HELLP Syndrome and Preeclampsia - Topic Overview
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening liver disorder thought
to be a type of severe
preeclampsia. It is characterized by Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes (which indicate
liver damage), and Low
usually related to preeclampsia. About 10% to 20% of women who have severe
preeclampsia develop HELLP.1 In most cases, this
happens before 35 weeks of pregnancy, though it can also develop right after
HELLP syndrome often occurs
without warning and can be difficult to recognize. It can occur without the
signs of preeclampsia (which are usually a large increase in blood pressure and
protein in the urine). Symptoms of HELLP syndrome include:
HELLP syndrome can be life-threatening for both the mother
and her fetus. A woman with symptoms of HELLP syndrome
requires emergency medical treatment.
Treatment and prognosis
Delivery is the only known
way to reverse HELLP syndrome. Vaginal delivery is often possible, but a
cesarean is used if the mother or fetus is not
medically stable. Before delivery, treatment with medicines is used to:
- Prevent seizures, known as eclampsia (magnesium
sulfate prevents seizures).
- Control severe high blood pressure.
- Develop the fetus's lungs if the pregnancy is less than 34 weeks
along (corticosteroid injections are given to the mother).
Most women begin to recover from HELLP within a few days after
delivery. But for some women, especially those who have had complications of HELLP, it can take longer. Your doctor will monitor your recovery.
After having HELLP syndrome, you are considered high-risk
for complications during any future pregnancies. Make sure that your doctor
knows about this part of your health history—you will require close monitoring
during any pregnancy and postpartum period.