While there are literally dozens of factors that come into play for conception, hormones are a major part of the equation; balancing them can be key to a successful pregnancy. Dr. Robby Setton, a doctor with Shady Grove Fertility and a passion for working with infertility patients, shares his own raw story of how hormones problems complicated his and his wife's dream of starting a family.
If you’re struggling with infertility, you may have heard a lot about hormones and perhaps a specific hormone called prolactin. Read on to learn more about how it functions in your body, how it impacts your fertility, and how you can balance prolactin levels to help increase your chances of conceiving.
Prolactin, also known as luteotropic hormone or luteotropin, is a protein found in both females and males. The most common function is enabling females to produce milk. It is produced in the anterior pituitary gland, as well as the uterus, brain, breasts, prostate, adipose tissue, skin and immune cells.
While it typically is not a hormone we hear much about, according to the Endocrine Society’s Hormone Health Network, an overabundance of prolactin in the blood causes hyperprolactinemia. Side effects of high prolactin levels and subsequent hyperprolactinemia can include irregular menstruation as well as estrogen and testosterone deficiencies that make it difficult to conceive.
If high levels of prolactin are found pre-pregnancy, it can be an indicator of deeper hormonal issues. The normal production of estrogen and progesterone may be impacted, which means ovulation can become irregular or even stop completely.
Hyperprolactinemia can indicate other health issues are at play as well, such as pituitary tumors, hypothyroidism, liver or kidney disease, or anorexia. If prolactin levels are high, it’s important to address these health issues before attempting to conceive, whether naturally or via fertility treatment. Hyperprolactinemia is reversible and, with proper attention, it’s relatively easy to return to normal prolactin levels for pregnancy.
One of the more common treatments is a dopamine agonist, a medication to help the brain produce dopamine to control high prolactin levels. Surgery may also be suggested if a prolactinoma tumor is discovered.
A combination of medication and surgery typically treats high prolactin, but it is also possible to reduce the level of prolactin with natural treatment by looking at some of the lifestyle factors. Common stressors can raise prolactin levels; low blood sugar, strenuous exercise, and certain psychiatric and acid reflux medications could play a role too.
Since studies have already shown that stress is linked to infertility, incorporating relaxation techniques into daily life can have a positive effect on some of these contributing factors.
Nutrition should be taken into account as well. Foods that lower prolactin levels are generally high in zinc; think shellfish, beef, turkey and beans. It’s also important to get plenty of B6, so foods like potatoes, bananas, wild salmon, chicken and spinach can help boost those vitamin levels. The herb chaste tree has shown effectiveness in lowering prolactin and homeopathy may also be useful in balancing hormones. It’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor or a naturopathic physician to determine the best course of action for you.
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And, are you a woman who enjoyed a healthy and successful pregnancy? Do you have friends or family who have suffered from infertility or need assistance from someone else to build their family? Have you ever considered the role you could play in helping someone else build their family - as a surrogate? Learn more about the process of helping someone else's dream of building a family come true. We would love to talk with you.