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 3 types of problems:
The causes of HELLP syndrome are not known.
HELLP syndrome is more common in white women over the age of 25 years. Other factors that increase your chance of getting HELLP syndrome include:
Some women may have no symptoms at all.
When they do appear, symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include a complete blood count and liver function tests.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will depend on how many weeks along you are in your pregnancy.
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.
American Pregnancy Association
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
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. Reaffirmed 2012.
Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets (HELLP) syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 25, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2016.
Padden MO. HELLP syndrome: Recognition and perinatal managment.
Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(3):829-839.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
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