Pituitary Gland

Last Updated: May 10, 2017

Definition - What does Pituitary Gland mean?

The pituitary gland, also referred to as the master gland, is a small sack-like structure found below the base of the brain that is responsible for a wide range of effects on various organs of the body. The pituitary gland produces many signaling hormones such as growth hormone (GH), prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), oxytocin, and antidiuretic hormone (ADH). During a woman’s menstrual cycle LH and FSH rise and fall at different stages to support ovulation and menses.

The pituitary gland receives signals from the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a small organ found at the base of the brain. It is responsible for coordinating the endocrine system (hormone release).

FertilitySmarts explains Pituitary Gland

The anterior pituitary (front part of the gland) is responsible for releasing hormones that influence growth, sexual development, skin pigmentation, thyroid function, and adrenocortical function. Growth hormone promotes growth in children and muscle and bone maintenance in adults. Prolactin hormone stimulates milk production in women. ACT promotes the production of cortisol which plays a role in stress and maintains blood pressure. TSH regulates the body’s thyroid which plays a crucial role in metabolism and homeostasis. LH regulates estrogen in women and testosterone in men. FSH stimulates egg release in women and ensures sperm production in men.

The posterior pituitary (back part of the gland) is responsible for hormones affecting uterine contractions as well as milk production through oxytocin. It is also responsible for reabsorption of water in the kidneys via ADH release.

Sometimes infertility is caused by hypothalamic or pituitary dysfunction. Hormonal imbalance such as too much prolactin can reduce estrogen production and cause infertility. Physical and emotional stress can disrupt FSH and LH levels which may prevent ovulation. Very low body weight as well as very high body weight may also disrupt hormone levels.
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