HELLP Syndrome – what is it?

HELLP Syndrome – what is it?

What is HELLP Syndrome?

Most people have heard of Pre-eclampsia; I haven’t met anyone – other than a medical professional or a fellow survivor – who has heard of HELLP Syndrome.

There are limited information on HELLP Syndrome online.   The NHS website describes it as a complication of Pre-eclampsia.  However, experts are unsure if this is the case.

The NHS website has only one small section outlining what HELLP syndrome is.

One of the best sources of information that I have found has come from the Pre-eclampsia website.  This is the source I have used to outline what HELLP syndrome is for this post.

So what does HELLP stand for?

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

What is it?

HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication which usually occurs during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.


This is the important part.  The physical symptoms of HELLP are very similar to pre-eclampsia and sometimes it is misdiagnosed.

  • 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 √

The symptoms marked √’d I experienced in the month leading up to being admitted to hospital.

A lady has tears as she looks at the camera.

Doctors confirmed that my HELLP syndrome developed straight after the birth of my children.  However, I displayed many of these symptoms during pregnancy.  This demonstrates the difficulty in diagnosing this condition, even for experienced, highly-qualified medical professionals.

HELLP syndrome has a frighteningly high mortality rate; some of the reasons for which are liver rupture, stroke or kidney failure.

I want to point out that these can usually be prevented, providing they are caught in time.  Which is the reason that raising awareness of this is so crucial.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, please see your healthcare provider immediately and share your concerns.


HELLP syndrome cannot be treated.  Giving birth is the first step to ensure the best possible chance for mother and child.

Hospital admission is a must and the doctors will treat the side effects until your body recovers from the condition itself.  For example, I was on blood pressure tablets for a while after I gave birth until my blood pressure returned to normal.  Blood transfusions may need to be carried out to increase the platelet count for the mother.

Future Pregnancies

Sufferers from HELLP Syndrome are at greater risk of getting it again during subsequent pregnancies.  I was told that were I to have more children, my pregnancy would be treated as high-risk with more frequent monitoring to mitigate that risk.  But I was not offered counselling to deal with what happened to me.

It is worthwhile noting, as per my previous post, that I ended up organising my own counselling.

On hindsight I think this should be offered to everyone that has been through this life-threatening condition.

I have no plans to put myself at risk by having more children.  When I tell people that, they frequently say I will change my mind when the boys are older.  That wont happen.  I have two boys and I survived to enjoy the journey of being their mother.  I have no intention of leaving them.  Although, I would love to have more, I will not risk my life for it.

There are no charities set up dedicated to HELLP syndrome alone.  If anyone knows of any I would be grateful if you could leave the link in the comments. The Preeclampsia Foundation do a great job as part of their wider campaigning.

When I started researching for this blog, I was struck by how many people have been affected by this.  Statistics suggest that 5-8% of pregnancies in the US develop Pre-eclampsia, of which 15% develop evidence of HELLP Syndrome – that’s as many as 48,000 women each year in the US alone.  There are many blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to survivors.  Their stories are horrifying, some much more so than mine.

There are also, sadly, many stories where the mother and/or child did not survive.  When I think of this I feel petrified.  My husband has admitted to me there were a few moments, where he thought he would be a single dad and I would not survive. I can’t imagine how this must have felt.

Read my HELLP Story here.

HELLP Syndrome can have happy consequences. Two babies sleep curled up together on a fur blanket


Do you know what HELLP Syndrome is? Would you know the signs and symptoms?


  1. 23rd August 2016 / 1:46 am

    Oh wow, how scary, I admit I had never heard of this. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Very thankful your story had a happy ending…!

    • Double the Monkey Business
      6th September 2016 / 7:20 pm

      Thank you for reading hun x

  2. 27th May 2016 / 10:19 am

    Not sure what’s more terrifying…the syndrome itself or the fact that there is clearly no public information or awareness about it. Thank-you for raising awareness. x

    • Double the Monkey Business
      27th May 2016 / 3:08 pm

      I know, it is frightening. I don’t know many people who have heard of it. x

  3. 15th April 2016 / 3:04 pm

    I have heard of HELLP syndrome, but didn’t really know what it was. Scary stuff, indeed 🙁

  4. 17th March 2016 / 6:00 pm

    This is so very interesting. Looking at the symptoms I think I may I have HELLP syndrome while I was pregnant and thereafter as I did lost a lot of bleed during my labour and also has had blood transfusion and was on the blood pressure tablets too, but it was never identified. Very interesting. Thank you very much for raising the awareness on #FabFridayPost

    • 18th March 2016 / 3:47 pm

      Sounds like you may well have had the same thing. Hope you have now fully recovered. I have had a few people contact me now to say they think they had this, as had all the symptoms but were never diagnosed x

  5. 11th February 2016 / 10:47 pm

    I’d never heard of this either so well done for raising awareness!! Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix it goes live at 7am tomorrow again 🙂

    Stevie x

    • yneely
      12th February 2016 / 6:07 am

      I will be there 🙂 x

  6. 11th February 2016 / 8:57 pm

    I had heard if Hellp before but didn’t know much about it. Sorry you had to go through all that, but it’s great that you are turning it into a positive and raising awareness.Thanks for linking to #PickNMix
    Eilidh x

    • yneely
      11th February 2016 / 9:31 pm

      It has been like therapy to me. Thanks for reading x

  7. 10th February 2016 / 4:47 am

    How scary for you and the hubby! I am so glad to hear that things turned out on the good side of things. This post was very informative and I will be sharing it via all my social media!

    • yneely
      10th February 2016 / 9:07 am

      Thanks Hun, there is so much to my story it will take a few blog posts to go through it all X

      • 10th February 2016 / 7:15 pm

        I posted your story on Facebook and sadly I have a friend who had to bury her son shortly after birth because of this. :((

        • yneely
          11th February 2016 / 9:30 pm

          Oh no, I am sorry to hear that. The more I do of this blog, the more I hear other peoples HELLP stories. Send my condolences and good thoughts to your friend xxx

  8. mackenzieglanville
    9th February 2016 / 7:45 pm

    I to have never heard of this, you are so blessed to be here and safe, but still such a terrifying time for all of you. I developed an unexplained heart condition during my 3rd pregnancy where my heart rate sat incredibly high constantly. I was told that there was a high risk that I may not survive the birth, there was also a high risk my baby may not survive. I was terrified f leaving my girls and their father alone. I wrote them letters in case and spoke to my husband about how I wanted them raised. I was on bed rest, couldn’t walk far as my heart rate would get dangerously high even going to the toilet. I was so sad to not be able to walk my little girl to kinder or play with my 2 year old properly. At 36 weeks via c-section thank God I had a healthy baby boy and I survived to! I was so relieved, I can not explain the relief! I still feel so lucky and although I would love another baby I know I can not have one. I am glad you are safe! Enjoy your family and thank you for sharing this with the world, we need to be educated.

    • yneely
      9th February 2016 / 8:48 pm

      That must have been so hard, particularly not being able to play with your other children. Cant imagine what you must have went through. I am so so glad to hear that your baby boy was healthy and you are here to give your children hugs and be there for them. Thanks so much for sharing this. xxx

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