Penny Sheehan

Dr Penny Sheehan 

MBBS University of Melbourne (1991), FRANZCOG (2001), Graduate Diploma of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Melbourne (2002)

Dr Sheehan is a Royal Women’s Hospital (RWH) staff specialist Obstetrician who has been a Head of Unit for 18 years. Dr Sheehan is a Lecturer at the University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, lecturing to undergraduate medical students. Since 2016, she has been Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Women’s at Sandringham.

She has gained considerable breadth of experience during this time working with both women in low-risk maternity care and high-risk settings. She also heads the Preterm Labour Unit, providing surveillance and interventions for women who are at high risk of preterm birth.

Dr Sheehan complements her clinical role with an active program of research that specializes in parturition and preterm birth. She has conducted basic research on the possible contribution of progesterone metabolites to parturition as well as other mechanisms related to the progesterone withdrawal theory of labour.

National/International Research Support

  • NHMRC Project Grant APP1126236 2016-2018 Associate Investigator
  • NHMRC Project Grant APP1042478 2013-2015 Associate Investigator
  • NHMRC Project Grant APP1026042 2012-2015 Associate Investigator

Contributions to Field of Research

Dr Sheehan is a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in the Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Pregnancy Research Centre, where she supervises medical students undertaking a research elective, and BSc Honours students. In 2000, she was awarded the Arthur Wilson Memorial Scholarship from the RANZCOG Research Foundation for her research into progesterone metabolites in human parturition undertaken as a research elective in her FRANZCOG qualification. She has extensive experience

  • Site investigator: PPeTal Trial, (2018, funded ($2.5M) by bio-tech company Carmentix)
  • Site investigator: PROGRESS trial, a national, multi-centre, randomized double-blind trial of vaginal progesterone for prevention of preterm birth. (PLoS Med. 2017 Sep 26;14(9):e1002390)
  • Site investigator: EECV2, an international multicentre randomized controlled trial of early external cephalic version. (J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2016:38(3):235-245.e3; BJOG 2011:118, 5 564-577)
  • Investigator: Fetal Medicine Foundation trial of cervical pessaries for shortened cervix (N Engl J Med 2016;374:1044-52)
  • Investigator: FLAMINGO Trial of determination of fetal lactate in labour at the RWH with Prof Christine East (Monash), (AI, NHMRC Project Grant APP1026042 2012-2015; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 May 1;5:CD006174; Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17.)
  • Investigator: Project looking at negative birth experience with Prof Fiona Judd (RWH), (BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 29;16:270; Schizophr Res. 2014 Aug;157(1-3):305-9; following on from the BIRTH REFLECTIONS project funded in 2007 with a Keith Fitzmaurice Bursary and in 2006 with a Victorian Travelling Fellowship Program)

Publications (last 5 years):

15 publications in peer-reviewed journals (2 first author, 5 last author). Overall her publications have been cited more than 400 times.

Research mentoring and training past 5 years:

12 medical students undertaking a research year assessed by thesis as part of their MD. (Publications last 5 years: J Perinat Med. 2017 Jan 1;45(1):29-44: Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Aug;57(4):405-411; Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Jul;48(1):7-15; Reprod Fertil Dev. 2016 Apr;28(5):618-27; Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2015 Aug;55(4):344-9). 4 Honours students. 1 PhD student.

Top 10 publications over the last 5 years:

  1. Radford SK, Da Silva Costa F, Araujo Júnior E, Sheehan PM. Clinical application of quantitative foetal Fibronectin for the prediction of preterm birth in symptomatic women. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2017 Nov 29. doi: 10.1159/000480235. [Epub ahead of print] This paper describes the first experiences with the new quantitative fetal fibronectin test.
  2. Parkington HC, Stevenson J, Tonta MA, Paul J, Butler T, Maiti K, Chan EC, Sheehan PM, Brennecke SP, Coleman HA, Smith R. Diminished hERG K+ channel activity facilitates strong human labour contractions but is dysregulated in obese women. Nat Commun. 2014 Jun 17;5:4108. This paper describes for the first time the presence of hERG potassium channels in myometrium and their changes with normal labour and dysfunctional labour in association with obesity.
  3. Hughes K, Kane SC, Araujo Júnior E, da Silva Costa F, Sheehan PM. Cervical length as a predictor of spontaneous preterm birth in high-risk singleton pregnancy - current knowledge. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Oct 8. doi:10.1002/uog.15781. This editorial describes the current state of knowledge of use of cervical length ultrasound in patients at high risk of preterm birth.
  4. Wang R, Sheehan PM, Brennecke SP. Changes in myometrial expression of progesterone receptor membrane components 1 and 2 are associated with human parturition at term. Reprod Fertil Dev. 2014 Sep 30. doi: 10.1071/RD13430. This work is the first description of changes in membrane progesterone receptors in myometrium with parturition.
  5. Sheehan PM, Nankervis A, Araujo Júnior E, Da Silva Costa F. Maternal Thyroid Disease and Preterm Birth: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Nov;100(11):4325-31. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-3074. Meta-analysis and review of the controversial issue of thyroid disease and its possible association with preterm birth.
  6. Sim WH, Araujo Júnior E, Da Silva Costa F, Sheehan PM. Maternal and neonatal outcomes following expectant management of preterm prelabour rupture of membranes before viability. J Perinat Med. 2017 Jan 1;45(1):29-44.
  7. Hughes K, Sim S, Roman A, Michalak K, Kane S, Sheehan P. Outcomes and predictive tests from a dedicated specialist clinic for women at high risk of preterm labour: A ten year audit. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Aug;57(4):405-411.
  8. Parkington HC, Sheehan PM, Coleman HA, Brennecke SP. Mother Nature versus Father Time. J Physiol. 2017 Mar 15;595(6):1849-1850
  9. Newman L, Judd F, Olsson CA, Castle D, Bousman C, Sheehan P, Pantelis C, Craig JM, Komiti A, Everall I. Early origins of mental disorder - risk factors in the perinatal and infant period. BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 29;16:270
  10. Sim WH, Araujo Júnior E, Da Silva Costa F, Sheehan PM. Maternal and neonatal outcomes following expectant management of preterm prelabour rupture of membranes before viability. J Perinat Med. 2017 Jan 1;45(1):29-44.
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