HELLP syndrome often develops in a few hours. It often does not become apparent until the last trimester of pregnancy. For a long time, HELLP syndrome was considered the most serious complication of preeclampsia. Today, it is known that HELLP syndrome can occur suddenly without any previous reason.
HELLP syndrome is a complication of pregnancy that can be very dangerous. However, this complication occurs very rarely, about 0.4% of pregnant women suffer from this condition. The symptoms are difficult to distinguish from normal pregnancy symptoms.
Unfortunately, there is still nothing that can prevent HELLP syndrome, but with an early medical diagnosis, it is possible to get early medical support.
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What Is HELLP Syndrome?
HELLP syndrome is a term created by Dr. Louis Weinstein in 1982.
The letters HELLP stand for the English terms of the most important findings.
H: Hemolysis = Hemolytic anemia ( blood decay ), the dissolution of the red blood cells. The red blood cells are important for the transport of oxygen throughout the body.
EL: Elevated liver enzymes = Elevated liver enzymes, which is liver dysfunction.
LP: Low levels of platelets = Decrease of platelets lower than 100,000/ml, The platelets play an important role in blood clotting.
The function of the kidney is also very often disturbed. In some cases, protein is found in the urine of affected women.
This disease can be very dangerous, as it can lead to multi-organ failure, bleeding or detachment of the placenta. In addition, developmental disorders can occur in the unborn child.
Danger To Life
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening disease for both mother and child. In Western countries, HELLP syndrome is the number one cause of maternal mortality. There is a risk of premature detachment of the placenta Pregnant women often require a blood transfusion and must deliver immediately after relief of symptoms. A few days after delivery, the symptoms usually disappear.
Most often, symptoms appear before the 37th week of pregnancy. However, it is important to know that symptoms can also occur after delivery or early in pregnancy.
- Abdominal pain mainly in the upper right abdomen. This is reported by over 90% of affected women.
- High blood pressure.
- Blurred vision.
- Rapid weight gain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Severe skin itching.
Some of these symptoms are completely normal in pregnancy, so it is hard to distinguish the normal symptoms of pregnancy from the dangerous symptoms of HELLP syndrome. It is important for you to observe when the symptoms occur5. Any change in your body should be reported to your doctor immediately.
Risk Factors For HELLP Syndrome
These factors are known to increase the risk for HELLP syndrome
- If HELLP syndrome occurred during an early pregnancy, it increases the risk of developing it again. The risk of recurrence is 5-19%.
- Preeclampsia during early pregnancy.
- Multiple pregnancies.
- White skin color.
- High blood pressure during early pregnancy.
- An age of more than 25 years.
- If two or more children have already been delivered.
Preventing HELLP Syndrome
Unfortunately, HELLP syndrome cannot be prevented. The regular preventive examinations serve among other things also the control of important values such as the blood pressure, the blood values and the urine value.
Diagnosis Of HELLP Syndrome
Your doctor may order blood tests if you suspect you have HELLP syndrome. Blood tests will measure liver function, platelet count, and red blood cell count. The protein level in your urine and your blood pressure will also be monitored. Your doctor will then be able to give you an accurate diagnosis of your health.
Treatment Of HELLP Syndrome
Treatment of HELLP syndrome usually means induction of labor. However, it depends on which week of pregnancy you are in. If you are already in 37 weeks of pregnancy, your gynecologist will recommend induction of labor to rule out serious complications for you and your baby. Symptoms usually go away in a few days after delivery.
However, this early delivery is considered premature, and also carries risks for your baby. Your doctor will have to weigh the risks of premature birth against the risks of HELLP syndrome. Your doctor will probably recommend the following things to help you continue the pregnancy as long as possible and manage the symptoms.
- Bed rest and hospitalization to ensure constant observation.
- A course of corticosteroids to accelerate the development of the baby’s lungs.
- Magnesium sulfate is prescribed to reduce the risk of seizures.
- A blood transfusion to increase the blood cell count.
- Treating the high blood pressure with medication to normalize it.
- The fetus is guarded around the clock to eliminate any danger to the baby.
How Is HELLP Syndrome Different From Preeclampsia?
Currently, HELLP syndrome is considered a severe form of preeclampsia. Doctors are still debating whether HELLP syndrome is a separate condition or a variant of preeclampsia. It is important for you to know that both conditions can occur at the same time. According to one study, about 4-12% of women with preeclampsia also have HELLP syndrome. The timing of symptom onset appears to be a critical factor in improving the detection of this particular overlap of conditions. Indeed, it was found that women who had symptoms of HELLP syndrome before 34 weeks gestation were more likely to also have preeclampsia.
If you want to learn more about preeclampsia, read our article. https://www.practicalmommy.com/tag/praeeklampsie/
Late Effects Of HELLP Syndrome
If HELLP syndrome is not detected and treated in time, the mother may develop liver disorders later in life. Developmental disorders may occur in the baby.