Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH
HELLP syndrome is a rare but serious condition. It is a form of severe
that occurs during pregnancy or just after delivery. HELLP stands for:
HELLP involves three types of problems:
The causes of HELLP syndrome are not known. The syndrome occurs in about 4 of every 1,000 pregnancies.
Risk factors that increase your chance of getting HELLP syndrome include:
Some women may have no symptoms at all.
Symptoms of HELLP syndrome:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in high risk obstetrics.
Tests may include:
Your doctor may send you to a hospital that can provide special care for pregnant women.
Treatment options include the following:
The only cure for HELLP syndrome is delivery of your baby. If you are 34 weeks pregnant or less, your doctor may recommend trying other treatments until you reach 34 weeks of pregnancy.
In some cases of HELLP, transfusions of platelets or red blood cells are used to increase the number of these cells.
There is no known way to prevent HELLP syndrome. If you have HELLP with one pregnancy, you are at increased risk to develop it again during another pregnancy. See your doctor regularly during pregnancy. If you develop the condition, it can be treated.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Diagnosis and Management of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Practice Bulletin, No 33, January 2002.
HELLP syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 4, 2011. Accessed December 18, 2012.
HELLP syndrome and your pregnancy.
Am Fam Physician. 1999 Sep 1;60(3):839. Available at:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0901/p839.html. Accessed December 18, 2012.
Padden MO. HELLP syndrome: recognition and perinatal management.
Am Fam Physician. 1999;60:829-36, 839.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Andrea Chisholm
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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