HELLP syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur in pregnant women who have:
A cause for HELLP syndrome has not been found.
Most often HELLP develops before the pregnancy is 37 weeks along. Sometimes it can develop in the week after the baby is born.
Many women have high blood pressure and are diagnosed with preeclampsia before they develop HELLP syndrome. However, in some cases, HELLP symptoms are the first warning of preeclampsia and the condition is misdiagnosed as:
During a physical examination, the doctor may discover:
Tests of the baby's health will be done.
The main treatment is to deliver the baby as soon as possible, even if the baby is premature. Problems with the liver and other complications of HELLP syndrome can quickly get worse and be harmful to both the mother and child.
Your doctor may induce labor by giving you drugs to start labor, or may perform a C-section.
You may also receive:
When the disease is not treated early, up to 1 out of 4 women develop serious complications. Without treatment, a small number of women die.
The death rate among babies born to mothers with HELLP syndrome depends on birth weight and the development of the baby's organs, especially the lungs. (See also: Prematurity)
HELLP syndrome may return in up to 1 out of 4 future pregnancies.
There can be complications before and after the baby is delivered, including:
After the baby is born and HELLP syndrome has time to improve, most of these complications will go away.
If symptoms of HELLP syndrome occur during pregnancy:
Although there is no known way to prevent HELLP syndrome, it is important for all pregnant women to start prenatal care early and continue it through the pregnancy. This allows the health care provider to find and treat conditions such as HELLP syndrome early.
Sibai BM. Hypertension. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, eds. Obstetrics - Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2007:chap 33.
Wakim-Fleming J. Liver disease in pregnancy. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2010. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2010:section 6.