Sheehan syndrome is a condition that can occur in a woman who bleeds severely during childbirth. Sheehan syndrome is a type of hypopituitarism.
Severe bleeding during childbirth can cause tissue in the pituitary gland to die. This gland does not work properly as a result.
The pituitary gland is at the base of the brain. It makes hormones that stimulate growth, production of breast milk, 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 pregnancy (twins or triplets) and problems with the placenta. The placenta is the organ that develops during pregnancy to feed the fetus.
It is a rare condition.
Symptoms of Sheehan syndrome may include:
Note: Other than not being able to breastfeed, symptoms may not develop for several years after the delivery.
Tests done may include:
Treatment involves estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy. These hormones must be taken at least until the normal age of menopause. Thyroid and adrenal hormones must also be taken. These will be needed for the rest of your life.
The outlook with early diagnosis and treatment is excellent.
This condition can be life threatening if not treated.
Severe loss of blood during childbirth can often be prevented by proper medical care. Otherwise, Sheehan syndrome is not preventable.
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.