About Preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome

What is Preeclampsia??

Preeclampsia is defined as high blood pressure, protein in the urine and edema (fluid retention). It usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. It effects about 1 in 20 women during pregnancy. Women in their first pregnancy have a higher chance of developing the disorder. Other risk factors are:

Pregnany in teens or in women over the age of 40
A history of preeclampsia
Having a mother or a sister who had preeclampsia
A history of obesity
Carrying more than one baby at a time
History of diabetes , kidney disease, lupus
History of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy

Signs and Symptoms

Contact your medical provider immediately if you notice any of the following or if you just feel something isnt right

Rapid weight gain
Abdominal Pain Especially in upper right side
Severe headaches that wont go away with the use of tylenol
Change in reflexes
Reduced amount of urine
Excessive vomiting and nausea
Sudden swelling of the hands, feet, ankles and face ( some swelling in feet and ankles is normal in pregnancy)
Blood pressure over 140/90
Blurry vision, flashing lights or floaters

The only known cure for preeclampsia at this time is delivery of the baby. Left untreated preeclampsia can turn into full blown eclampsia and be potentially fatal to the mother and or the baby. It is very important to get regular prenatal care to catch things in time, especially if you are at risk.

What is HELLP Syndrome?

HELLP Syndrome is a life threatening pregnancy complication and is usually considered to be a variant of Severe Preeclampsia. Like preeclampsia, HELLP Syndrome usually occurs in the later stages of pregnancy and sometimes even after.

Who is at risk for HELLP Syndrome?

 Among pregnant women in the us , 5-8% develop preeclampsia, 15% percent of these women develop evidence of HELLP syndrome (15-20% of those with severe preeclampsia) Meaning, as many as 48,000 women in the us will develop HELLP per year.

H (hemolysis , which is the breakdown of red blood cells)
EL (Elevated liver enzymes) and
LP (Low Platelet Count)

Signs and symptoms to look for :
Symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of preeclampsia

Upper gastric pain, Right upper abdominal pain(from liver distention)
Shoulder pain or pain when breathing deeply
Visual Disturbances
High Blood Pressure
Protein in urine

There are 3 Classifications of HELLP Syndrome:
Class 1- (severe thrombocytopenia) Platelets under 50,000/mm3
Class 2- (moderate thrombocytopenia) Platelets between 50,000/mm3 and 100,000/mm3
Class 3- AST >40 IU/L Mild thrombocytopenia )Platelets between 100,000/mm2 and 150,000mm3

Partial HELLP Syndrome is characterized by 1-2 features of HELLP Syndrome.

Risks of HELLP syndrome complications are

Liver rupture

The only known cure at this time for HELLP syndrome is delivery of the baby. Left untreated HELLP can be fatal to the mother and or the baby.
After the baby is born treatments are
Blood transfusions
Magnesium (to prevent seizures)

Is there anyway to prevent Preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome?

At this time , there is no proven way to prevent these complications. However, there are something that you can do to reduce your risk. Getting to a healthy weight before becoming pregnant. Eating a proper diet. Having regular prenatal check ups. Informing your dr of any risk factors that you may have and any history of HELLP Syndrome or Preeclampsia so that you can be monitored closely. Understanding the warning signs is also a huge importance so you can get the medical attention you need right away.

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