Everything You Need to Know About How the Pituitary Gland Affects Your Sex Life

Aug 11, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images

You may not even know what your pituitary gland is or where it’s located, but it could be seriously affecting your sexy time. It’s the size of a pea and yet referred to by the medical community as “the master gland of the body.” According to The Pituitary Foundation, the pituitary gland helms all other hormone glands, including the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testicles, hence its grandeur nickname. When and if the body’s hormones are out of whack, you can bet the pituitary gland is to blame.

What is the pituitary gland & where is it located?

Behind the bridge of your nose lives a hollow space. The pituitary gland is located here and connects to the base of your brain. When it secretes various hormones, they seep into your bloodstream, carrying those messages to the rest of the body. Depending on what hormones are secreted, the messages sent to the rest of the body can vary. If the body is secreting an excess of one specific hormone, the body could receive mixed or inaccurate messages, causing issues initiated by a hormone imbalance.

What does the pituitary gland control?

Because the pituitary gland is the master secretor of all hormones, a lot can go wrong when it’s not working properly. A growth in the gland is problematic to your health, as they press on the gland, the pressure of which encourages excess hormone secretion. Too much hormone secretion can really put a damper on your sex life, depending on which hormones are released by the pressure.

More often than not, these tumors are benign, which classifies them as adenoma. According to the American Cancer Society, though these tumors are not cancerous, they can still cause a great deal of damage.

“[The pituitary gland] controls the sex organs, testicles in men and the ovaries in women, that basically result in our sexual drive, our sexual growth and development, and sexual function and reproduction,” said Dr. Lewis Blevins in an interview with UCSF Medical Center. “You can imagine that if the gland is either working excessively or not working sufficiently, you can have a lot of different problems.”

Blevins is the medical director for the California Center for Pituitary Disorders at UCSF Medical Center.

Can the pituitary gland affect my period?

According to Michelle Poe writing on Dr. Drew's website, prolactinomas are benign tumors that cause the hormone prolactin to be produced in surplus. Prolactin is responsible for regulating levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men — also known as sex hormones. When this hormone is overly discharged, it interferes with the ovaries’ creation of estrogen, causing an irregular menstruation cycle or a completely absent period.

The issue with menstruation issues caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary gland is that they often go unresolved and misdiagnosed.

In Blevins’ interview with UCSF Medical Center, he explains, “In women, one of the more common symptoms of a pituitary tumor is abnormal menstrual periods. Unfortunately, a lot of women go to their gynecologist and say, ‘My periods are irregular,’ and the gynecologist is sitting there and saying, ‘Well, all of my patients have irregular periods,’ so they tend not to do anything about it.”

Can the pituitary gland cause infertility?

According to the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, several pituitary issues can cause infertility. These include prolactinoma, nonsecretory tumors, LH and FSH deficiencies and more.

“Deficiency of [LH and FSH] causes loss of menstrual periods and infertility in women and causes loss of sexual function, a low blood testosterone level and infertility in men,” says the university’s website.

How do you know if you have an endocrine problem?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it might be time to consult your doctor: unexplained weight loss or weight gain, significant menstrual changes (including total loss of period), decreased libido, increased body hair growth, mood swings, changes in acne, depression and/or anxiety.

“So for example, a woman who has irregular menses and infertility or breast milk production or one of those three, probably should have a prolactin level done,” Blevins says in an interview with UCSF Medical Center. “If the prolactin is elevated and she’s not on any medications known to do that, she could then have an MRI scan to look for evidence of a pituitary tumor in that setting.”

In the event that you feel your sex life is being hindered by any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor and bring up the possibility of a pituitary issue.

By Stephanie Osmanski

Originally published on HelloFlo.