Prolactin (PRL)

Prolactin (PRL) is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, a small pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. It plays a vital role in various physiological processes, particularly in the reproductive system and lactation.


Prolactin primarily regulates lactation (milk production) in females after childbirth. It stimulates the development of mammary glands during pregnancy and promotes the production of milk after giving birth. Additionally, PRL inhibits ovulation, which helps prevent pregnancy while a woman is breastfeeding.

In males, prolactin has a role in reproductive function as well. It aids in the production of sperm and the maintenance of reproductive organs.


The secretion of prolactin is mainly controlled by the hypothalamus, a region of the brain. The hypothalamus releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter, which inhibits prolactin release. Conversely, when dopamine levels decrease, such as during breastfeeding, this inhibition is lifted, leading to increased prolactin production.

Other factors that influence prolactin secretion include stress, exercise, sexual intercourse, sleep, and certain medications. The levels of prolactin are typically higher during periods of sleep and rise significantly during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Imbalances in prolactin levels can result in various disorders. Hyperprolactinemia is a condition characterized by excessive prolactin production. It can lead to irregular menstrual periods, infertility, decreased libido, and milk production in non-pregnant individuals.

In contrast, hypoprolactinemia refers to abnormally low levels of prolactin. While rare, it may cause difficulties in breastfeeding and have implications for reproductive health.

Medical professionals can diagnose prolactin disorders by measuring the hormone levels through blood tests. Treatments for prolactin-related conditions usually involve medications to regulate hormone levels or address the underlying cause.


Prolactin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in lactation, reproduction, and overall hormonal balance. While it is primarily associated with breastfeeding, prolactin also influences male reproductive function. Understanding the functions, regulation, and potential disorders of prolactin is essential in maintaining optimal health and addressing any related medical concerns.