Can prolactin cause irregular periods and infertility? Let’s talk about it.
Prolactin is a hormone that is produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland.
The hypothalamus creates prolactin-releasing hormone and prolactin-inhibiting hormone also known as dopamine. Prolactin-releasing hormone stimulates the pituitary gland to release stored prolactin in a circadian rhythm with the highest levels at night.
As a nocturnal hormone, prolactin induces the immune system to do its job, particularly the thymus to start programming white blood cells. Prolactin also helps to deepen your sleep. In pregnant women, prolactin is naturally high because it induces enough of an immune response to help stimulate her fetus to develop an immunity postnatally. High levels of prolactin in a pregnant woman acts to block her hormone receptor sites so the excessive levels of pregnancy hormones do not cause abnormal growth in the mother, but do help to maintain the pregnancy and stimulate the baby to develop.
The normal serum levels of prolactin in women are 5- 30ng/ml unless you’re pregnant or lactating. If you’re breastfeeding, you will have very high prolactin levels because prolactin’s job is to induce milk production.
Prolactin secretion follows a circadian rhythm – low during the day, high at night. I draw my patient’s prolactin levels between 8 and 9 am and make sure there’s no nipple stimulation 24 hours before because that will artificially raise prolactin. By 9 am I expect prolactin to be under 9ng/ml which indicates that the hypothalamus has been producing enough dopamine to turn prolactin off.
High prolactin can cause irregular periods because prolactin naturally blocks steroid receptor sites on your cells.
Without that feedback of estrogen and progesterone in the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland is not stimulated to produce FSH and LH to then stimulate the ovaries to produce adequate amounts of sex hormones. Your periods become irregular, unusually heavy, even absent.
High prolactin decreases the production of estradiol by your ovaries and inhibits ovulation. High prolactin levels will cause infertility. Treating high prolactin levels even dyscircadian prolactin levels can make a big difference in improving menstrual cycle regularity and fertility.
If your prolactin levels are way higher than normal, it’s called hyperprolactinemia. Hyperprolactinemia can be treated by inducing prolactin-inhibiting hormone with a dopamine agonist. I use a short-acting dopamine agonist called bromocryptine just in the morning to reset normal prolactin circadian release. Using bromocriptine orally has side effects – high blood pressure and headaches, so I recommend intravaginal use. Studies show that bromocryptine is well absorbed through the vagina and highly effective. By bypassing the liver, we avoid side effects.
My patients who support their hypothalamus with Genesis Gold® find that their prolactin levels naturally drop and are better maintained if dopamine agonists must be used. Many infertile patients have gotten pregnant just by using Genesis Gold® alone.
If you have any questions about prolactin and periods, please join me in our Hormone Support Group where I answer your questions live. You can access it by signing up for my free Hormone Reboot Training.
Prolactin and menstrual irregularities