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Failure to diagnose and control childbirth-related bleeding can cause Sheehan's syndrome

Bleeding-related pregnancy complications are on the rise in Texas and the United States as a whole

Have you ever come across a statistic or some information that just doesn’t make sense? I’ve been thinking a lot about some confusing statistics recently. While other industrialized countries have seen tremendous improvement in their rates of pregnancy-related deaths of mothers, in Texas and the United States, we’re seeing more and more problems.

One of the most common complications is uncontrolled bleeding during or after labor and delivery. Hemorrhaging accounts for 17% of all cases of maternal death related to pregnancy.

If the doctor is already out of the room and the nurses aren’t properly monitoring the patient, new mothers can lose so much blood that they can’t be rescued. It’s critical for healthcare providers to be on the lookout for bleeding and to notify the medical team immediately when it happens.

Another bleeding-related complication is when the OB/GYN stops short in the labor and delivery process and does not make sure that the placenta is fully delivered. In these situations, within hours or a few days, the mother may start hemorrhaging blood.

It’s easy to understand how loss of a massive amount of blood can be life-threatening. When a mom survives this type of ordeal, though, in some circumstances she’s left with permanent injuries. One of these is called Sheehan’s syndrome.

What is Sheehan’s syndrome?

Sheehan’s syndrome is a permanent, life-long medical condition caused when a woman experiences a massive blood loss and plummeting blood pressure during labor and delivery of the child. The loss of blood volume is called hypovolemia and cuts off vital nutrients and oxygen delivery to different parts of the body, including the brain.

When a woman is diagnosed with Sheehan’s syndrome, it means that the life-threatening blood loss caused permanent damage to the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland plays an important role in producing thyroid and adrenal hormones, plus hormones that control breastmilk production and menstrual function. Patients with Sheehan’s syndrome don’t produce normal amounts of these pituitary hormones, which is a condition known as hypopituitarism.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms may include:

• Breast irregularities, including shrinkage and difficulty breast-feeding

• Menstrual irregularities like infrequent or absent periods

• Hypotension (decreased blood pressure)

• Hypoglycemia (decreased blood sugar)

• Fatigue, slowed mental function, weight gain, and feeling cold because of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Patients with Sheehan’s syndrome will likely have to take hormone replacements for the rest of their lives. They also face an increased risk of adrenal crisis, which is a life-threatening situation when blood pressure plummets, which can quickly lead to shock and death. Adrenal crisis occurs most commonly when the body is under extreme stress because of an over-production of the stress hormone cortisol.

What you can do

Many experts believe that at least half of birth-related maternal deaths in America are preventable. With good prenatal care, risk factors can be identified early, leading to medical treatment that can keep mom and baby safe.

If you’ve been seriously injured or experienced a tragic loss of life because of poor labor, delivery, or post-delivery care, I encourage you to contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.

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