The pituitary is a major gland in the human endocrine system. This pea-sized gland is located in a small hollow behind the bridge of the nose. The pituitary gland controls several other glands in the female endocrine system, including the adrenal glands, thyroid, and ovaries. The hypothalamus, which lies behind the pituitary, transmits signals to the gland, indicating when to release hormones.
As well as several other hormones, in women, the pituitary gland secretes follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to ensure healthy functioning of the ovaries. The pituitary is responsible for the release of oxytocin which helps the uterus contract during childbirth. This gland also releases prolactin which stimulates breast milk production.
Hypopituitarism is a disorder which results in a deficiency of one or more hormones produced by the pituitary gland. This disorder can produce symptoms such as poor fertility or infertility and no breast milk production after birth. Women who develop hypopituitarism during pregnancy or when breastfeeding will need to be monitored closely by a healthcare provider. Hormone replacement therapy may also be needed to restore normal hormone levels.
Hyperprolactinemia is the cause of nearly one-third of female cases of infertility. Women who have high levels of prolactin should consider consulting a reproductive endocrinologist to monitor the levels. With proper management, most women are able to achieve a successful pregnancy.
Don’t panic; a high level of prolactin doesn’t always indicate a problem. Sometimes women who are under a lot of stress or who have just eaten can have high prolactin. A low prolactin level could indicate an underactive pituitary gland. In this case consult a doctor. This condition does not always need treatment. All women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should consult with a healthcare provider about the best pre-natal treatment plan.