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Lactation without Pregnancy

Lactation without Pregnancy
Increased level of prolactin, loss of conception, regular sucking of nipples, certain medicines and various herbs can induce lactation without pregnancy. The article describes how...
Lactation is defined as the period of milk production and secretion of milk from the mammary glands for providing the infant. The usual timing for lactation to occur is postpartum, i.e, after child birth. During pregnancy, the level of female hormones such as progesterone and estrogen is high in the expectant mother's body.

Soon after parturition, the level of progesterone and estrogen drops and the level of another hormone, called prolactin rises. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for inducing and sustaining lactation. The high level of prolactin signals the brain to stimulate milk production in the breasts of the mother. During the first few days, a thick fluid, highly rich in nutrients, is formed. This thick fluid is known as colostrum. Colostrum provides all the nutrients required by the new-born. It is also very rich in immunoglobulins and hence strengthens the immunity of the infant.

Pregnancy and lactation are related to each other. Lactation is something, which is needed, and hence expected only after child birth. However, "lactation after pregnancy" is not the case always. There have been numerous cases reported where lactation without pregnancy occurred. Its occurrence before pregnancy is definitely alarming to many and might appear shocking. Nevertheless, it is harmless. It can occur in any women of child-bearing age. The usual age is between 16-40 years. There can be a number of causes behind it, which are discussed below.

Causes of Lactation Without Pregnancy

Hormonal Changes
There are various stages in a woman's life cycle, where a change in the hormonal level occurs. The body responds to such changes in various ways. One of such ways can be lactation without pregnancy. As already said, the hormone responsible for lactation is prolactin. Your breasts can start lactating if the amount of prolactin rises beyond its usual limits.

In some women, miscarriage can also lead to lactation without pregnancy. Miscarriage is again followed by certain hormonal changes, or you can say imbalance, which can finally result in lactating breasts. At times, miscarriage goes unnoticed. You take it as a painful period with heavy bleeding, and do not notice that it was actually a loss of conception. In such situations, the reason behind lactation remains unexplained. It is recommendable that you see a doctor regarding such unusual experiences.

Nipple Stimulation
Breasts are a part of the reproductive system and are supposed to play their role after child birth. But the breasts work on stimulation. If the nipples are sucked on a regular basis, your brain takes the sucking movements as a signal to start milk production. As a result, the mammary glands in your breasts produce milk. Many women, who do not aim to get pregnant but want to nurse a baby, make use of this fact and lactate for breastfeeding their adopted child. This also helps them in forming that special bond with their child, which exists only between a natural mother and her baby. It is observed that sucking the nipples for about 20 minutes, eight to ten times in day, for a period of minimum three weeks can stimulate lactation. But the sucking movement should be same as that of a baby's. You can do it either with your own hands or can take the help of your nursing partner.

There are certain recommended drugs in lactation and pregnancy such as Reglan, Sulpiride and Domperidone that can stimulate lactation. They block dopamine and raise your prolactin level. Increased prolactin, in turn, results in lactation without pregnancy. The uptake of these drugs is often recommended when the mother is not lactating enough to feed her baby well.

The intake of certain herbs can induce lactation, even without pregnancy. Fennel, fenugreek, anise seed, cumin seed, blessed thistle, goat's rue and hops are some of the common examples. Therefore, it is important to take these herbs within recommended amounts.

Though, lactation without pregnancy is harmless and benign, you should not take it casually, especially when the reason is unknown. Consult a medical professional to know the cause and necessary medical treatment.