Prolactin is one of the hormones that is produced in the front portion of the pituitary gland (anterior pituitary gland) which lies at the bottom of the brain. This hormone is produced both in women and men.
Apart from the anterior pituitary, other sites of prolactin production in the body include the uterus, immune cells, brain, breasts, prostate, skin and adipose tissue.
Prolactin has many different roles throughout the body.
Perhaps the most important function in women, is to encourage or enhance breast development and milk production especially during pregnancy and after delivery.
High Prolactin Levels and Infertility
When a non-pregnant woman has high prolactin levels, the excess prolactin blocks secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone . When this occurs, there will be decrease in the production of gonadotropins such as Follicle stimulating hormone and Luteinizing hormone .
Lets look at the three cases:
In severe cases, women with high prolactin levels will experience a stop in ovulation (anovulation). When this occurs, The frequency of menstrual cycles decreases (oligomenorrhea), and the cycle may even cease (amenorrhea) altogether
In less severe cases, high prolactin levels may only disrupt ovulation once in a while. As a result, ovulation may not occur at regular intervals or ovulation will take longer time to occur.
In mildest cases involving high prolactin levels, the woman may ovulate regularly but will not produce enough of the progesterone hormone after ovulation.
High prolactin level is the reason why women who are breastfeeding do not see their period (lactational amenorrhea) and therefore do not often become pregnant. As time goes on however, the prolactin level do not stay as high with breastfeeding and the woman may start to ovulate.
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