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Parents-to-be are usually full of doubts when the baby is on the way. However, you may also find yourself affected by some conditions associated with the pregnancy even if you are not pregnant – galactorrhea is one such example.
Galactorrhea refers to the condition when the person- it could be a woman, man or even a baby- starts producing breast milk even when pregnancy has not occurred. This condition is also called hyperlactation. Milk production and secretion occur despite the person not being pregnant or even when they are another gender. You have to remember that this is completely different from pus discharge from the breasts, which may be due to infections like mastitis.
In this article, let us take a look at what galactorrhea is and how it can be treated.
What Is Lactation Without Pregnancy?
Can a woman lactate if not pregnant? The answer is yes, she can – in fact, men and babies may also lactate despite them being the opposite gender or not of the right age. This condition where the person lactates without being pregnant is called galactorrhea, or hyperlactation. It is usually caused because of some sort of medical condition and can be treated with ease.
What Causes Galactorrhea?
When milk comes from the breast despite no sign of pregnancy, it can be due to many reasons. Some of the causes of lactation without pregnancy are given below.
If the person is under some sort of medication which can affect the mammary glands, it may stimulate the glands to produce breast milk even if the woman is not pregnant. The medication may be anything ranging from birth control pills to antidepressants or tranquillizers.
When the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones for the body, it can lead to the release of large amounts of prolactin. This prolactin hormone can stimulate the body to create large amounts of milk.
If your pituitary gland has been affected by tumours, it can also result in the release of breast milk. The tumours can result in the production of too much prolactin, which can stimulate your body to make more milk.
4. Nerve Damage
Nerve damage in the chest area can also lead to lactation occurring. The damage can be due to shingles, chest surgery or even burns in the chest area.
5. Chronic Kidney Disease
The kidney does the important job of filtering out the excess amounts of prolactin from the blood, so the inability of the kidney to work properly can also result in lactation in the person.
6. Spinal Cord Injuries
Sometimes, serious trauma to the spinal cord can result in the stimulation of the endocrine glands of the body. This leads to lactation too, but the reasons for this condition are not clear yet.
Herbs like fennel, fenugreek, cumin and anise seeds can stimulate the production of prolactin and breast milk in the consumer.
Pregnancy is characterised by the hormonal and physical changes occurring in the body. Sometimes, the body may start to lactate even after a miscarriage, which can affect the mother both emotionally and physically. Lactation after miscarriage is caused due to the hormonal changes and imbalances which have already occurred in the body of the female.
In men, galactorrhea is associated with a deficiency of testosterone and usually accompanies breast enlargement and tenderness. Some other symptoms that come with it are erectile dysfunction and low sex drive. In babies, the condition can be caused as a result of excess estrogen from the mother passes on to the baby via the placenta, which can cause breast enlargement. This milky discharge normally resolves on its own.
Symptoms of Lactation Without Pregnancy
There are a few galactorrhea symptoms which can make you understand that you are lactating and that the discharge is not because of chest infections like mastitis. Some of these symptoms are:
- The most common symptom is that the breasts will start to produce excessive amounts of milk even if you are not pregnant.
- You may find yourself leaking from the nipples at random.
- The breast tissue may become large.
- You may have irregular or missed periods.
- You may experience a lowered sex drive.
- You may develop acne.
- You may experience nausea.
- You may also have abnormal hair growth.
- You may have problems with vision.
- You may have consistent headaches.
Diagnosis and Tests
If you think that you may have abnormal lactation, you should consult the doctor immediately. They will be able to diagnose your condition using multiple tests from the four given below.
1. Physical Exam
The first step is a simple physical exam to check your condition. The doctor may feel around for any unusual masses or growths in the breast to check whether they are the cause of lactation occurring. They will also take a sample of the discharge from the breast for further tests.
A mammogram is a simple test to check for any tumours and growth in the breast area that helps the doctor understand more about what may be the cause for lactation. It is similar to an X-ray but is specialised for breasts.
3. Blood Test
Your doctor will also take a sample of your blood in order to test it extensively. Any abnormal levels of the hormone in the blood can give the doctor an idea about what may be causing this galactorrhea in your body.
4. Pregnancy Test
Your doctor will also be sure to administer a pregnancy test to make sure that you are not pregnant- this is because pregnancy, obviously, is the most common cause of breast milk production in females.
How Is Galactorrhea Treated?
The treatment for galactorrhea can be classified broadly into two types- medical treatments and home remedies.
There is no single path for treating this condition as it can vary according to the reasons why the breast is producing milk. The treatment is done so as to eliminate the underlying cause of galactorrhea and not this condition itself. If the cause is a tumour, the treatment will be to remove a tumour from the body via surgery. You should not worry since most tumours do not indicate cancer in any way. If the cause of galactorrhea is medication, your doctor will prescribe a substitute or advise you to stop consuming the medicine altogether. The lactation is sure to go away soon in this case, and will not have any lasting effect o your body.
You can also use home remedies so that your condition does not worsen. You should avoid stimulating the breasts in any way, even during sexual activity. You can also try doing self-exams in order to check for possible lumps in the breast area, at least once a month. You should also avoid tight clothing and anything that might cause friction in the nipple area.
Ways to Prevent Lactation If You Are Not Pregnant
If you are not pregnant, lactation can be difficult to manage. There are a few ways by which you can prevent lactation in such situations:
- You should not wear bras or any clothing that irritates your nipples.
- You should avoid the stimulation of your breasts as much as possible.
- The self-exams of your breasts must be limited to once a month.
- Avoid doing drugs.
- Try to be less stressed.
- Strive to live a healthy life overall.
When to Consult a Doctor
If you see any symptoms of galactorrhea and your nipples are constantly spouting a milk-like substance, you should see the doctor as soon as possible. There can be many underlying causes, so you should treat it quickly.
Lactation without pregnancy is common in many women, and it may even affect men or babies. The condition is caused due to many underlying reasons and it goes away easily enough once treatment starts. Healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent this condition, even in males.
Resources and References: Mayo Clinic
Also Read: Stop Breast Milk Production