secretion, as it does for almost all the other anterior pituitary hormones. However, this control is different in one aspect: The hypothalamus mainly stimulates production of all the other hormones, but it mainly inhibits prolactin production. Consequently, damage to the hypothalamus or blockage of the hypothalamic-hypophysial portal system often increases prolactin secretion while it depresses secretion of the other anterior pituitary hormones.

Therefore, it is believed that anterior pituitary secretion of prolactin is controlled either entirely or almost entirely by an inhibitory factor formed in the hypothalamus and transported through the hypothalamic-hypophysial portal system to the anterior pituitary gland. This factor is called prolactin inhibitory hormone. It is almost certainly the same as the cate-cholamine dopamine, which is known to be secreted by the arcuate nuclei of the hypothalamus and can decrease prolactin secretion as much as 10-fold.

Suppression of the Female Ovarian Cycles in Nursing Mothers for Many Months After Delivery. In most nursing mothers, the ovarian cycle (and ovulation) does not resume until a few weeks after cessation of nursing. The reason seems to be that the same nervous signals from the breasts to the hypothalamus that cause prolactin secretion during suckling—either because of the nervous signals themselves or because of a subsequent effect of increased prolactin—inhibit secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone by the hypothalamus. This, in turn, suppresses formation of the pituitary gonadotropic hormones—luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. However, after several months of lactation, in some mothers, especially in those who nurse their babies only some of the time, the pituitary begins to secrete sufficient gonadotropic hormones to reinstate the monthly sexual cycle, even though nursing continues.

Figure 82-11

Changes in rates of secretion of estrogens, progesterone, and prolactin for 8 weeks before parturition and 36 weeks thereafter. Note especially the decrease of prolactin secretion back to basal levels within a few weeks after parturition, but also the intermittent periods of marked prolactin secretion (for about 1 hour at a time) during and after periods of nursing.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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