Prolactin is a vital hormone to a breastfeeding mother, but for a woman trying to conceive it is not. The pituitary gland produces a number of hormones for example prolactin. After a woman delivers a baby, the hormone stimulates milk production to nourish the baby. During pregnancy, prolactin levels increase causing the mammary glands in a female’s breast to grow bigger in preparation for lactation and increase milk production when a baby is nursing. In the first several months of breastfeeding, especially the first six months when the baby is exclusively breastfed, the elevated levels of prolactin prevent ovulation. This is an explanation why women exclusively breastfeeding don’t get their periods and rarely get pregnant.
Interestingly, frequent breastfeeding can be used as a form of contraception by the name LAM (lactational amenorrhoea method) and it is about 98 percent effective provided:
- The baby is less than six months old
- The periods hasn’t returned
- The baby is exclusively breastfeeding on demand, during the day and at night (breastfeeding the baby for at least six hours in day)
With time, however, prolactin levels don’t remain elevated and a female may start to ovulate and the monthly periods get back to normal. So, it can only be used as a form of birth control for a short time.
Prolactin and Infertility
As mentioned at the begging of the article, high prolactin hormone is not good for a woman trying to conceive, since it can be a cause of infertility. Hyperprolactinemia is a term used to refer to elevated levels of prolactin. A woman who is neither breastfeeding nor pregnant must have low prolactin level; high levels of the hormone may trigger infertility in a number of ways like:
- A woman would stop ovulating and menstruating
- Ovulation would be disrupted once in a while, leading to irregular ovulation and monthly period
- May ovulate frequently but lack enough progesterone hormone thereafter results to the uterus lining which can’t support embryo implantation. Such a female may have her menses right after ovulation; this is termed as luteal phase defect
Are there symptoms to detect high prolactin levels? The following may be an indication of too much prolactin:
- Irregular periods
- Absent periods
- Milky breast discharge in a woman who hasn’t been pregnant recently may occur spontaneously or if one squeezes the nipple
Since the first three signs may be an indication of other conditions, the only reliable way to confirm if the levels of prolactin are high or low is through a test at the doctor’s office. For accurate results, the test is carried out in the morning, but early in one menstrual cycle (prior ovulation), because the levels are high after ovulation. If the test is positive (have high levels of prolactin), the medical care provider may prescribe Dostinex, but one will be at risk of its side effects.
What is Dostinex?
It is a prescription drug and it’s a dopamine receptor agonist. It blocks prolactin production by the pituitary gland and it’s taken with or without food. It treats disorders linked to elevated levels of this hormone as a result of tumors in the pituitary gland or unknown causes.
How Does the Drug Work?
It stops the production of prolactin hormone from the brain. It may also be used to stop normal milk production in case there is a medical need to prevent lactation and treat symptoms associated with bone loss and sexual problems. Occasionally, it may be used to relieve the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which is a nervous system disorder and can lead to problems with balance, movement as well as muscle control. The physician may prescribe it for any other reason, if uncertain why the medical care provider has put you on the drug, it’s advisable to inquire. Remember, in the course of its use, you may encounter side effects of Dostinex.
Dostinex medication dose depends on a number of factors, for example, the condition being treated and how a patient reacts to the initial dose of the medication. When used to prevent normal lactation, the dose given is 1 mg taken on the first day after delivery. As for the prolactin disorder, the starting dose is 0.5 mg weekly. If need be, increments may be done by 0.5 mg weekly, till a maximum dose of 2 mg is attained and the dosage should be increased after every four weeks.
Take the medicine as instructed; it can be beneficial to mark on your calendar, the days you should take Dostinex since it’s taken in weekly doses. This will help you follow the dosage without skipping.
To check if the drug is working as expected, the medical practitioner will order frequent blood tests to check prolactin hormone. If the results are constant and normal for six months consecutively, the physician may advise you to stop taking the medication, but continue to monitor if the levels will remain within the normal range. Ensure you keep all the doctor’s appointment and laboratory tests as scheduled.
The unwanted effects of the drug vary from one patient to another. The following are the most common Dostinex side effects:
- Stomach upset
- Tingling in the hands, arms, legs or feet
If the common side effects don’t clear after the body becomes used to the drug, or they interfere with your daily activities by being irritating, consult the medical care provider.
Below are serious negative effects which if encountered, medical intervention should be sought right away:
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Vision problems
- Breast pain
- Painful menstruation
- Mood changes
- Extreme tiredness
- Sudden weight gain
- Decreased urination
Some side effects listed above are only applicable to females such as painful periods, hence termed as Dostinex side effects in women. Some patient may experience behavior changes while on the medication, such as hostility, disorientation, and decreased memory; one is more prone to this in the case of a history of mental illness like depression. If a family member or a close friend is taking the drug and you notice such behaviors, contact the health professional as soon as possible. That’s why its crucial to inform the doctor about one’s medical history.