What is HELLP Syndrome?
HELLP syndrome is a pregnancy-specific complication that is most likely life-threatening and classified as a variant condition of preeclampsia. This syndrome and preeclampsia typically develop later on in pregnancy or some cases, after pregnancy.
HELLP syndrome was defined and named due to the common indications, including:
- H – Hemolysis or the wearing down of red blood cells
- EL – Elevated liver enzymes
- LP – Low platelet count
The syndrome is complicated to diagnose, specifically when blood pressure and protein levels are normal.
Common symptoms of HELLP syndrome may be confused with other medical conditions, such as the flu, gastritis, gall bladder disease and more. The physical symptoms are very similar to preeclampsia symptoms, including headaches, nausea, stomach pain, vision abnormalities, and difficulty breathing. When caught in time, HELLP syndrome can be treated.
Similar to preeclampsia, the treatment for most women is delivering their baby. However, during pregnancy, women may require a transfusion of red cells, platelets, or plasma. In some cases, corticosteroids can stimulate the baby’s lungs to grow, and certain steroids can improve the mother’s outcome as well.
Among the 5 to 8 percent of woman that develop preeclampsia during pregnancy, about 15 percent of those women will develop evidence of HELLP syndrome. Health care providers believe that the number of the syndrome cases can be lowered by accurately diagnosing preeclampsia and quickly treating it.
How to Prevent It
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid HELLP syndrome. However, there are some things you can do before and during pregnancy that will decrease your chances. Being healthy and in good physical shape before getting pregnant is important. Also, schedule prenatal visits, inform your doctors of any previous high-risk pregnancies, and understand the symptoms to report to your doctor as soon as possible.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!