Prolactin: what it is and what it is used for

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Prolactin: what it is

La prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, a gland at the base of the brain, mainly associated withnursing. In fact, it is prolactin that spontaneously "kicks off" milk production after childbirth and continues to produce it under the stimulation of the baby's sucking.

It also performs other functions in the body: it is important in the reproductive and metabolic sphere, in the regulation of fluids (osmoregulation), and in the regulation of the immune system (immunoregulation).


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In this article

  • Prolactin: its functions 
  • Prolactin: how is it controlled?
  • What if i have too much prolactin?
  • What if i have too little prolactin? 
Read also: High prolactin, how to cure it

Prolactin: its functions

The fundamental functions of the prolactin I'm:

  • to contribute with other hormones to the preparation of the future mother's body in anticipation ofnursing
  • suspend the menstrual cycle in the puerperal phase

It has been confirmed that, the condition of hyperprolactinemia (i.e. increased concentration of prolactin in the blood) is a frequent cause of infertility and gonadal dysfunction in men and women.

It is useful to monitor prolactin in order to diagnose infertility, pituitary dysfunction and in the treatment of amenorrhea.

Read also: Pregnancy hormones: what they are and how they work

Prolactin: how is it controlled?

One of the main regulators of prolactin production is the hormone called dopamine, which is produced by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain directly above the pituitary gland. Dopamine limits the production of prolactin, so the more dopamine there is, the less prolactin is released. Prolactin itself increases dopamine secretion, so this creates a feedback loop between the two.

Estrogen is another key prolactin regulator and has been shown to increase the production and secretion of the latter by the pituitary gland. Studies have shown small increases in prolactin in women's bloodstream during the stages of their reproductive cycle where estrogen levels are at their highest. This also happens during and after pregnancy, as a higher level of circulating prolactin is needed to initiatenursing.

In addition to dopamine and estrogen, a variety of other hormones can increase and decrease the amount of prolactin released in the body, with some examples being the release hormone. thyrotropin, oxytocin and antidiuretic hormone.


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What if i have too much prolactin?

A high prolactin in the blood is called hyperprolactinemia. The most common causes of hyperprolactinemia include

  • pregnancy
  • drugs that reduce the action of dopamine in the body
  • thyroid hypoactivity
  • benign pituitary tumors (known as prolactinomas)

Symptoms can include the unwanted milk production, menstrual cycle disturbances and symptoms due to estrogen deficiency (in women) or testosterone deficiency (in men). The vast majority of patients with prolactinoma can be successfully treated using drugs that mimic the action of dopamine: the most commonly used is cabergoline.

What if i have too little prolactin?

The condition of having insufficient amount of prolactin is called hypoprolattinemia. This condition is very rare and can occur in people with pituitary hypoactivity.

A decrease in the amount of secreted prolactin can lead to one insufficient milk production after childbirth. Most people with low prolactin levels have no specific medical problems, although some preliminary tests suggest they may have a reduced immune response to some infections.

Source for this article

You and your hormones: Prolactin

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Questions and answers

What is prolactin?    

Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which, in normal conditions, has the function of stimulating the production of milk by the breast, in the period following childbirth (puerperium).

What are the normal values ​​of prolactin?    

For women of childbearing age, normal prolactin values ​​are between 4.79 and 23.3 ng / ml (nanograms per milliliter). During pregnancy, however, the values ​​are between 10 and 209 ng / ml.

  • breastfeeding
  • pregnancy hormones
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