HELLP Syndrome: What You Should Know


Last photo of me

before things started getting crazy.

I'd like to think I was an educated pregnant woman -- meaning I read many books, tons of online articles, and posts from other moms. Even my husband was in on the act. We soaked up as much information as we could about pregnancy and even specialized things like being high risk, expecting twins, natural birth, c-sections (just in case), and of course we talked with my doctors and doula about all of it.

So why didn't I ever read about HELLP syndrome?

And why, if it is so rare, did I get it, along with so many women I heard from on CafeMom?

HELLP stands for Hemolytic anemia, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count. Basically it's preeclampsia's most severe cousin -- there is extreme high blood pressure and risk of liver failure and seizure.

Some women are diagnosed with preeclampsia first, then develop HELLP. Others, like me, have it all come on together and sometimes during labor, like in my case.

It's serious and can be fatal. The cure? Delivering the baby right away because the mother's liver function is compromised and can harm both. And even after the baby is born, mom can be affected so close monitoring and drugs are used to stabilize.

I went into the hospital when my twins were 36 weeks gestation. I was dizzy, felt like I was starting to hallucinate, sweating uncontrollably, I even asked if the bed I was lying on was heated since I was so hot. My nurse knew what was up (Jeanmarie at NYU I love you!) -- my blood pressure was high, there was protein in my urine, it was time...c-section...and I feared the worst, but then I was pumped with magnesium sulfate and things got fuzzy. You can read more of my birth story on my Journal.

Everything turned out fine -- I have two healthy babies, Hunter and Penelope, and while it took me some time to recover, I am a-OK.

I just want to know why there isn't more information about HELLP. Doctors don't seem to really understand it, either.

They say Caucasian women over 25 are at the most risk. OK, that's me, but that's it? I had severe edema but my blood pressure and urine were testing normal. I felt really tired, really tired, but that's common. I also had terrible reflux hours after a meal -- I would wake in the middle of the night throwing up what seemed like acid. Were these signs? I don't know. No one seems to know.

But I do know this...I think a well-informed patient is the best kind, so I wish I knew more about HELLP before I got it.

Have you heard of HELLP syndrome?


Related posts:

Moms with or who had HELLP


Pregnancy after HELLP


3rd trimester, birth stories, complications, labor & delivery, pregnancy health


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Peajewel Peajewel

I have never heard of it before you.  That really is crazy and I am always amazed that doctor's do not learn about the things that are not common.  You would think they would want to know everything about it just in case!  I am glad you are okay!

lovin... lovinmystar

I had never heard of HELLP until I was diagnosed with it at 25 weeks. Four years later, I am no more informed than I was back then. Doctors can't tell me why I got sick. They can't tell me what my chances are for developing it in any future pregnancies. I don't think it's as rare as they think, so it would be nice to see some research done on it.

ethan... ethans_momma06

It in the back of what to expect when you are expecting... but other then that, and you.... no severly lacking in info!

RanaA... RanaAurora

I had heard of it very briefly but couldn't have told you what it was until your birth, and then I did a lot of reading about it to better understand what had happened to you.

I figure that I can always learn more, which is why I never stop reading.  I know I don't know everything about everything and never will, but I can sure know a lot if I try!  Don't beat yourself up over not knowing about it.  Until the past decade or so the good majority of adults who are NOW diagnosed with autism were just called mentally retarded/handicapped.  Especially for things that aren't understood, it can be hard to get a lot of info out there.

twinm... twinmamaof3

I had pre e with my twins I was diagnosed at 20 weeks, then it got so bad they flew me to the city at 28 weeks and 4 days, three days later They did blood work i had just gotten my breakfast about to take a bite of toast and the nurse takes my  food away, (she wasnt being mean) she said the doc is on his way and that she was told I couldnt eat.  i knew I was going in for a c section when she said that.  the doc came in said I had hellp syndrome and I had my twins within the hour.  It was very scary!  We were highly advised not to have anymore children due to me having pre e with my first and then the chain of events with the twins. So we are happy with our three!

Freela Freela

Yes, I've heard of it, but only because a coworker of my mom's had it during her pregnancy.  She had to deliver her baby significantly early (around 27 weeks) because of it- she was in rough shape for awhile and her baby spent quite some time in the NICU for prematurity, though she came through with no significant effects.  I'm not sure what the symptoms necessarily are (though I suspect not the wicked heartburn/reflux, since I had that with all three pregnancies without ever having any pre-e issues at all- the babies were just squeezing my stomach upwards so much that stomach contacts just didn't stay where they were put.)

mocha... mochadiva101

Wow...Thanks for educating us and sharing your story. Congrats to you an your two bundles:) i also have never heard of this but im glad you shared. like you i also read everything about babies, kids, families, pregnacy, labor etc...for my son since he is my first child. Im glad all is well with you, keep in touch. see ya

nonmember avatar Robyn

Had HELLP but didn't know it until I went into labor on my own at 36w6d with my first. Had unmedicated (and quick) birth and then passed out prompting concerns of dehydration. Some increased bleeding while delivering placenta but shot of pitocin helped with that. Post natal labs indicated HELLP but at no time was I hypertensive or 'dropping protein' in my urine. My blood pressure remained stable the entire time even during labor and birth. My platlet count was in single digits after birth and I ended up getting transfused two units of blood. Had I been cut either for episiotomy or emergency cesarean, i could have hemmorhaged. We all were fine at the end of it all. I was 32 when my son was born. No concerns at all with my second, three years later.

Patti Tirpak

Never heard of it before this.

shopp... shopping4babyje

I had HELLP Syndrome also. I was 36 weeks and 3 days pregnant with my daughter (our only living child after 4 MC's) and I had just gotten back home from another trip to the hospital (which was happening about 3 times a week due to a very high risk pregnancy, I have 2 blood clotting deficiency's -the reason for my 4 MC's which required injections of a blood thinner twice daily into my stomach from day 11 on throughout my pregnancy, gestational diabetes with insulin twice daily and 4 finger pricks daily from 23 weeks on, I had to check my BP twice daily due to high blood pressure starting at 25 weeks, and contractions from 18 weeks on which required me to go on and off of bed-rest throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, I had to go to the hospital each time that I felt contractions, I also had kidney stones at 16 weeks, I worked as a preschool teacher -when I was not on bed rest , and I accidentally got punched in the stomach by a 3 year old -she was making the semi-truck horn honking motion and accidentally came down on my stomach, and I had a 6 ft long kids table accidentally pushed into my stomach also when one child from my class got mad at a friend and tried to push the table into his friend, instead it hit into me. I had 26 ultrasounds during my pregnancy with my daughter). I was supposed to check my BP twice a day at home and call my Dr. and go to the hospital if it was high.

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