The Wonderful World of Pregnancy

How Do High Prolactin Levels Affect Fertility?

Prolactin represents one of the hormones that fight against stress and useful to the human body when being secreted in normal amounts. Otherwise, excess of prolactin may lead to medical problems.

How Do High Prolactin Levels Affect Fertility

What Is Prolactin?

Prolactin is a hormone that is secreted by the anterior pituitary and released in episodes. This hormone appears in serum under 3 distinct forms.

  • Monomeric form, which is more predominant (80%); it`s immunologically and biologically active.
  • Dimeric form, also known as “big” prolactin (5% – 20%); it`s biologically inactive.
  • Tetrameric form, also known as “big-big” prolactin (0.5% – 5%); it has a low biological activity.

The target organ when it comes to prolactin is represented by the mammary gland where it exerts its galactopoietics and lacotgenic function.

Studies have proven that his hormone doesn`t interfere with puberty in the development of galactose canals, the process needing the existence of other different hormones, such as insulin, estrogen, somatotropin, corticosteroids.

During pregnancy, the levels of this hormone increase under the influence the progesterone production and of increased levels of estrogen. The mammary gland`s stimulation will lead to postpartum lactation.

How Do High Prolactin Levels Affect Fertility?

Prolactin is found in a very low level of blood when you aren`t pregnant. Deficiency of prolactin isn`t often encountered! This being the case, the question is whether or not there`s a causal connection between infertility and prolactin.

Low prolactin levels appear in Sheehan`s syndrome and idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism.

The most severe complications are found due to high amounts of prolactin. As a general rule, high prolactin amounts are detected through blood tests during medlcal examinations performed by a woman attempting to conceive and failing.

A high amount of prolactin in the blood can be an effect of thyroid or pituitary-related hormone disorders (hypophysis being the gland that secretes prolactin) and the secretion`s inhibition of 2 hormones needed for ovulation, and which are also responsible for the egg`s development and maturation. Increased prolactin blocks ovulation and leads to infertility.

Some women experience hyperprolactinemia, a medical condition that refers to the abnormal prolactin levels found in the women`s body who aren`t pregnant. They may have side effects on fertility, leading to uncontrolled production of progesterone during the luteal phase.

Hyperprolactinemia, in both men and women, represents the most cause involving fertility disorders.

For the detection of latent hyperprolactinemia, there are used stimulation tests with metoclopramide and thyroid relising hormone.

Increased concentrations of prolactin inhibit ovarian steroidogenesis and also the production and secretion of pituitary gonadotropes.

Abnormal prolactin levels can be determined by irregular ovulation and menstruation, which might make conception more difficult. Actually hyperprolactinemia is seen as the most important infertility cause.

As it`s well known already, progesterone is the main hormone which aids in conceiving and offering a perfectly healthy pregnancy. Moreover, increased prolactin levels might affect the levels of progesterone, which is an indispensable hormone to the maintenance of pregnancy.

Following a miscarriage or several such experiences, the control of the level of prolactin is required in order to determine the hormone`s concentration.

Another effect of high prolactin level is shown by disorders related to the menstrual cycle, from the decrease of the haemorrhagic period`s duration to the menstruation`s absence.

Possible affections of the mammary gland may be possible, prolactin being the hormone that controls the lactate secretion after birth. Signs include abnormal weight variations, swelling, headaches or breast enlargement.

Signs of Increased Prolactin Levels

High prolactin levels in women might lead to:

  • Nausea.
  • Vision issues.
  • Abnormal nipple discharge.
  • Tiredness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Low levels of progesterone and estrogen.
  • Infertility.
  • Difficulty in having a period.

High prolactin levels in men might lead to:

  • Low testosterone.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Infertility.
  • Low sexual desire.

When Does the Prolactin Level Increases?

The highest levels of prolactin can be found during sleep, immediately after waking up, as well as during those periods of emotional or physical stress (this way is explained why stress is one of the factors that need to be taken into account, if you don`t manage to get pregnant).

There`s a study on women who were hypnotized, which shows that prolactin growths resulted from humiliating experiences, but not from fantasy of breastfeeding. Compelling, to males who are singles, fathers usually have higher concentration of this hormone.

Naturally, the prolactin level during the third trimester of pregnancy, during the first 18 months after the baby is born, when it has the role of blocking the egg production (being seen as a natural contraceptive) as well as stimulates the secretion of milk.

Among the causes which may lead to prolactin imbalances are hormonal contraceptives taken without talking to a doctor first and especially without medical examinations that are required to find the ideal pill type which is compatible with the individual hormonal particularities of every woman.

The treatment for increased levels of prolactin is based on the causes of hormonal deficiency, and which may range from pituitary tumors to thyroid dysfunctions. Often, drugs solve this issue.

When Is the Analysis of Prolactin Level in the Blood Recommended?

The test for detecting the level of prolactin in the blood can be asked by the doctor if the patient shows signs of prolactinoma (a tumor that is found in the pituitary gland resulted because of excessive prolactin in the blood): galactorrhea (breast milk secretion in other moments than when the baby is breastfed), unexplained headache or vision disorders.

The analysis might be advisable for women who may have irregular menstruation or infertility. Furthermore, if they experience amenorrhea, they need to have their prolactin level monitored.

The analysis is performed in men if it`s discovered they have a low libido, they suffer of galactorrhea (it`s also manifested in men and is a condition associated often with decreased libido and erectile dysfunction) or they are suspected of infertility. The level of testosterone also needs to be tested.

When the doctor may suspect someone of experiencing hypothyroidism (a hormone deficiency of the pituitary gland), he might advise the person to do the prolactin test and the analysis of other levels of hormones, like growth hormones.

 

Age

Values ( µUI/mL)
Men Women
1 – 30 days <1720 < 2010
1 – 12 months < 610 < 640
1 – 3 years < 280 < 360
4 – 6 years < 360 < 280
7 – 9 years < 250 < 280
10 – 12 years < 280 < 210
13 – 15 years < 360 < 300
16 – 18 years < 320 < 380
< 18 years 98 – 456 127 – 637

 

When it comes to women, there`s no periodicity related to the menstrual cycle, except for a very small increase in the cycle`s middle.

During pregnancy, there are progressive growths recorded in the level of prolactin, reaching in the last trimester even concentrations 15 to 20 times higher than the initial level.

How Does the Prolactin Level Changes Over the Course of Life?

In men, the level of prolactin in the blood (which is generally lower than in women) remains rather constant from childhood to adulthood and elderhood.

When it comes to women, the prolactin level in the blood increases from puberty (along with the decrease of the estrogen level) and decrease when menopause occurs. From here, we notice that the most important factor that stimulates the prolactin production is the estrogen hormone (more specifically endogenous, but exogenous as well, which is brought into the organism by medications, particularly contraceptives).

During pregnancy, the level of prolactin increases, followed by an estrogen growth at 1 to 3 days. The prolactin level in the blood increases gradually during pregnancy (when it`s noticed a volume growth of the pituitary as well), up to 5 to 10 times over the normal level.

After birth, the initiation of milk secretion is determined by the decrease in placental sex hormones on one hand (mostly estrogens) and by the suction action of the nipple inducing the secretion of prolactin at 1 to 30 minutes after sucking on the other hand. Episodes of frequent and repeated sucking lead to the maintenance of prolactin secretion. The prolactin levels in the blood drop faster in women who don`t breastfeed, while in those who are nursing prolactin is increased for 18 months after birth. Prolactin acts as a natural contraceptive (most women aren`t able to remain pregnant while nursing) and interferes with the return of ovarian function to normal.

How to Get Prolactin Levels Down?

Both severly and moderately increased prolactin levels need medical diagnosis, but can be managed.

Mildly increased prolactin reacts well to the decrease of stress and easy exercises like yoga or walking. It may also help to avoid or at least reduce alcohol consumption (particularly beer), as barley is known to stimulate this hormone, reason for which beer was prescribed to increase the supply of milk. However, don`t go over 4 alcoholic drinks in 1 week. – Click this link!

Mildly increased levels of this hormone react well to Vitex agnus-castus, an herbal drug also known as chasteberry or chaste tree. This drug is known to suppress our hormone in such a way that prolactinoma can be masked, and for that particular reason, it`s recommended to ask for professional advice before deciding to take this medication.

The Vitex dose is 200 mg of a regular extract and is taken one time when you start the day in the morning. Depending on the extract`s preparation, distinct formulations use distinct doses.

This herbal medication is a well known drug for menstrual regulation and premenstrual syndrome, and the prolactin reduction is its most important mechanism of action.

What Foods Reduce Prolactin?

A diet full of fruits and vegetables, mainly leafy greens, is believed to optimize general health. Cold-water fish, whole grains and legumes should also be included in the diet. Beyond this, specific foods are seen as beneficial in lowering the levels of prolactin.

According to Micronutrient Information Center from the Oregon State University, there are a few studies pointing out the connection between the deficiency of vitamin B6 and hyperprolactinemia. Take into account consuming more foods rich in vitamin B6, like chicken, spinach, potatoes, wild salmon and bananas.

According to one study published in “The Lancet,” zinc supplementation decreased the levels of prolactin in all the subjects that took part to the study. Food sources high in zinc include beans, shellfish, turkey and beef. Consult a doctor before making any decision that includes diet changes.

Image courtesy of fightyourinfertility.com
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