When a woman is pregnant or has just had a baby, lactation is an entirely normal and expected process. This secretion of milk from the mammary glands is created by the hormone oxytocin. This hormone stimulates uterine contractions and kicks lactation into high gear within days after giving birth.

However, sometimes lactation happens when you are not pregnant or breastfeeding. This milky white discharge from the breasts is known as galactorrhea, and it is usually a sign of an underlying problem, such as a disorder of the pituitary glands or a side effect of some medications. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t just affect women – in some rare circumstances, men and even infants can suffer from the condition. If you are lactating without pregnancy, there are a variety of reasons why, as explained below.

Why Am I Lactating and I Am Not Pregnant?

Galactorrhea is considered abnormal lactation, which results in a milky discharge from the nipples that is not part of normal milk production, nor does it happen during times that milk production would be expected, such as during late pregnancy or after birth. The good news is that galactorrhea usually goes away on its own, especially when the underlying medical condition is treated. There are numerous reasons why lactation without pregnancy might happen. Here are a few of the most common ones:

Possible Causes



One of the most common reasons for lactating without pregnancy is taking certain medications that stimulate the mammary glands. This can be caused by some birth control pills, and even medications for high blood pressure, antidepressants, or tranquilizers.


This condition in which the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones can lead to the release of more prolactin than usual. Prolactin can then stimulate the body into creating the milky substance.

Tumors on the pituitary gland

The pituitary gland controls a great deal of hormone production, and so any changes to it can do weird things in your body. Prolactinomas, the most common tumors on the pituitary gland, are known to produce an overload of prolactin – and as mentioned before, this can lead to lactating without pregnancy.

Nerve damage

If you have gone through any kind of physical trauma that has affected the tissues and nerves of the breast, it’s possible that the nerve damage can lead to lactation. Chest surgery, burns, and even shingles can lead to the problem.

Chronic kidney disease

About 30 percent of those who have chronic kidney disease develop high prolactin levels over time, and this can mean that lactation begins without a pregnancy in sight. That’s because the kidneys are not filtering out the prolactin like they should, and it gradually builds up in the body.

Spinal cord injuries

The nerves in your body can do amazing things, and when they are seriously damaged, sometimes they do things that they were never intended to do. Medical experts have identified cases of spinal cord injuries that resulted in stimulation of the endocrine glands, which eventually led to lactation.


Some herbs are often used to stimulate milk production, but sometimes they work even when a person is not pregnant or lactation. These include fennel, kelabat, cumin, katuk leaves, anise seeds, and some types of edible vines.


Miscarriage can be a very difficult thing to go through, and it can be made even more difficult if the woman begins lactating after the pregnant is over. Hormonal changes and imbalances can result in lactating without pregnancy.

How to Diagnose Lactation Without Pregnancy

In order to offer the appropriate treatment for galactorrhea, a doctor must first confirm whatever underlying cause there might be for lactation without pregnancy. This usually begins with a thorough physical examination, during which the discharge might be collected as a sample to test, and the doctor will look for signs of thickened breast tissue, inflamed or enlarged mammary glandsand any lumps. To help in the diagnosis, a doctor might turn to MRI, mammography, and blood tests. A pregnancy test is done as well, just to rule out the possibility for a woman who is lactating without an apparent pregnancy.

Galactorrhea is associated with a milky white discharge; if the discharge is anything other than this, it indicates something more serious, and that requires further testing. However, even if the discharge seems exactly like breast milk, it always pays to get the situation checked out – it could be a sign of an underlying problem that might get worse over time without appropriate treatment.

How Is Lactation Without Pregnancy Treated?

ŸMedical Treatments

There is no one particular treatment for galactorrhea, as the treatment path depends upon the underlying cause. For instance, if it is a tumor causing the problem, it might be treated with medicine or surgery – fortunately, the vast majority of tumors that cause this symptom are not cancerous and shouldn’t cause any long-term problems.

If the problem is traced back to a certain medication, your doctor might recommend stopping the medication and taking something different. In this case, the lactation will go away gradually, and will leave no lasting problems.

Home Remedies

However, until the lactating goes away, there are a few things you can do to help ensure that it doesn’t get any worse. Always avoid stimulating your breasts in any way, including no touching during sexual activity. Continue doing self-breast exams to check for lumps, but only do this once per month. Avoid any clothing that fits tightly around the breasts, or anything that causes friction, such as running while wearing clothing that allows the breasts to slip back and forth against it. And always follow any other instructions your doctor might offer.

When to Worry 

How do you know when to worry? If it has been six months since you weaned a child, and your body suddenly starts milk production again spontaneously – and you know you are not pregnant – it’s time to see the doctor. Other red flags include producing milk when you have never been pregnant, lactating long after you have recovered from a miscarriage, and when you see a discharge that doesn’t appear to be milk. It is especially important to see your doctor if the discharge contains blood, is multicolored or sticky to the touch, is purulent or containing pus, and is clear, watery, pink, or yellow-colored. All of these are signs of a serious problem that needs immediate medical attention.