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HELLP syndrome need to know

Find out what HELLP is and what symptoms to look out for


Posted: 18 June 2012
by Sophie Westnedge

HELLP syndrome
HELLP is a combined blood clotting and liver disorder

What is HELLP syndrome?

“HELLP syndrome is a serious pregnancy complication that usually occurs in the late stages of pregnancy as well as after delivery of your baby, and in most cases is closely linked to pre-eclampsia and eclampsia,” says independent midwife Helen Taylor (Midwifecare.co.uk/Harleystreet.com).

HELLP usually occurs in the third trimester, and in rare cases before 20 weeks of the pregnancy, according to the NHS.


Why is it called HELLP?

HELLP is a combined blood clotting and liver disorder with the letters standing for:

H - heamolysis (breakdown of red blood cells)
EL - elevated liver enzymes which indicates damage to the liver
LP - low platelet levels (special cells that are needed for blood clotting)

What are the symptoms?

“The physical symptoms are similar to pre-eclampsia and it is diagnosed by blood test results, as well as other tests,” says Helen.

Symptoms include the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting or indigestion
  • Abdominal or chest tenderness
  • Shoulder pain or pain when breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Problems with vision

Signs doctors look out for:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in urine

What is the treatment?

“The treatment for women with this condition is delivery of your baby, with drugs used to treat you both before, during and after the delivery of your baby,” says Helen.

“You would be looked after by midwives and doctors who care for women with this type of complication,” Helen explains.

Where can I look for advice and information? 

If you’d like more information on HELLP syndrome and pre-eclampsia, Helen recommends the following websites: 

  • APEC.org.uk (action for pre eclampsia) – which has downloadable patient information leaflets.
  • RCOG.org.uk (Royal College of Obstetricians And Gynaecologists) – this site has a downloadable patient guidelines on pre-eclampsia

Read more…


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