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HELLP Syndrome

Condition Basics

What is HELLP syndrome?

HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening liver disorder thought to be a type of severe preeclampsia. It is characterized by H emolysis (destruction of red blood cells), E levated Li ver enzymes (which indicate liver damage), and L ow P latelet count.

HELLP is usually related to preeclampsia. In most cases, this happens before 35 weeks of pregnancy, though it can also develop right after childbirth.

What are the symptoms of HELLP syndrome?

HELLP syndrome often occurs without warning and can be hard to recognize. It can occur without the signs of preeclampsia. (These signs usually include a large increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine.) Symptoms of HELLP syndrome include:

  • Headache.
  • Vision problems.
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen (liver).
  • Shoulder, neck, and other upper body pain. (This pain also starts in the liver.)
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Seizure.

HELLP syndrome can be dangerous for both you and your baby. If you have these symptoms, you need emergency medical treatment.

How is HELLP syndrome treated?

Delivering the baby is the only known way to reverse HELLP syndrome. You may be able to have a vaginal delivery. But a cesarean may be needed for your or your baby's safety.

Before delivery, you will get medicines to:

  • Prevent seizures, known as eclampsia. (Magnesium sulfate prevents seizures.)
  • Control severe high blood pressure.
  • Mature your baby's lungs if the pregnancy is less than 34 weeks. (You may get corticosteroid shots for this.)

What happens as you recover from HELLP syndrome?

You will probably start to recover from HELLP within a few days after delivery. But in some cases, it can take longer. This is especially true for those who've had complications of HELLP. Your doctor will monitor your recovery.

After having HELLP syndrome, you're considered high-risk for complications during any future pregnancies. Make sure that your doctor knows about this part of your health history. You'll need to be checked often during and after any pregnancy.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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Related Links

Preeclampsia Preterm Labor

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