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Prolactin is a protein hormone of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland that induces and maintains lactation in the postpartum female.
Includes: Prolactin, serum.
A Prolactin test is used to measure the level of the prolactin hormone, which is produced by the pituitary gland, in a patient’s blood. High levels of prolactin are commonly found in pregnant women, as it contributes to the production of breast milk, and can increase 10 to 20 times during the course of a pregnancy. After the birth of a child, prolactin continues to stay at these high levels throughout the act of breastfeeding, and begins to lower after a few months, regardless of whether or not breastfeeding is maintained. Though prolactin is also present in men and non-pregnant women, it is still unclear what the hormone does apart from playing a role in breastfeeding after childbirth.
Prolactin tests are most often utilized by female patients who are having infertility issues, absence of a menstrual cycle (amenorrhea), or having abnormal nipple discharges. Men may also utilize a Prolactin test if it is suspected there is an issue with their pituitary gland, as well as to assess the cause of erectile dysfunction or lack of interest in sex. Also, if a male patient’s testosterone levels are low, a Prolactin test may be used to establish if an overabundance of the hormone may be part of the cause. This test may also be used as a means of determining if a patient has a tumor in the pituitary gland.
A Prolactin test begins with drawing a blood sample from a patient in order for it to be examined by a medical laboratory. Some health professionals will advise their patients to avoid eating or drinking hours before the test is performed. Levels of prolactin are at their highest during the morning hours and are often given within three hours after a patient has woken up. Stress and strenuous exercise can raise prolactin levels in a patient, as well as nipple stimulation; however, your physician should advise you on the specifics regarding your test. Just as with any hormone test, your Prolactin test results should be discussed with your physician, who may have ranges tailored to your particular age and health status.
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