What is prolactin?

Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. The pituitary is a small organ at the base of the brain. Prolactin’s main function is to produce milk after childbirth. It is also linked with fertility, menstruation, fat metabolism, fluid regulation, and sexual satisfaction in both men and women. An abnormal level does not necessarily signify a problem if you have no symptoms.

Why test prolactin?

Unless this is ordered as a retest or for a specific reason, we recommend ordering this as part of a health test.

Symptoms of elevated prolactin include an unexplained flow of breast milk, abnormal nipple discharge, the absence of menstrual periods, and infertility in women; and decreased libido/ erectile dysfunction in men.

Prolactin is included in our Fertility package.

Low testosterone
Prolactin is often tested as a follow-up in men with low testosterone.

Prolactin is tested to monitor the recurrence of a prolactinoma.

What do the results mean?

Prolactin levels are normally low in men and non-pregnant women. Levels increase during pregnancy and in a variety of health conditions.

What causes low prolactin levels?

Prolactin levels are normally low in men and non-pregnant women. Low prolactin does not usually need medical treatment. However, to be sure if your level is lower than the reference range, consult your doctor for advice. You may also wish to consult a Nordic Wellth nutritionist for dietary and lifestyle advice.

What causes high prolactin levels?

High levels of prolactin are normal during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. High levels may also be associated with hypothyroidism, extreme exercise, birth control pills, pituitary tumours, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), eating disorders and a variety of health conditions. Stress can also temporarily increase prolactin, especially in men. To avoid this, we recommend sitting down for 15 minutes before taking or retaking a test. 

Other information

High levels of prolactin can lead to insulin resistance. Women of childbearing age tend to have higher prolactin levels than men, and the level varies with the menstrual cycle.

Stress caused by illness, chest trauma, seizures, lung cancer, nipple stimulation, and marijuana use may mildly elevate prolactin.

Some medications elevate prolactin. These include estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants, risperidone, opiates, amphetamines, hypertension drugs (reserpine, verapamil, methyldopa), and medications that are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux (cimetidine).

Medications that can lower prolactin levels include dopamine, levodopa, and ergot alkaloid derivatives.


The Day Before
It may be prudent to avoid alcohol for the day before the test.

On the day
Remember to take I.D. with you when going to take a test. Take this test before 10 am, as results can vary throughout the day. Arrive in good time and sit down quietly for 15 minutes before the test is taken.

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