Nipple discharge without pregnancy? Here's what it means and remedies

When you hear the term breast discharge, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is of a nursing mother or pregnant woman.

Lady massaging the breast

However, there are some women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding, yet they experience white discharge from their nipples.

This could be normal in some cases, but it could be an alarming situation if you’re noticing nipple discharge without pregnancy.

Here are some of the reasons responsible for nipple discharge without pregnancy:

  • Prolactin hormone

In some situations, nipple discharge without pregnancy occurs due to the increasing level of prolactin hormones, and such high prolactin is said to be the cause of infertility. This usually happens because prolactin stops a woman from ovulating and also disrupts the menstrual cycle. This condition is termed hyperprolactinemia. In some cases of high prolactin levels, a woman may ovulate, however, not produce enough of the hormone progesterone after ovulation.

  • Cancer growth

Usually, women experience a whitish discharge or a bloody fluid coming out from the nipples. The women who are breastfeeding or stop breastfeeding may get a whitish/milky discharge. This is normal and it may stop on its own after 2-3 days of discontinuation of the breastfeeding. On the other hand, bloody fluid could be associated with cancerous growth. This condition may range from thyroid problems to medications to a benign tumour on your pituitary gland.

  • Miscarriage

In some cases of mild hyperprolactinemia, the ovaries may release an egg in time but the body may not produce adequate amounts of progesterone. This shortens the luteal phase that follows ovulation. As a result, if the egg is fertilised, it may not be able to attach itself to the uterus. Thus the woman may miscarry even before she realises that she is pregnant.

What should you do if you’re experiencing nipple discharge without pregnancy?

If you’re noticing any kind of nipple discharge without pregnancy, it is very important to identify symptoms and early intervention can be life-saving.

For the purpose of diagnosis, your doctor would ask about all the other symptoms you might be experiencing and then he/she would advise a blood test to check serum prolactin levels, preferably fasting. If the levels are high, further assisting tests may be required. In some cases where the prolactin is extremely high, a tumour is suspected and in this case, the doctor will ask you to get an MRI scan of the brain and pituitary glands to obtain the size and the tissues of the tumour.

The treatment of hyperprolactinemia completely depends on the diagnosis and the symptoms in a patient.

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