HELLP is a scary pregnancy complication that can put mom and baby at risk. Here's the scoop on how to know if you could develop HELLP, and what to do if you do.
What is HELLP syndrome?
HELLP syndrome is a rare complication of pregnancy, named for its unique combination of symptoms. HELLP stands for Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets. What that means: the body is breaking down its own red blood cells (called “hemolysis”), the liver isn’t working properly (hence the “elevated liver enzymes”) and there’s an increased chance of bleeding (since platelets, which help clotting, are low).
What are the signs of HELLP syndrome?
Abdominal pain and tenderness, with or without nausea and vomiting, are among the first symptoms. Fatigue and headaches may also be noted. About 85 percent of women with HELLP also have high blood pressure.
Are there any tests for HELLP syndrome?
Yup. Your care provider will check your blood pressure and urine (about 85 percent of women with HELLP have protein in their urine). He’ll also order blood tests to check your red blood cell, liver enzymes and platelet levels.
How common is HELLP syndrome?
It’s a rare condition. About one to two women per 1,000 pregnancies are diagnosed with HELLP.
How did I get HELLP syndrome?
Wish we had answers, but no one knows why some women get HELLP syndrome.
How will HELLP syndrome affect my baby?
HELLP syndrome can be life threatening to you, so the goal is to preserve your health long enough to safely deliver baby. Your doctor will work with you to avoid premature delivery as long as possible, but if your health deteriorates, the doctor may have to deliver the baby -- even if it’s a couple weeks before your due date (see next page for treatments).