Pituitary hormones are a group of chemicals created in the pituitary gland and responsible for a host of different bodily functions. These hormones play vital roles in body systems such as the reproductive system, thyroid production and function, as well as helping control the body's reaction to both common and extreme stress. The pituitary gland is near the base of the skull in the sella turcica, also known as the pituitary fossa. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the master gland because of the sheer number of physical functions — such as metabolism, growth, and maturation — controlled by pituitary hormones.
Three hormones of the pituitary gland are vital in the female reproductive system, though other hormones produced affect both genders. Prolactin (PRL) is the hormone responsible for stimulating the secretion of breast milk in the days and months following childbirth. Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) produced by the pituitary gland are important aspects of the overall function of the reproductive system. Some experts also include the human growth hormone (HGH) in the reproductive category of pituitary hormones, because growth is often associated with sexual maturity.
The most well known pituitary hormones are the ones directly related to thyroid function. The thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is sent from the pituitary gland to instruct the thyroid to release more or less hormones as needed. These hormones are responsible for several crucial bodily functions, including their role in growth and reproduction, ensuring a stable basal metabolic rate, and stimulating the thyroid gland to release an appropriate amount of hormones. Almost every organ in the body is affected by the pituitary hormones in one regard or another.
In many cases, pituitary hormones are used to stimulate other organs of the body into doing their jobs; one example is the thyroid gland. Another gland directly influenced by the pituitary gland is the adrenal gland, just above the kidneys. When encouraged by pituitary hormones, the adrenal glands release hormones intended to help the body productively deal with stress and create a healthy response to it. The adrenal glands then secrete aldosterone and cortisol, hormones both produced to regulate the body's stress response. Without pituitary hormones and glands, many of the body's main functions would be severely diminished or impossible.