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HELLP Syndrome


HELLP (haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count) syndrome usually develops before the 37th week of pregnancy but can occur shortly after delivery. Many women are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia beforehand. HELLP only effects about 0.7% of pregnancies. Similarities to other conditions, as well as normal pregnancy features, commonly lead to misdiagnosed cases or more often, delayed diagnosis.


- Nausea/Vomiting

- Persistent headaches

- Abdominal Pain

- Edema

- High blood pressure

- Fatigue

- Retained fluid

- Blurry vision

- Nosebleeds

- Seizures

- Bleeding

- Protein in the urine

- Anaemia

Risk Factors:

- Elevated BMI

- Metabolic disorders

- Antiphospholipid syndrome

- Over the age of 25

- HELLP in previous pregnancies (subsequent pregnancies are up to 19% more likely to develop HELLP syndrome)


- Blood smear

- Thrombocytopenia

- Elevated serum levels

- Ultrasound

- Tomography

- MRI (only used if symptoms are severe)


Class I is the most severe, with a relatively high risk of morbidity and mortality, compared to the other two classes.

- Class I HELLP syndrome is characterised by a platelet count below 50,000/µL

- Class II HELLP syndrome is characterised by a platelet count of 50,000-100,000/µL

- Class III HELLP syndrome is characterised by a platelet count of 100,000-150,000/µL

How does HELLP effect my baby?

Babies born under 2lb to a mother with HELLP syndrome have a high mortality rate and statistics suggest it is as high as 12% with the main concern being placental abruption. Babies born prematurely due to HELLP are likely to need longer respiratory support with a ventilator.


The only current recommended and most effective treatment is delivery of the baby, as the signs and symptoms diminish and gradually disappear following the delivery of the placenta. Prompt delivery is the only viable option in cases with multi-organ dysfunction or multi-organ failure, haemorrhage and considerable danger to the foetus. Certain medications are also used to target and alleviate specific symptoms

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