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Hellp Syndrome


What is HELLP syndrome?

HELLP ( H emolysis, E levated L iver enzymes, L ow P latelet count) syndrome is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. HELLP syndrome may develop any time between week 20 of your pregnancy and a few days after you give birth. HELLP syndrome may happen with or without preeclampsia. You may not have any symptoms. The cause is not known.

What health problems can HELLP syndrome cause?

  • Hemolysis is the destruction of red blood cells. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to your body. The death of your organs will occur without oxygen.
  • Elevated liver enzymes mean your liver is not working well. Your liver filters your blood.
  • Low platelet count means your blood cannot clot well. Platelets are the sticky part of your blood that helps it clot to stop bleeding.

What increases my risk for HELLP syndrome?

  • Older age during pregnancy
  • One or more previous pregnancies
  • Preeclampsia or eclampsia
  • HELLP syndrome in a past pregnancy

What are the signs and symptoms of HELLP syndrome?

  • Pain on the right side of your upper abdomen, behind the ribs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache with vision changes
  • Severe fatigue that does not get better with rest
  • Difficulty breathing in and out
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

How is HELLP syndrome diagnosed?

Blood tests check liver function, how well your blood clots, and if you have enough red blood cells.

How is HELLP syndrome treated?

Giving birth is the best treatment for HELLP syndrome. Medicines may be given to delay labor or mature your baby's lungs if he is not ready to be born. You may need to be on bed rest until you can give birth. You may also be given medicine to lower your blood pressure.

What are the risks of HELLP syndrome?

HELLP syndrome is life-threatening to you and your baby. Your lungs or brain can fill with fluid. A blood clot in your brain can cause a stroke. Your liver, kidneys, lungs, or heart may fail. Your retina may separate from the back for your eye, which causes vision problems or blindness. The placenta may pull away from your uterus and cause severe bleeding. You may need to give birth before your baby is ready.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a headache that does not go away when you take medicine.
  • You have blood in your urine.
  • You are urinating less than usual, or not at all.

When should I or someone close to me seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You suddenly have trouble breathing.
  • The pain on the right side of your upper abdomen gets worse, or spreads to your back.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, faint, or sweaty, or you are pale.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual, or you are breathing faster than usual.
  • You lose consciousness.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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Micromedex® Care Notes