Sheehan syndrome is also known as postpartum pituitary necrosis. It is a condition that may occur in women who experience massive blood loss during childbirth. Damage to the pituitary gland under the brain occurs due to a sudden drop in blood pressure. The result is that the oxygen that the blood normally supplies is diminished and causes tissue destruction in the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland located in the brain and is responsible for creating and managing the release of various hormones. During pregnancy, the gland is enlarged through increased blood supply and the need to create hormones for pregnancy. One of these hormones (prolactin) is used in the process of creating breast milk. The result of Sheehan syndrome is a failure of breastfeeding and many other hormonal disorders. Symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, absence of breast milk, pubic body hair loss, amenorrhoea (lack of menstrual period) and decreased blood pressure.
Sheehan syndrome is named after the British pathologist Harold Sheehan (1900-1988). It has become less common due to advances in labour procedures.
Treatment involves taking lifelong hormonal replacement medications.