Prolactin is often associated with the hormone responsible for milk formation and production for breastfeeding. However, when a woman experiences high levels of prolactin when she is not breast feeding, it is an indication of hormonal imbalance. Most women can experience amenorrhea (no period/ovulation), or irregular periods, infertility, loss of libido, vaginal dryness and unwanted breast milk production in women who are not nursing. The normal range of prolactin levels can be different depending on the lab running the test, but it’s generally in the 2-20 ng/ml and 3-30 ng/ml range. A pituitary tumor excreting excess prolactin can be the culprit. Bromocriptine, a dopamine agonist, is often times prescribed because dopamine is a prolactin inhibitor and many women will notice that their periods will come back and ovulation will happen more often when taking Bromocriptine. Hypothyroidism can also cause high levels of prolactin. Lastly, excess stress can cause high levels of prolactin as well. Basically, the pituitary gland will release more prolactin in times of stress. It’s almost as if the body wants to avoid getting pregnant in times of stress. Considering that stress is so prevalent today, it is no wonder that it is one of the main inhibitors of conception.
I have seen patients without a pituitary tumor or hyperthyroidism with extremely high levels of prolactin. In most cases, we need to help them relax so that their hormones will rebalance. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs can be beneficial in regulating the hormones and decreasing prolactin levels. Of course, life style changes must be made as well.