Elevated Prolactin Levels and Infertility
Believe it or not, prolactin levels in your body can make a big difference in whether or not you’re getting pregnant. Prolactin is a hormone that in high levels can cause infertility in women.
Hormones are secreted by certain glands in your body. Their purpose is to keep specific parts of the body functioning normally and regularly. Both menstruation and ovulation are stimulated by the secretion of hormones.
When the body’s hormones are out of balance your fertility may be affected. If you’ve been having problems getting pregnant it’s well worth it to talk to your doctor and schedule a few blood tests to check your prolactin levels.
Getting pregnant may be as easy as correcting a hormone imbalance.
Just What is Prolactin?
The hormone prolactin is secreted by the pituitary gland. This gland is located inside the middle of the brain and is responsible for stimulating many different functions within the body.
Both women and men have this hormone. One of the main functions of prolactin is to stimulate the production of breast milk in women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding.
When you’re pregnant the prolactin levels need to increase to trigger breast milk production prior to you giving birth.
However, prolactin not only stimulates your body to produce milk it also has an effect on your menstrual and ovulation cycles by suppressing their function and regularity.
For this reason, it’s almost impossible for women to get pregnant when they’re breastfeeding.
How Prolactin Prevents Ovulation
Prolactin suppresses two hormones that are needed for both menstruation and ovulation. The first is a hormone that stimulates the follicles (FSH) and the second is GnRH, a gonadotropin releasing hormone.
Both of these hormones are necessary for the reproductive eggs to develop and then mature within the ovaries, so they can then be released during ovulation and be available for fertilization.
If you have too much prolactin the ovulation process won’t be triggered and you won’t be able to conceive. Higher levels of prolactin can also cause problems with the irregularity of your menstrual cycle.
Abnormalities in your Prolactin Levels
If you’re having problems with infertility it can be caused by too much prolactin in your body. Prolactin levels are easily checked by taking a simple blood test.
Normal levels of prolactin for women are somewhere between 30 and 600 mIU/I. If your levels are in the higher range you may have a hormone imbalance that needs to be corrected.
There are two common types of prolactin imbalances that can cause infertility:
- Galactorrhea: With this disorder, it’s possible for you to produce breast milk even if you’re not pregnant. Symptoms include irregular menstruation, infertility, decreased sex drive, and tender enlarged breasts.
- Hyperprolactinemia: This condition is when there is too much of the prolactin hormone in the blood. Symptoms include irregular menstruation, infertility, decreased sex drive, prolactin levels over 600 mIU/I, and vision problems.
What Causes High Prolactin Levels?
Before you can treat your infertility problems you need to know what is causing the high prolactin levels. One of the most common causes of prolactin irregularities is a condition known as Prolactinoma.
This is when a tumor grows on the pituitary gland and stimulates excess prolactin to be secreted into the body. Another cause of high prolactin can be certain prescription medications which cause too much prolactin to be secreted.
Some medications to blame are some anti-depressants, opiates, and painkillers. These drugs block the dopamine in your body which is needed to inhibit too much prolactin from being secreted.
Three other less common causes of prolactin irregularities are PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), shingles, and thyroid disease.
Prolactin in Men
Men can also have elevated levels of prolactin in their body that may have some effect on fertility and your ability to conceive. If higher levels are found through blood testing, men may experience a decreased sex drive or erectile dysfunction.
This can be a problem if you and your partner are trying to conceive and trying to narrow down the reasons why you’re not yet pregnant. Prolactin imbalances in men can be treated with medication in order to regulate the hormone.
Treating Prolactin-Related Infertility
Once your doctor has determined what is causing the high prolactin levels, your infertility may be quite easy to treat. It may just be a matter of discontinuing certain medications that you’ve been taking.
It may also mean surgery to remove any tumors on your pituitary gland. You may also be prescribed medication that can lower prolactin levels. Your doctor will monitor you and retest your prolactin levels over the next few months.
Once these levels have been stabilized your fertility should increase. After a few months, if your prolactin levels are regular and you’re still not pregnant, your doctor may recommend further testing to see if there are any other causes of infertility that can be diagnosed.