Prolactin Hormone in Women
The pituitary gland in the brain is what releases the prolactin hormone. The pituitary gland in humans is located at the base of the brain and is as small as a pea. Read on to know more about the importance of prolactin hormone in women.
This hormone, secreted by the pituitary gland, belongs to the peptide hormones class. Another name for this hormone is luteotropic hormones. Both men and women produce this hormone at regular intervals in a given day. The prolactin hormone in women assists them in lactation, i.e. breast milk production. At the same time, the mammary glands are also enlarged, thanks to the prolactin hormone, making breastfeeding possible.
Prolactin Levels in Women
The normal levels of prolactin hormone in a non-pregnant woman are 2-29 nanograms/milliliter, while in a pregnant woman the levels are 10-209 nanograms/milliliter. You can notice the difference between the hormone levels in both pregnant and non-pregnant women.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – What Happens?
As mentioned earlier, the levels of this hormone are rapidly increased when a woman is pregnant and when she is breastfeeding. Soon after a woman gets pregnant, the mammary glands also get enhanced, indicating that the mother’s body is preparing itself for breastfeeding.
Another hormone that plays a major role in the development of breasts is estrogen. Once the mammary glands are enhanced and the breasts are enlarged, the prolactin hormone takes over and stimulates the production of cells that produce milk, and thus begins the lactation procedure. All this takes place before the woman has given birth to a child.
The prolactin levels sustain their higher levels even after delivery and during the period of breastfeeding. Once the phase of breastfeeding is complete, the hormone levels begin to subside and start coming down. So, a pregnant and breastfeeding woman need not worry about the high levels of this hormone, as it is only a natural process.
The pituitary gland can develop tumors, which is another cause for the raise of the prolactin hormone levels in the body. The presence of pituitary tumors disrupts the function of the pituitary gland causing excessive production of prolactin. This would result in irregular menstrual cycles, and also lactation in women who are not yet pregnant. Depending on the size of the tumor, women can suffer from severe headaches and vision impairment as well.
Prolonged usage of anti-psychotic drugs is another reason for the high levels of prolactin hormone in the body. This leads to hormonal imbalances in the body.