First off, what is HELLP Syndrome?

I had never heard of it either, and I’m a nurse. Upon awaking after my HELLP experience, physicians, nurses, and my boyfriend explained to me just how lucky I am to have survived.

The name HELLP stands for:

  • H- hemolysis ( breakdown of red blood cells)
  • EL- elevated liver enzymes (liver function)
  • LP- low platelets counts (platelets help the blood clot)

What does hearing the word help out of anyone’s mouth make you think of? For me, it means a person is asking you for something, they need assistance. HELLP during pregnancy is similar-mother and baby need assistance IMMEDIATELY.

Here is a great link with information about what HELLP Syndrome, some of which i will share below.

What is the difference between Full and Partial HELLP?

Exactly as it sounds. Partial HELLP syndrome is characterized by 1-2 features of HELLP (H-EL-LP). Full is classified as all 3 features of HELLP (H-EL-LP)

What are the Severity/Classifications of HELLP?

  • Class I (severe thrombocytopenia): platelets under 50,000/mm3
  • Class II (moderate thrombocytopenia): platelets between 50,000 and 100,000/mm3
  • Class III (AST > 40 IU/L, mild thrombocytopenia): platelets between 100,000 and 150,000/mm3

Is Pre-Eclampsia the same thing as HELLP?

HELLP syndrome is thought to be a variant of preeclampsia, but it may be an entity all on its own. Not everybody who develops HELLP develops Pre-E; and not everybody who develops Pre-E develops HELLP. My OB, midwives, and MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine) team explained to me that HELLP is completely separate from Pre-E. You may find information which says differently, but I’m sticking with what my healthcare professionals are telling me.

HELLP is often misdiagnosed as Heartburn, gallbladder issues, & reflux. You can have sudden or gradual onset. If you have gradual onset, it gradually clinically presents with protein in the urine, headaches, RUQ discomfort and physcian’s often mistake it for the above indications or Pre-E. When it is sudden, it is more likely to cause more harm to the mother and baby, because there are no signs or symptoms, it just strikes. Things go down hill very rapidly.

Hope this post helped you learn what HELLP is. My actual diagnosis with My HELLP Syndrome was: Sudden Onset, Class 1, Full HELLP Syndrome, complicated by Severe Pre-E and DIC. Please don’t hesitate if you are pregnant and experience any of these symptoms, or if you simply feel “off”. Get checked out! Had I not listened to my intuition, I would not be here today writing this blog.


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