To evaluate the pulsatile mode of immunoactive LH release during physiological lactational amenorrhea, we withdrew blood samples at 10-min intervals for 24 h from breastfeeding women (n = 9) at both 3 weeks and 3 months postpartum. Nonlactating women (n = 7) were sampled similarly in the early follicular phase of the normal menstrual cycle. Objective LH pulse analysis revealed that the mean frequencies of pulsatile LH release were similar at both times postpartum and in menstruating young women. By 3 months postpartum, mean serum PRL concentrations had declined 50%, and serum LH peak areas doubled. In contrast, LH interpulse interval, peak duration, and maximal, incremental, and fractional LH pulse amplitude did not change significantly. When deconvolution analysis was used to assess pituitary responses to two pulses of exogenous GnRH at 3 months (vs. 3 weeks) postpartum, we found significant increases in maximal LH secretory rates and the total mass of LH secreted. There was no change in the duration or timing of the evoked LH secretory burst and/or the estimated half-life of endogenous LH. In summary, during lactational amenorrhea, pulsatile LH release occurs at a mean frequency no different from that in the normal early follicular phase. As hyperprolactinemia wanes, there is increased pituitary responsiveness to exogenously administered GnRH and a doubling of spontaneous serum LH concentration peak areas. Such amplitude changes are consistent with the hypothesis of increased endogenous GnRH drive (e.g. augmented GnRH secretion per burst and/or increased pituitary responsiveness to available GnRH) during recovery of the postpartum hypothalamopituitary-ovarian axis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical