Purpose: Our purpose was to clarify and further characterize the changes in height, length, width, volume, and shape in the normal pituitary gland and in width in the infundibulum during pregnancy and the first 6 months post partum.
Material and methods: Cranial MR imaging was performed in 78 women who were pregnant in the second or third trimester or who were post partum, and in 18 age-matched control subjects who were not pregnant. Volume measurements were performed in 2 ways; volume 1=1/2 x height x length x width; and volume 2=area (measured by trackball) x slice thickness.
Results: Gland volume, height, width, length, and convexity, and infundibular width increased during pregnancy. The highest values were seen during the 3 days immediately post partum. When compared with volunteers, volumes 1 and 2 showed the largest increase (120%) among the parameters. Gland height showed the best correlation (r=0.94, p<0.00001) with gestational age. The mean height of the gland was 8.76 mm in the third trimester. None of the pregnant women had a gland height of above 10 mm during pregnancy. Only 2 subjects had gland heights of 10.04 and 10.2 mm during the 0-3 days post partum. After this first post-partum period of 3 days, the gland size, shape, and volume and the infundibular width returned to normal within 6 months.
Conclusion: The pituitary gland enlarges in three dimensions throughout pregnancy. During pregnancy, the volume of the gland shows the highest percentage of increase compared to its length, height, and width. The maximum height of the gland does not exceed 10 mm during pregnancy but it may exceed 10 mm during the 3 days immediately post partum.