Nipple discharge without pregnancy? It could be something serious

Published on: 19 May 2022, 13:45 pm IST

If you’re experiencing nipple discharge without pregnancy, it could be a sign of some serious health concern.

Nipple discharge without pregnancy
Here’s why you may experience discharge from nipples even without pregnancy. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
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When you hear the term breast discharge, the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is of a nursing mother or pregnant woman. 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. It is always recommended to consult your gynecologist in such cases. Hormones play an important role in the production of this discharge.

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

1. 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.

breast lumps
Excess prolactin may also cause nipple discharge without pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. 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.

3. 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.

nipple discharge
Breast leakage can be due to different reasons. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

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

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.

How do certain medications cause an increase in prolactin

The treatment of hyperprolactinemia completely depends on the diagnosis and the symptoms in a patient. When hyperprolactinemia is caused by some medication, your doctor might recommend changing the medication or adding another medicine to balance the side effects. Medicines like anti-depressant pills or pills consumed by patients unsupervised like domperidone, without being mindful of the dose can cause a hormonal imbalance and hyperprolactinemia. For hyperprolactinemia caused by a benign tumour, the doctors would suggest hormone therapy either in the form of hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. The third option would be surgery.

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. You should see a doctor right away if you experience abnormal breast discharge or have any pain.

Dr Parul Gupta Khanna Dr Parul Gupta Khanna

Consultant and Fertility Specialist, Nova Southend IVF and Fertility, Noida

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