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I tell people my pregnancy problem was pre-eclampsia plus lots extra. HELLP has all the symptoms of Pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, protein in the urine, oedema (fluid retention and swelling) but also develops severe blood and liver problems. The name is an acronym of medical terms for characteristic symptoms. Haemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells resulting in anaemia), Elevated Liver enzyme activity (due to liver damage from excess waste products from destroyed red blood cells) and Low Platelet count (blood cells essential for blood clotting) in a pregnant woman.

This is a very serious complication of pregnancy that usually shows up in the third trimester of a first pregnancy. However, there are cases of it happening as early as 20 weeks and recurrences in a subsequent pregnancy.

The first indication I had of my body’s trouble was an extreme pain under my ribs on the right-hand side. Now I know this was my liver expanding but then it was put down to any number of problems.


My other main problem was fluid retention. After very small gains in weight during my whole pregnancy in two weeks, I put on 10 kg. I also had a very sharp rise in the protein in my urine sample. A blood test the day my daughter was delivered gave the final diagnosis of HELLP. And like most other mothers experiencing HELLP, the only known treatment is the delivery of the baby quickly. It took 4 hours to go from “let’s put you on bed rest and checks overnight” to “ let’s transfer you to have a caesarean tonight” and then to “here’s your little one.”

When a diagnosis is made of HELLP the only treatment is the immediate delivery of the baby regardless of the gestational age of the infant.

The HELLP syndrome Society is an American based group whose mission is to raise awareness about the condition of HELLP Syndrome, provide support to families affected by this condition and conduct research on the condition.

Read Sarah’s story in the parent’s story section of this site for a HELLP story.

The primary aim of PIPA is to provide practical and emotional support to the parents and families of premature infants. However we do not offer professional advice. We are parents of preterm baby’s and not medical staff. We do offer understanding, support, encouragement and friendship.

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