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Posted on: July 22, 2019 at 7:35 pm
Last updated: August 3, 2019 at 12:49 pm

While there are many women who have experienced the epitome of a positive pregnancy, there are also many women who face complications, and just can’t wait for the fourth trimester.

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Pregnancy is a beautiful experience, it allows you to build a deeper connection with yourself, and with the life that is brewing. During this time, it is very important to be in-tune with your body. On the contrary, developing a case of hypochondria; being excessively and unduly worried, would not be beneficial for the health of you or your baby. With that being said, more women still need to know about this dangerous pregnancy condition and should be reminded of how important it is to listen to your body.

HELLP syndrome is considered a variant of preeclampsia, a disorder of pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure. However, HELLP syndrome can be life-threatening, and fatal for the fetus. It’s important for women to know the signs and symptoms, and what testing should be done.

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Nicole Tagalk was 29-weeks pregnant when she lost her son. She had never heard of HELLP. At this time in her pregnancy, she wasn’t feeling her best, she had a cold she couldn’t kick, a searing headache and her feet had swollen – excessively. 

While she had expressed her concerns with how she was feeling, her medical doctor had brushed off her concerns, telling her to take a Tylenol for her pregnancy symptoms. 

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When her OB performed a scan that confirmed there was no longer a heartbeat, Nicole really had no idea what was happening within her body. When the pain and discomfort became too much, it was then that Nicole delivered a still-born son. 

After this heartbreak, Nicole learned that she had preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication which is categorized by high blood pressure. Specifically, she had HELLP.

HELLP syndrome usually occurs in a women’s third trimester, but can also happen after child-birth. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, this acronym stands for:

H: Hemolysis

EL: Elevated Liver Enzymes

LP: Low Platelet Count

Symptoms of HELLP Syndrome

Red flags for HELLP come up in the third trimester. For Lauren Dill, a 31-year old from Sturgis, Michigan, her first sign that something was wrong was when she started to experience severe chest pain, at around 30 weeks pregnant.

When she was hospitalized with HELLP, her daughter was born two days later, weighing 2 pounds, 12 ounces.

For Nicole Taglack, flu-like cold symptoms and constant headache were her first symptoms. Severe headaches are a common symptom of this condition, along with nausea and vomiting, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

These are the main symptoms to look out for:

  • Severe headaches
  • Pain and discomfort right below your ribs, which may feel like heartburn
  • Nausea and vomiting

“It’s hard for patients — and sometimes the doctor — to discern what is normal and what is abnormal,” said Dr. James N. Martin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. 

“It’s just a matter of degree. But bad epigastric pain is not common in normal pregnancy. Bad nausea and vomiting is not common in normal pregnancy. Morning sickness is usually a feature of earlier gestation. When patients start having severe nausea and vomiting in the last third of pregnancy, that usually mandates checking some things out, among which is HELLP syndrome.”

Diagnosing HELLP

If a patient presents the symptoms listed above, doctors should examine blood pressure and order a urine test, as high blood pressure and protein in the urine are major signs of HELLP — but not are requirements for diagnosis. When a woman is diagnosed with HELLP, treatment usually means delivery.

If a woman is less than 34 weeks pregnant, doctors may try various ways to postpone delivery by managing the condition, even if it’s just for a couple of days. Often times magnesium will be administered to reduce stress on the cardiovascular system and prevent seizures, corticosteroids are often used to help the baby’s lung development, and the patient would also be put on bed rest, performing transfusions as needed. 

Many women with preeclampsia and HELLP will need to monitor their blood pressure, post-partum, and may require blood pressure medications.

How to Prevent HELLP

While there’s no one way to completely prevent this condition. It’s always of best interest to ensure you’re at a healthy weight and maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Know the signs and symptoms of this condition and always trust your gut when it comes to how you’re feeling.

Women like Nicole Tagalk and Lauren Dill are sharing their stories to help raise awareness of the condition. Both believe this tragedy can be prevented.

Nicole states: “I didn’t even know the signs and symptoms. I thought, ‘Oh, I’m swollen, I must just be getting swollen earlier in pregnancy than other women. Oh, I have a cold, I must just have a cold that won’t go away.’ So I feel like it’s really important that women know what to look for and aren’t just in the dark.” 

  1. What is HELLP syndrome? The dangerous pregnancy condition women should know https://www.today.com/health/what-hellp-syndrome-symptoms-treatments-more-t157622
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