Lactation is an expected and normal process that you could go through if you just have a baby or you’re pregnant. During this process, the mammary glands will secrete milk that is created by oxytocin hormone. This hormone will stimulate uterine kicks and contractions lactation within days after you give birth, but it could also happen when you are not breastfeeding or pregnant. Read on below to know about lactation without pregnancy.
If you happen to be lactating in the absence of pregnancy, you will be suffering from a rare medical condition called galactorrhea. This condition cause a milky white discharge to come from the breasts when you are not pregnant or nursing and is usually a sign that you have some underlying problem such as a pituitary gland disorder or side effects from medications. The condition affects women, as well as infants and men in rare instances.
Lactation without pregnancy – Causes
Pituitary tumors: This one of the most common causes. Benign tumors such as prolactinoma will lead to a production of prolactin. If there is too much prolactin inside the blood it will cause the mammary glands to stimulate milk as well as other symptoms such as tenderness of breasts, infertility, headache, irregular menstruation, and decreased sexual activity. The tumors are non-cancerous and they can also affect men and result in impotence, enlarged breast tissues and decreased sexual drive.
Medications: Some medications like high blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can cause lactation without pregnancy. The common ones associated with this condition include agents that can deplete dopamine and block histamine receptors. Lactation can also be induced by birth control pills due to the estrogen content that will suppress the hypothalamic discharge of the prolactin inhibitory element and stimulate lactotrophs. You should consult a medical doctor right away if lactation is brought on by any such medications.
Hypothyroidism: This is a rare cause, but primary hypothyroidism could result in an increase of thyrotropin-releasing hormone production. This causes the release of excessive lactation and prolactin. Hyperprolactinemia, which is an excessive amount of prolactin, could also lead to a decrease in prolactin metabolic clearance and dopamine secretion.
Miscarriage: It is usually very difficult for a woman to go through a miscarriage, and this experience can be even more difficult when lactation starts after the pregnancy ends. Hormonal imbalances and changes can lead to lactating without pregnancy.
Herbs: There are some herbs that can help to stimulate the production of milk and sometimes they will work even if a woman is not lactating or pregnant. These include herbs such as fennel, cumin, kelabat, anise seeds, fenugreek, katuk leaves, blessed thistle, and certain edible vines.
Some other causes:
Lactation without nursing or pregnancy can result from certain neurogenic stimulants; prolonged and extensive stimulation of breast during sex or breast examination; tumors, plus damage and injuries to the chest and spinal cord.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that in circumstances when it is not possible to discern the cause of galactorrhea, the condition is called idiopathic galactorrhea.
Lactation without pregnancy – Diagnosis
Your doctor has to first confirm the underlying cause of galactorrhea in order to provide the appropriate treatment. This usually starts with thorough physical examination wherein the discharge can be collected in the form of a sample to do a test and the doctor will check for signs of enlarged or inflamed mammary glands, lumps, and thickened breast tissue. The doctor might use blood tests, mammography and MRI to help with the diagnosis. In addition that, a pregnancy test can be done to rule out any possibility for you to lactate without being pregnant.
It is important to point out that galactorrhea comes with a milky white discharge symptom and not a bloody discharge from the breasts.
Lactation without pregnancy – Treatment
There is no definite treatment for galactorrhea, because the method used will have to depend on the underlying cause. As an example, your doctor might recommend surgery or medicine if the problem is caused by a tumor.
If the problem is linked to the use of certain medication or medicine, your doctor may recommend that you stop taking it and give you something different. It is common for the lactation to disappear gradually and leave no lasting effects in this case.
The appropriate treatment and medication will be given for tumors in the pituitary glands or an underactive thyroid. For pituitary tumors, the treatment can be medications such as bromocriptine. If the medications don’t work, your doctor might use radiation therapy and surgery to treat the tumor.
When the cause is not known, (idiopathic galactorrhea), you could get prescription to use prolactin-reducing medications such as cabergoline to reduce the discharge.
Lactation without pregnancy should stop completely once the cause is discovered and you are given the appropriate treatment. The condition can be prevented if you do things like not wearing tight clothes that will cause friction with your nipples and avoiding regular breast examinations.