Lactation is the secretion of milk from mammary glands. It is a very important phase in a woman’s life and sometimes increase in prolactin levels can lead to secretions even without pregnancy. This is mostly due to hormonal imbalance and can be easily treated.
Feeding of an infant at the mother’s breast is called breastfeeding or nursing. Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for infants. It provides nutrition and immunization to the baby. Mammary ducts increases rapidly and multiply to make large lobules during the first half of pregnancy. The period of secretion of milk starts from fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. During the second half of pregnancy secretory activates. After 16 weeks of pregnancy, lactation occurs even if the pregnancy does not progress.
There are several stages of lactation process that starts with Mammogenesis (growth of breasts) to Lactogenesis (the functional change of the breasts so that they can secrete milk) to Galactopoiesis (maintaining the secretion of milk) and ends with Involution (the termination of milk secretion).
- Mammogenesis: Mammogenesis is the development of mammary gland; breast tissue. It starts immediately after birth. Breasts become enlarged, nipple pigment become dark and skin become thinner.
- Lactogenesis: Lactogenesis is the change of mammary gland. Its is the state of nonsecretory to secretory state.
There are two stages of lactogenesis:
- Lactogenesis 1: At this stage, mammary gland produces milk from mid pregnancy to late pregnancy.
- Lactogenesis 2: At this stage, more milk is produced in quantity after parturition.
- Galactopoiesis : The produced milk is maintained by hormones. This stage starts around 9 days after birth and finishes at the beginning of involution. Size of breasts starts decreases between 6 to 9 months after birth. Milk secretion decreases after 7 to 9 months.
- Involution: Involution is the shrinking of an organ. This stage starts 40 days after last breastfeed. Reduction in cell number and reorganization of stromal tissue reduces the size of the organ.
Other pelvic organs like uterus, muscles, ovaries and fallopian tubes also involute and regain their normal size in 6 weeks after delivery.
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