What is H.E.L.L.P Syndrome?

H.E.L.L.P syndrome is a rare and life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia, involving a combination of liver and blood disorders. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.

H.E.L.L.P syndrome was named by Dr. Louis Weinstein in 1982 after its characteristics:

 

H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
EL (elevated liver enzymes)
LP (low platelet count)

The only current cure for H.E.L.L.P syndrome is to deliver the baby.

 

H.E.L.L.P syndrome can be difficult to diagnose, especially when high blood pressure and protein in the urine aren't present. Currently there is no screening process for those who would develop H.E.L.L.P syndrome. Due to the life-threatening nature for both mother and unborn baby when left untreated, it is important for those experiencing symptoms not to delay seeking medical advice. Often H.E.L.L.P can be confused with other problems and sometimes mistaken for gastritis, flu, acute hepatitis, gall bladder disease, or other conditions.

 

The global mortality rate of H.E.L.L.P syndrome has been reported to be as high as 25%. That's why it's critical for expecting mothers to be aware of the condition and its symptoms so they can receive early diagnosis and treatment.

 

 

Symptoms of H.E.L.L.P Syndrome

 

The physical symptoms of H.E.L.L.P Syndrome may seem at first like preeclampsia. Pregnant women developing H.E.L.L.P syndrome have reported experiencing one or more of these symptoms:

  • Headache

  • Nausea/vomiting/indigestion with pain after eating

  • Abdominal or chest tenderness and upper right upper side pain (from liver distention)

  • Shoulder pain or pain when breathing deeply

  • Bleeding

  • Changes in vision

  • Swelling

 

Signs to look for include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Protein in the urine