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


Read More >