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Endocrine glands
Endocrine glands


Definition:

Sheehan syndrome is a condition that may occur in a woman who bleeds severely during childbirth.

See also: Hypopituitarism



Alternative Names:

Postpartum hypopituitarism; Postpartum pituitary insufficiency; Hypopituitarism Syndrome



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Severe bleeding during childbirth can cause tissue death in the pituitary gland, which may cause the gland to lose its ability to function properly.

The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. It normally produces hormones that stimulate breast milk production, growth, reproductive functions, the thyroid, and the adrenal glands. A lack of these hormones can lead to a variety of symptoms.

Conditions that increase the risk of bleeding during childbirth and Sheehan syndrome include multiple pregnancies (twins or triplets) and problems with the placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy to feed the fetus.

Sheehan syndrome is very rare.



Symptoms:

Symptoms of Sheehan syndrome may include:

  • Inability to breast-feed (breast milk never "comes in")
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of menstrual bleeding
  • Loss of pubic and axillary hair
  • Low blood pressure

Note: Symptoms other than inability to breast feed may not develop for several years after the delivery.



Signs and tests:
  • Blood tests to measure hormone levels
  • CT scan of the head to rule out other pituitary problems, such as a tumor


Treatment:

Treatment involves estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy, which must be taken for the rest of your life. Thyroid and adrenal hormones also must be taken.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

The outlook with early diagnosis and treatment is excellent.



Complications:

This condition can be life threatening if not treated.



Calling your health care provider:



Prevention:

Extreme bleeding during childbirth can often be prevented by proper medical care. Otherwise, Sheehan syndrome is not preventable.



References:

Malee MP. Pituitary and adrenal disorders in pregnancy. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 39.

Cunnigham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al . Obstetrical hemorrhage. In: Cunnigham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 22nd ed. New York, NY; McGraw-Hill; 2005:chap 35.




Review Date: 10/28/2008
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100