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Galactorrhea: Breast Milk Without Pregnancy

HealthcareOnTime Team 2023-10-05 2023-10-06 3 Min Read
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  • Galactorrhea: Breast Milk Without Pregnancy

    What is Galactorrhea?

    Lactating is normal for women who recently gave birth or are pregnant. However, many women ask doctors, “why does milk come from the breast without pregnancy?”. The condition is called galactorrhea, in which women or men can secrete milk when not pregnant. Galactorrhea (guh-lack-toe-REE-uh) is a common problem that affects nearly 20-25% women [1]. It can happen for a number of causes. 

    The most common cause of galactorrhea is an overproduction of the hormone prolactin by the pituitary gland in the brain. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for stimulating milk production in the breasts. When there is an excess of prolactin in the bloodstream, it can lead to galactorrhea. 

    When Nipple Discharge is Normal and When It’s Not?

    Nipple discharge is common in women during late pregnancy or immediately after giving birth. Can a woman produce milk without being pregnant? Yes, most of the time, it is harmless, even in people who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding. However, in some cases, breast milk discharge can turn out to be a symptom of some other serious condition. Leaking breast milk when not pregnant can be a sign of a medical condition such as hyperprolactinemia, which should be discussed with your doctor. For instance, it is unlikely to happen in men. 

    Nipple discharge is normal, if:-

    • It is yellow, white, brown or green
    • It oozes out when you press or squeeze your nipples
    • It comes from several ducts in the breast
    • It comes from both the breasts

    Nipple discharge is not normal, if:-

    • It looks like a blood discharge. 
    • It oozes out even without you touching or squeezing your nipples. 
    • It comes out from one or your breasts

    The discharge can be a cause of worry when milk comes out of the breast when squeezed, and you’re not pregnant. Consult your healthcare professional to have a physical examination of your breast and to rule out the cause of lactating without being pregnant. 

    What are the Symptoms of Galactorrhea?

    Leaking breast milk is itself a sign of some underlying condition. The breast milk discharge is a common in women, while men may also experience signs of galactorrhea. The common signs may include: 

    What are the Most Common Causes of Galactorrhea? 

    Women can leak milk from the breast before pregnancy for a number of reasons. Overproduction of a hormone called prolactin is the most common cause. Prolactin is secreted in the brain by the pituitary gland. This hormone helps in the growth and development of breasts in men and women. When pregnant, the production of prolactin is triggered to produce lactating milk for the child. However, other cases may also lead to the condition when milk comes from the breast without pregnancy. These may include:

    • Overstimulating breasts, such as due to sexual activity
    • Thyroid
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Hypothalamus
    • Medications, such as birth control pills, hormonal therapy, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines
    • Certain herbs such as fennel seed 
    • Any injury to the spinal cord

    What Complications are Associated with Galactorrhea?

    In many cases, secreting breast milk without pregnancy is not much of a worry. Galactorrhea or breast milk discharge is treatable with the right treatment approach. If you’re experiencing signs of galactorrhea, consult your doctor right away. It is a noncancerous tumours that can be treated with medications. 

    Galactorrhea Diagnosis 

    Treatment for galactorrhea depends on the underlying cause of the condition. Your doctor will do a physical examination of the breast to rule out any tumour. He may also ask about your family history of tumours. If required, he may also send the sample of the milky discharge to a lab for further evaluation. 

    Other tests that may be done include: 

    Treatment for Galactorrhea 

    Usually galactorrhea gets better on its own. However, if your doctor suspects any other cause, they will recommend treatment. Here are some treatment approaches he may suggest to prevent without pregnancy breast milk:-

    • Medications like cabergoline and bromocriptine to reduce the levels of prolactin.
    • Medicines to treat underactive thyroid
    • Testosterone replacement therapy
    • Changing existing medications to reduce the risk
    • Surgical removal of any tumours 

    Preventing Galactorrhea or Milk Discharge from Breast Before Pregnancy

    Many of the causes of the galactorrhea are not under human control, such as medical conditions, hormonal imbalances. However, adopting some preventive measures can reduce your risk of producing breast milk without pregnancy. 

    • Wearing loose fitted bras or clothing to prevent nipple irritation
    • Practising ways to relieve stress
    • Avoiding overstimulating your breasts, such as during sexual activity

    Addressing Most Common Galactorrhea Queries

    Can you lactate during your period without being pregnant?

    Sometimes, a woman may lactate or produce milk even without being pregnant. It is called galactorrhea. When you have galactorrhea, your breasts (both) may leak or squeeze milky discharge when touched. If you are lactating without being pregnant, it is critical that you seek adequate medical attention, be diagnosed, and be treated. Treatment for galactorrhea will depend on the underlying cause and may include modifying drugs, using a thyroid-stimulating medication to address an underactive thyroid, or surgical removal of any pituitary gland tumors. [2]

    Is galactorrhea painful?

     Galactorrhea is when your nipples secrete a milky fluid similar to breast milk when you’re not pregnant. Breast discomfort can accompany galactorrhea induced by breast stimulation or hormonal abnormalities. However, galactorrhea induced by a pituitary tumor or other medical disorders may not cause any breast discomfort.While this condition is painless and benign, there could be an underlying cause that might require an immediate medical intervention. [3]

    Is galactorrhea cancerous?

    Galactorrhea could be caused by a benign or noncancerous tumour in the pituitary gland. It is generally treatable with surgery, radiation, drug treatment and medications[4]. While galactorrhea itself is not cancerous, the underlying condition responsible for it may need medical attention and management. 

    Can galactorrhea be cured?

    Yes, galactorrhea can be treated well with medicines to reduce your body's prolactin level. If the cause is an underlying benign tumour in the pituitary glands, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the tumour and If hypothyroidism is the cause, thyroid hormones should be replaced to restore normal function.

    Does galactorrhea mean infertility?

    Infertility is one of the most common causes of galactorrhea in women [5]. Normal lactation relies on maintaining a delicate hormonal balance of estrogen, progesterone, and prolactin. When this balance is disrupted due to hormonal irregularities, it can interfere with the regular menstrual cycle and ovulation, potentially leading to fertility issues[6]. In some instances, addressing the root cause of galactorrhea has shown promise in restoring fertility. However, there could be other reasons for galactorrhea as well, such as changes in TSH or undergoing hormonal replacement therapy, etc. 

    Can men get galactorrhea?

    Yes, men can also experience galactorrhea. Galactorrhea in men is often linked to testosterone deficiency, a condition known as male hypogonadism, and can manifest with symptoms like breast enlargement or tenderness, referred to as gynecomastia. On occasion, it may be attributable to a prolactin-secreting pituitary tumor, a condition termed prolactinoma [7]. The specific underlying causes of galactorrhea in men can vary, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical guidance 

    Can newborn babies get galactorrhea?

    Yes,  newborn babies get galactorrhea which is also known as neonatal galactorrhea or witch's milk [8] but this is rare. If so, it is caused by oestrogen in a woman's uterus passing into the baby's blood. In babies, it gets better on its own after birth. Talk to your paediatrician about the same. 

    A Note From HealhcareOnTime

    Galactorrhea condition can impact fertility, primarily in women, by disrupting hormonal balance and menstrual cycles. Diagnosis involves physical exams, hormonal testing, and medical assessments. Treatment options vary from medications to surgery, depending on the underlying cause. Seeking prompt medical attention is vital for managing galactorrhea and its potential effects on fertility. Always consult a healthcare professional for tailored guidance.


    The information listed here is strictly for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. Do consult your physician for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. It’s not advised to disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information listed here. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products.


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