HELLP syndrome is a complication of pregnancy characterized by h emolysis , e levated l iver enzymes , and a l ow p latelet count. The cause is unknown. Treatment generally involves delivery of the baby as soon as possible. HELLP syndrome occurs in about 0.

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Preeclampsia can also occur earlier in pregnancy or, rarely, postpartum. HELLP syndrome is a disorder of the liver and blood that can be fatal if left untreated. The symptoms of HELLP syndrome are wide-ranging and vague, and can often be difficult to initially diagnose. These include:. Hemolysis refers to a breakdown of red blood cells.

In people with hemolysis, the red blood cells get broken down too soon and too rapidly. Inflamed or injured liver cells leak high amounts of certain chemicals, including enzymes, into your blood.

Platelets are components of your blood that help with clotting. When platelet levels are low, you develop an increased risk of excessive bleeding. HELLP syndrome is a rare disorder, affecting less than 1 percent of all pregnancies. However, it is a major health concern and can be life-threatening to both the mother and the unborn baby.

Prompt treatment and delivery of the baby are generally required for the best outcome. HELLP syndrome usually develops in the last trimester of pregnancy, but may occur earlier, or even present postpartum. The cause of symptoms is unknown.

Some experts believe HELLP syndrome is a severe form of preeclampsia , a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure. There are also certain factors that can increase your risk of developing HELLP syndrome, such as preexisting high blood pressure or diabetes, advanced maternal age, carrying multiples, such as twins, and having a previous history of preeclampsia.

HELLP syndrome symptoms are very similar to those of the stomach flu. In rare cases, you may also have confusion and seizures. These signs and symptoms usually indicate advanced HELLP syndrome and should prompt immediate evaluation by your doctor. The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown, but there are certain factors that may increase your risk of developing it. Preeclampsia is the greatest risk factor. This condition is marked by high blood pressure, and it typically occurs during the last trimester of pregnancy.

However, it may present earlier in the pregnancy or postpartum in rare cases. One study showed that the risk of recurrence for hypertensive disorders, including preeclampsia and HELLP, in future pregnancies is about 18 percent. During the exam, your doctor may feel for abdominal tenderness, an enlarged liver, and any excess swelling. These can be signs of a liver problem. Your doctor may also check your blood pressure. Certain tests can also help your doctor make a diagnosis. Your doctor may also order a:.

Once a HELLP syndrome diagnosis is confirmed, delivery of the baby is the best way to prevent complications, as this should stop progression of the disease. In many cases, the baby is born prematurely. However, your treatment may vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and how close you are to your due date. If your HELLP syndrome symptoms are mild or if your baby is less than 34 weeks old, your doctor may recommend:.

During treatment, your doctor will monitor your red blood cell, platelet, and liver enzyme levels. Your doctor may recommend certain prenatal tests that evaluate movement, heart rate, stress, and blood flow. You will be hospitalized for close monitoring. You may be given medications to help induce labor if your doctor determines that your condition requires immediate delivery of your baby. In some cases, a cesarean delivery is necessary.

However, this can cause complications if you have blood-clotting issues related to low platelet levels. Symptoms also improve significantly after the baby is delivered. Most symptoms and side effects will go away within days to weeks after delivery. It is important to follow up with your doctor after to delivery to evaluate for resolution of the disease.

Babies who are born before 37 weeks are carefully monitored in the hospital before they are able to go home. Early treatment is the key to preventing these complications. However, some complications may occur even with treatment. However, people can lower their risk for HELLP syndrome by maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent preexisting conditions that may increase the risk, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

This includes exercising regularly and eating a heart-healthy diet that consists of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. If you have these or other risk factors, regular routine prenatal care is important so that your doctor can evaluate you promptly if you begin to develop preeclampsia or HELLP.

Some doctors may recommend taking a low-dose aspirin during a subsequent pregnancy for prevention, based on your individual care. Early detection and treatment can help lower the risk of complications. Having preeclampsia in a first pregnancy increases your risk of developing it again in a second pregnancy.

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And there…. These include: H emolysis EL : elevated liver enzymes LP : low platelet count Hemolysis refers to a breakdown of red blood cells. The symptoms of HELLP syndrome may vary from person-to-person, but the most common ones include: feeling generally unwell or fatigued stomach pain, especially in your upper abdomen nausea vomiting headache You may also experience: swelling, especially in the hands or face excessive and sudden weight gain blurry vision, loss of vision, or other changes in vision headaches shoulder pain pain when breathing deeply In rare cases, you may also have confusion and seizures.

Complications associated with HELLP syndrome include: liver rupture kidney failure acute respiratory failure fluid in the lungs pulmonary edema excessive bleeding during delivery placental abruption , which occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus before the baby is born stroke death Early treatment is the key to preventing these complications.

Parenthood Pregnancy. Management of Preeclampsia During Delivery. What Causes Transaminitis? Read this next. Preeclampsia: Second Pregnancy Risks. Medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, DO. Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD. Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, R. Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, M.


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