Prolactin is a type of hormone in your body that is produced by the pituitary gland, which is a tiny gland found just below your brain. This hormone is found in women and men, but its primary role is to prepare a woman's mammary glands for nursing and to stimulate her breast milk. Prolactin also plays a role in your menstrual cycles, ovulation and fertility.
Testing Prolactin Levels
If you're struggling with getting pregnant, high prolactin levels could be to blame. Your doctor may order a blood test to determine whether your prolactin levels could be interfering with conception. Normally, you'll be asked to fast before the test, which is usually performed around three hours after waking up, notes the WebMD website. Your prolactin levels can go up and down throughout the day, but they are generally highest while you sleep and soon after waking up. You should avoid exercise, stress and nipple stimulation before the test.
High Prolactin Levels
Normal prolactin levels for a non-pregnant woman are around 2 to 29 ng/mL, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, Medline Plus. For pregnant women, normal values are around 10 to 209 ng/mL. These ranges can vary some between laboratories though. If your levels are higher than these ranges, it can be caused by a variety of things, such as hypothyroidism, kidney disease, certain medications, like estrogen and antidepressants, and stress, notes The Pituitary Society website.
Treatments to Achieve Pregnancy
High prolactin levels inhibit your gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), both of which are needed for ovulation and conception.
Your doctor will try to determine why you're producing too much prolactin and how to lower your levels. If the high levels are caused by the prescriptions you're taking, your doctor may change them. If another medical condition, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism, is the cause, your doctor will treat the condition with medication, suggests the Malpani Infertility Clinic website.
Along with the proper medication, PCOS can also be controlled with a healthy lifestyle, which should include eating a well-balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Other medications, including cabergoline and bromocriptine, are also sometimes prescribed to help lower prolactin levels and encourage ovulation.
Treatments During Pregnancy
After you conceive your baby, your doctor will likely discontinue the use of your prolactin lowering medication, suggests the Brigham and Women's Hospital website. These medications are not normally needed after you become pregnant, because your prolactin levels will normally rise during pregnancy anyway.