Hypoprolactinemia

Definition - What does Hypoprolactinemia mean?

Hypoprolactinemia is a condition in which the levels of the prolactin hormone in the blood fall too low. Prolactin is produced by a pea-sized gland that sits at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland. Prolactin deficiency occurs if this gland is underactive and not functioning normally. Hypoprolactinemia can lead to ovarian dysfunction in women and erectile dysfunction and low sperm counts in men and low sex drive in both sexes, leading to infertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Hypoprolactinemia

The most common cause of prolactin deficiency in women is the sudden loss of blood flow to the pituitary gland after delivery — a condition known as Sheehan syndrome. During pregnancy, the pituitary gland grows bigger in response to the effects of the pregnancy hormones. In case of severe bleeding during or after delivery, the already vulnerable pituitary gland fails to receive adequate blood and shrinks. Sheehan’s syndrome greatly impairs the release of all pituitary hormones including prolactin.

Another cause can be medications like dopamine that block prolactin release. Cigarette smoking and genetic causes can also lead to hypoprolactinemia. Other causes include autoimmune disease, growth hormone deficiency, and hypothyroidism (under-activity of the thyroid gland).

Since prolactin stimulates the breast to produce milk after childbirth, the main symptom of its deficiency is difficulty producing milk and breastfeeding. In cases of pituitary under-activity, however, prolactin is not the only hormone affected. Deficiency of other hormones produced by the pituitary leads to other signs and symptoms too. For instance, a lack of FSH and LH resulting in infertility further complicates the clinical picture.

Moreover, the pituitary gland is the “master gland” that controls the functions of hormones produced by other glands of the body such as the thyroid gland. Therefore, the production of these hormones also diminishes, giving rise to a variety of signs and symptoms.

Generally, in infants born to mothers with hypoprolactinemia, formula and/or bottle-feeding are used. Medications that block dopamine release and thus enhance prolactin production may also help with inadequate milk production.

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