What Is Male Lactation?

Male lactation may be caused by hormonal treatments that are given to prostate cancer patients.
Galactorrhea, a milky form of nipple discharge, can be caused by prolactin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.
Male lactation may occur with gynecomastia, or enlargement of the breast tissue.
Male lactation can be caused by extreme stress and demanding physical activities.
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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 December 2014
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Male lactation refers to the phenomenon of milk production in men; the volume of milk, however, is considerably low compared to that of a lactating female. It is commonly caused by hormonal treatments — usually estrogen — given to prostate cancer patients, and in some cases, it can be a side effect of several atypical antipsychotic medications. Several lifestyle factors have also been attributed to male lactation, particularly in stress levels and diet. In most cases, this condition, which was first reported in the mid 1800s, is considered to pose no risks to an individual's health.

Males who have gone through a sex reassignment surgery (SRS) might lactate as a side effect of the hormones they take as part of the procedure. Male lactation can also be caused by extreme stress due to demanding physical activities and severe starvation. At the end of World War II, male survivors of the liberated Nazi concentration camps were known to produce milk. Some prisoners of war returning from the Vietnam and Korean wars also experienced male lactation. According to recent studies, it is possible to induce lactation in males through constant stimulation of the nipples over a certain period of time.

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Some experts believe that male lactation can be triggered by adequate consumption of galactogogues or lactogogues, agents that promote lactation usually found in products that boost milk production in nursing mothers. These substances can be synthetic, endogenous, or plant-derived. The most commonly-cited sources are herbal, although pharmaceutical medications are considered more effective and are usually available by prescription.

Several medical conditions can produce symptoms similar to male lactation, although their processes are unrelated to normal milk production. Galactorrhea, a milky form of nipple discharge, is often caused by excess levels of prolactin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. In men, it is associated with hypogonadism, or testosterone deficiency, and occurs with gynecomastia, an enlargement of the breasts in males. A lesion in the pituitary gland might also be the cause of male lactation.

Treatment methods for galactorrhea vary, depending on the cause. If the condition is due to an underactive thyroid gland, levothyroxine can be taken to counter insufficient hormone production. A tumor in the pituitary gland can either be shrunk or excised through surgery.

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browncoat
Post 3

@pleonasm - I actually think it's really interesting that people can actually cause induced male lactation. It might seem weird in general, but that could actually be really helpful, if they could produce as much as the average female.

There are plenty of women who feel guilty about not being able to produce breast milk for their infants because it just doesn't work out for whatever reason. Or maybe they work and their male partner doesn't, or he works from home.

Even I think this sounds very strange, but I can't see a logical reason why men shouldn't just be able to breastfeed a child if they are physically capable of it. There might be a biological reason why they shouldn't, and I am certainly not an expert, but I think socially there shouldn't be any stigma against it.

pleonasm
Post 2

@Iluviaporos - It annoys me that the idea of lactating men is even considered to be shameful. Strange, yes, but the only reason it would be considered shameful is if breastfeeding in general is shameful and that just shows the general bad attitude towards women.

It's just a matter of hormones getting mixed up and as it says in the article, it doesn't cause any harm on its own (although it can be a symptom of something else that is harmful).

lluviaporos
Post 1

This is the kind of thing that might seem shaming, but if it happens spontaneously, it's probably a symptom of something, so you really need to get it checked out.

People make jokes about male pregnancy and lactation, but in reality they do have all the glands and things that are needed to produce milk. It's not all that strange for it to happen when something goes wrong.

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