What is HELLP Syndrome

Updated at: Jul 08, 2013
What is HELLP Syndrome

Learn about the life-threatening pregnancy complication, which is thought to be a type of severe preeclampsia.

Himanshu Sharma
PregnancyWritten by: Himanshu SharmaPublished at: Jun 03, 2013

A pregnant woman holding her bellyHELLP syndrome is an obstetric complication that occurs in pregnant women who have hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells). The elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count cause tiredness, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and blood in the urine in pregnant women. The condition occurs to approximately 10 per cent of pregnant women who have pre-eclampsia or eclampsia. Mostly, the syndrome develops before the pregnancy is 37 weeks; however, it may develop a week after the baby is born.

Risks of Developing HELLP Syndrome

Pregnant women, older than 35 or under the age of 20, are more likely to develop HELLP than other pregnant women. The cause of HELLP syndrome is unknown. Many women have high blood pressure and are diagnosed with preeclampsia before they develop HELLP syndrome.


Most if the symptoms of HELLP syndrome are vague, these include:

  • feeling unwell,
  • excess weight gain,
  • fatigue,
  • fluid retention,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting that continues to get worse,
  • headache,
  • abdominal pain (on the right side),
  • nosebleed,
  • vision problems (particularly blurry vision),
  • bleeding that won't stop easily and
  • seizures or convulsions.

Medical Assistance and Treatment

HELLP syndrome can threaten a woman’s life and that of the baby. The condition demands immediate medical attention as there is a risk of suffering serious complications, particularly liver damage.

As of now, delivery of the baby is the only foolproof treatment option available. So, in case a woman believes she may have HELLP syndrome, she must see obstetrician without any delay. The obstetrician will tell the woman what needs to be done next.

Initially, the obstetrician may give the mother a steroid in order to shield both the mother and the baby from HELLP syndrome effects. Thereafter, it is advised to deliver the baby even if the baby is premature as liver function in the mother could become worse very quickly.

After the emergency delivery, mother may need a blood transfusion if she continues to bleed. Besides, baby is given intravenous (IV) fluids. In case of a pre-term birth, the baby is given intravenous fluids with calcium and protein to make up for the low birth weight.


If a woman has HELLP syndrome, she may have complications before and after the baby is delivered. These include:

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a clotting disorder that leads to excess bleeding.
  • Pulmonary edema, fluid in the lungs.
  • Liver haemorrhage.
  • Placental abruption, in which placenta separates from the uterine wall.
  • Kidney failure.



Read more articles on Pregnancy




All possible measures have been taken to ensure accuracy, reliability, timeliness and authenticity of the information; however Onlymyhealth.com does not take any liability for the same. Using any information provided by the website is solely at the viewers’ discretion. In case of any medical exigencies/ persistent health issues, we advise you to seek a qualified medical practitioner before putting to use any advice/tips given by our team or any third party in form of answers/comments on the above mentioned website.

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK