What Are Prostaglandins?


Prostaglandins are natural chemicals in the body with hormone-like qualities. First discovered in semen, prostaglandins were later found in cells throughout the body, as well as in women’s menstrual fluid, according to the Society for Endocrinology . Prostaglandins affect reproductive processes and are also thought to play a major role in promoting and resolving inflammation in the body, notes the Cleveland Clinic . While most hormones are released by a gland and then carried throughout the body in the bloodstream, prostaglandins are not. Rather, they’re produced at the area of the body where they’re needed. Prostaglandins and Reproduction Although more research is needed to fully understand the role of prostaglandins in reproduction, it’s known that they’re present in the body throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, notes the Society for Endocrinology. During your period , prostaglandins trigger muscles in your uterus to contract. These contractions help expel the uterus lining. Higher levels of prostaglandins can cause more severe menstrual cramps , and severe contractions may constrict the blood vessels around the uterus. When pregnant women go into labor, prostaglandins help cause the cervix to dilate and contractions to occur. Your doctor may use synthetic prostaglandins to induce labor if it’s decided that you should give birth before labor naturally occurs. Dinoprostone (Cervidil ) inserts and misoprostol tablets are used for this purpose. While prostaglandins are found naturally in men’s semen, and some people have suggested that having intercourse late in pregnancy can induce delivery, most experts do not believe that is the case. The following risks and side effects are possible with induced labor, per the Mayo Clinic : Uterine hyperstimulation or rupture, serious complications that can cause injury and bleeding Low fetal heart rate Failed induction, which may lead to the need for cesarean section (C-section) surgery Prostaglandins are also used to: Control excessive bleeding after giving birth Manage patent ductus arteriosus, a condition in which the ductus arteriosus (a blood vessel) doesn’t close in an infant after birth, according to research Terminate a pregnancy Prostaglandins may also play a role in erections in men. Because of this role, they have been synthesized and used in injections to help men with erectile dysfunction (ED) obtain an erection, notes StatPearls . ED occurs when a man consistently can’t get an erection or maintain one long enough to engage in sexual intercourse. Prostaglandins and Inflammation When part of your body is inflamed, it means that your immune system is responding to infection or injury. Inflammation is a way for your body to try to heal damaged areas, but it can also get out of control and cause damage over time. Inflammation has been shown to play a role in arthritis, lupus , cancer, and neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases. Prostaglandins play a key role in inflammation by contributing to the development of redness, swelling, heat, and pain. Excess production of prostaglandins due to inflammation may lead to: Arthritis Heavy menstrual bleeding Painful menstrual cramps While researchers understand prostaglandins well when it comes to promoting inflammation, notes the Cleveland Clinic , they don’t yet understand how these chemicals help resolve inflammation. Prostaglandins and Other Conditions If your body doesn’t produce enough prostaglandins, your doctor may consider giving you prostaglandins to treat the following conditions: Stomach ulcers Glaucoma Congenital heart disease in newborn babies



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