Why Are Prolactin Levels Elevated in Women? It's not a Mystery anymore.

Prolactin is one of the hormones that doesn't receive much attention, but it's essential for both men and women. Prolactin, produced by the pituitary gland, plays a vital role in sexual activity, fertility and lactation.

Dr Disha Sridhar

I am a Gynaecologist Obstetrician ( MD, DNB OBGYN) with an emphasis on INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE.

Why Are Prolactin Levels Elevated in Women? It's not a Mystery anymore.

While prolactin levels can oscillate, they typically remain lower in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Inflated prolactin levels can cause several concerns, including complications with fertility and the menstrual cycle.

In this article, I'll share:

  • What Prolactin Does in Your Body?
  • Average vs Elevated Prolactin Levels
  • Causes of Elevated Prolactin Levels. When Not Breastfeeding
  • Natural Ways to Lower Prolactin When Not Caused by Serious Medical Conditions

Prolactin is a hormone discharged by the pituitary gland in your brain (the uterus, breasts and immune cells also produce it). It is known for stimulating milk production in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

However, Prolactin also has other significant roles in your body; both women and men generate it. It assists in regulating immune system function, contributes to the stress response, and regulates the production of other hormones and reduces hormones imbalance.

Additionally, prolactin levels have been associated with fertility concerns linked to menstrual cycles.

Prolactin levels are influenced by hormones such as dopamine, which are crucial for feelings of happiness and motivation. When dopamine activity is reduced, prolactin levels may rise.

Typically, prolactin levels increase during pregnancy to facilitate milk production after delivery. Once lactation is no longer required, prolactin levels decrease.

For women who are not pregnant or individuals with menstrual cycles, normal prolactin levels are usually below 25ng/Ml. If the prolactin level is higher than that and remains consistently high, it can indicate a problem.

When prolactin level is higher than usual, it is called hyperprolactinemia. It is widespread and can be caused by many factors (you will learn about it below):

Symptoms of Elevated Prolactin Levels

Symptoms of Elevated Prolactin Levels

Symptoms of high prolactin levels may include:

  • Amenorrhea - Irregular menstruation or absence of menstruation is there
  • Anovulation - When the egg is not released
  • Infertility
  • Galactorrhea – When the breasts produce milk without a pregnancy or nipple discharge
  • Anxiety
  • Premenstrual Syndrome - symptoms which are mainly related to mood which starts one or two weeks before menstruation
  • Tender breasts
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism - excessive hair growth on the face, chest or back.

However, it's also possible to have elevated prolactin levels without experiencing symptoms, particularly after menopause.

Prolactin & Menstrual Cycle

High Prolactin can disturb the normal secretion of estrogen, which addresses menstrual cycle concerns.

Estrogen plays a crucial role in governing the menstrual cycle. When estrogen levels remain low due to elevated Prolactin, it can result in amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods) and anovulation (lack of ovulation).

Decreases in estrogen caused by high prolactin levels can also account for symptoms similar to those seen in menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

What Triggers Elevated Prolactin Levels?

What Triggers Elevated Prolactin Levels?

High prolactin levels can have many different factors. While pregnancy or breastfeeding are the most common reasons, it's essential to investigate further if you are not pregnant or nursing.

  • PCOS is often associated with hyperprolactinemia, which can cause amenorrhea, anovulation, and fertility issues, leading to potential confusion between the two conditions. It's uncertain whether PCOS triggers high Prolactin or vice versa, but they are frequently managed together.
  • Certain medications, including antipsychotics, certain antidepressants, certain heartburn medications, and some high blood pressure medications, can elevate prolactin levels when taken.
  • The diet also plays a role; deficiencies in specific vitamins and inadequate calorie intake, as seen in anorexia nervosa, can contribute to high prolactin levels. Under-eating can also raise stress hormone levels, potentially increasing Prolactin.
  • Thyroid disorders can lead to elevated prolactin levels; research suggests that about 40% of people with hypothyroidism have mildly elevated prolactin levels, highlighting the link between thyroid disease and infertility.
  • Stress, excessive exercise, and poor sleep patterns can also raise prolactin levels due to increased stress hormone production.

Testing is simple, with a basic blood test to check for elevated prolactin levels.

Prolactinoma and the Role of the Pituitary Gland

Even though there are various causes of elevated prolactin levels, the most frequent reason is a benign tumour on the pituitary gland known as prolactinoma.

Prolactinomas are not cancerous, but they can still cause problems because they produce high prolactin levels, causing the symptoms that are mentioned above.

Prolactinomas can sometimes grow large enough to press on nearby structures like the optic nerve, leading to vision problems or headaches. 

Treatment of Prolactinoma

Treatment of Prolactinoma

When prolactin levels are elevated because of prolactinoma, medication is typically effective in reducing prolactin levels and helps shrink the tumour. Medications which is commonly prescribed are dopamine agonists(this medicine helps to produce more dopamine), which stimulate dopamine receptors and inhibit prolactin release from the pituitary gland.

Sometimes, the medication doesn't work, so in that case, surgery is necessary to remove the prolactinoma.

Reducing Prolactin Levels Naturally:

Apart from prolactinoma, if your prolactin levels are high, there are some natural ways to support healthy levels.

1. Effectively Manage Stress Levels

Stress can elevate prolactin levels and disrupt other hormones causing hormones imbalance , such as thyroid function, sex hormones, and blood sugar regulation, due to chronically high cortisol levels.

To reduce stress, explore practices such as yoga, meditation, spending time outdoors, or engaging in relaxing activities. Supplements like magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha or Rhodiola Rosea can also support effective stress management and most importantly have proper and healthy diet.

2. Nourish your thyroid

As it was mentioned, hypothyroidism can elevate prolactin levels. Ensure you're getting enough iodine in your diet to nourish your thyroid. Seafood and seaweed are the best sources of iodine.

Additionally, ensure adequate selenium intake, essential for thyroid function. Good dietary sources include Brazil nuts (variance depends on the soil they are grown in) and seafood.

Furthermore, ensure adequate zinc intake in your diet, essential for thyroid hormone production. Excellent dietary sources of Zinc include pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and oysters.

3. Try out Vitex (Chasteberry)

Vitex, also called chaste berry, is a fruit used for centuries to support hormone balance. Vitex aids in reducing prolactin levels by regulating its secretion from the pituitary gland and by binding to dopamine receptors.

4. Get Adequate sleep

I know I know—everyone says you need to get enough sleep. But there's a good reason for it. Lack of sleep leads to increased stress hormone cortisol, which, when chronically elevated, can wreak havoc on your hormones and overall health.

Strive for 7-9 hours per night to ensure you get adequate sleep. Establish a nighttime routine to wind down before bed and avoid screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

5. Reduce Alcohol Intake (Especially Beer)

Have you heard the midwife's advice about increasing milk production by drinking beer? It's true—barley found in beer can naturally enhance prolactin production.

Beer isn't usually concerning for individuals with normal prolactin levels. However, if your prolactin levels are elevated, it's advisable to avoid alcohol or reduce consumption.    

6. Consume foods high in Zinc.    

According to animal studies, a deficiency of Zinc in food could lead to elevated prolactin levels. Additionally, a survey of older men showed that zinc supplementation helps to lower prolactin levels (although in the case of women, we need to see this study for confirmation).

Zinc-rich foods include oysters, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas.

7. Try Out Vitamin B6

A study on patients with high Prolactin due to medication found that vitamin B6 helped reduce prolactin levels. Vitamin B6 is crucial for various bodily functions, including hormone balance, and it also aids in dopamine production, which can help lower prolactin levels.

Vitamin B6 is available through both dietary sources and supplements. Rich food sources of vitamin B6 include poultry, fish, potatoes, bananas, and beans.

Vitamin B6 supplements are also available. I recommend using a supplement that combines vitamin B6 with magnesium, as they work together to support hormone balance.

You can do a lot to reduce and normalise your Prolactin naturally and optimise hormonal health and reduce the risk of hormones imbalance. Many women have achieved normal prolactin levels naturally with the TruHealing Hormone balancing protocol to have the healthy periods and babies of their dreams.    


Roopa - 

I had severe PCOD issue. I consulted Dr disha. She helped me lot for healing all the symptoms of severe PCOD through true healing program. Not only i got my cycle back, my skin cleared up, mood improved and i could conceive naturally.


Before getting enrolled in the TruHealing program, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and felt tired, homocysterine level was high, and had pre-diabetic range blood reports.

Originally published June 27, 2024