication prescribed and used for certain conditions that turns round to cause elevated prolactin levels. The most common medications that causes high prolactin levels are referred to as anti -psycotic medications.
There are others too that cause increased prolactin levels.

  • Anti depressants
  • Some types of sedatives
  •  Estrogen
  •  Birth control pills
  •  Certain blood pressure medications
  •  Antacids

5. STRESS – Physical stress is another major cause of elevated prolactin levels. Stress levels for the average Nigerian is quite alarming these days especially due to physical and emotional activity.

HOW DOES PROLACTIN AFFECT FERTILITY?

High prolactin levels also known as hyperprolactinemia may cause infertility. How? you may ask me
High prolactin levels cause infertility in three basic ways.

Firstly, Prolactin inhibits ovulation, if ovulation is stopped, the menstrual cycle may stop.

Secondly , Ovulation may only be unsettled or messed up once in a while.This makes ovulation occur after a long period. Women that experience this usually experience very irregular menstrual cycles.

Thirdly-Others may ovulate regularly but will not produce enough progesterone hormone after ovulation. This is what is referred to as Luteal phase defect.

This is what it means deficient progesterone production after ovulation results in uterine lining that may not be able to have implantation of the embryo. In this case, woman may see their monthly flow come shortly after ovulation.

In conclusion here, high prolactin levels interferes with fertility.

What are the available Treatments?

High Prolactin levels are usually treated with a group of drugs known as dopamine agonists.
These drugs include the commonly used Bromocriptine (Parlodel) and Caroline (Dostinex)

parlodelBromocriptine or Parlodel is an inexpensive and effective medication for elevated levels of prolactin.Usually good taking at night because of its after effects such as dizziness, stomach upset.
These side effects may go after sometime.
Increased dosage is usually recommended if the the prolactin levels are still high after rechecking after 3 weeks.
Note that Parlodel should be stopped once pregnancy is confirmed.
For those that can not tolerate the after effect of parlodel, try administering through vaginal insertion.

 

 

 

dostinexCabergoline or Dostinex
Usually more expensive than parlodel is usually recommended when parlodel fails to deliver or when the side effects of parlodel can not be tolerated.
It is usually administered twice a week.

 

One downside of these medications in certain cases is that menstrual flow stops or ovulation stops when not administered. This means that these medications will be used consistently.

Natural solutions such as herbs and supplements seems to me the key to reducing high prolactin levels.

Here are a few effective natural ways to reduce high prolactin levels

1. Jute Leaf or Ewedu – Ewedu as the Yoruba speaking people of Nigeria calls it is an excellent hormone balancer.
eweduProlonged use of ewedu for three cycles helps to to reduce high levels of prolactin levels significantly. It helps for hormonal balancing and is an inexpensive way to normalize prolactin levels and improve the immune system of the body as a result of the vitamins loaded in this leaf.
Juicing up the jute leaf is the recommended way to go.

 

2. Vitex – Vitex is an incredible hormone balancer, which adapts to women’s different needs – Helthir Rodriguez.

vitex
Vitex helps to decrease high prolactin levels by normalizing progesterone levels and improving a short luteal phase thereby normalizing ovulation and increasing the chances of a successful conception.
Vitex also has a plus of maintaining a healthy menstrual period, restoration of absent periods,reducing too frequent menstrual flow and helping to normalize very heavy periods. That is why women that are suffering from fibroid and ovarian cysts will enjoy great benefits by using vitex.
Vitex is simply a wonder herb.

Vitamins that can be used to reduce high prolactin

1 Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is necessary  for proper hormone balance.A deficiency of vitamin B can result in irregular menstrual periods, poor formation of eggs and sperm production.
Vitamin B6 is very good in improving the length of the luteal phase and also regulate blood sugar.
vit-b6Vitamin b6 is an essential supplement that helps you to conceive.Because it helps to regulate hormones which includes our very dear prolactin.
Experts believe that Vitamin b6 helps to correct the luteal phases defects which comes along with high prolactin levels.

To take vitamin b6, i will advise taking vitamin b complex as it contains all the B vitamins and the body absorbs it better.
Foods that contains vitamin b6 should not be far from you. Ensure you take them regularly.
Examples includes spinach, avocado,potatoes, grass fed meats,eggs.
It is best you have the foods in their natural state or very close to their natural state because when you cook them, the vitamins is lost.

In order to retain and increase the level of Vitamin b6 in your body and improve your chances of conceiving, it important to improve your lifestyle choices in the following ways.

  • Avoid too much Caffeinated beverages.
  • Run away from smoking
  • Avoid hormone pills.
  • Avoid eating processed foods.
  • Stay from refined sugars and foods that contains refined sugars.
  • Do not consume too much proteinous foods.
  • Refined bread products should be reduced or eliminated.

The truth is that if you limit the intake or eliminate the above from your diet ,vitamin b6 will increase in your body and high prolactin levels will be curtailed.

 

Vitamin E
Another essential vitamin to lower prolactin levels.It helps promote ovulation ,increase cervical mucus and also prevent luteal phase defect by increasing the luteal phase of your cycle.

vit-e
It is important to note that a short luteal phase can cause miscarriages and this is one
important plus for the E vitamin. It helps to prevent miscarriages. And not just that it helps to prevent birth defects when your baby is born.
To reduce prolactin level, Vitamin E is excellent and it is advisable that it is taken from natural sources for better body absorption.
Top foods rich in vitamin E includes wheat germ, avocado, shellfish (shrimps, crayfish and oysters), cooked broccoli
Fruits such as mango, guava, raspberry, blackberry contains a nice measure of vitamin E.

It is important to note that, for prolonged high prolactin levels treating the underlying issues that brought about the elevated prolactin level should be addressed first and every other thing will naturally fall in place.

Kindly discuss your hormonal or any other fertility issue with me here or in the comment box below.

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