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Sheehan syndrome

Abstract

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NORD is very grateful to Mark E. Molitch, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Sheehan syndrome

  • postpartum hypopituitarism
  • postpartum panhypopituitarism
  • postpartum panhypopituitary syndrome
  • postpartum pituitary necrosis
  • Simmond's disease

Disorder Subdivisions

  • No subdivisions found.

General Discussion

Excessive blood loss during or after delivery of a baby may affect the function of the pituitary gland, leading to a form of maternal hypopituitarism known as Sheehan syndrome. Such extensive bleeding may reduce the blood flow to the pituitary gland and hence the amount of oxygen available to the cells of the brain and the gland. In such circumstances the pituitary cells may be damaged or die (necrosis) and thus the production of the usual pituitary hormones will be reduced, perhaps by a significant amount.

During pregnancy the pituitary gland will enlarge and may double in size. At this time the gland is especially vulnerable to "shock" and excessive maternal bleeding may induce the "shock" and the damage to the cells of the gland. At that time the balance of hormones produced by the pituitary may be thrown off giving rise to the symptoms associated with Sheehan syndrome.

There appear to be two forms of the disorder; a chronic form and an acute form, depending on the amount of damage to the gland's cells. The acute form reflects considerable damage so that symptoms become apparent soon after delivery. In chronic cases, the volume of damage is much less and symptoms may not appear for months or years after delivery.

Sheehan syndrome Resources

Organizations:

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