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Can Rare HELLP Syndrome Occur After Giving Birth? What You Need to Know

Jaclyn Hughes

Having a baby should be the best day of a Mother’s life seeing their beautiful son or daughter for the first time after those nine months of carrying them; but it can also be equally as scary for thousands of new mothers.

HELLP is a condition that generally begins to show signs of development during the third trimester of the pregnancy. HELLP standing for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelets, all in combination only seems to happen to roughly 20,000 pregnancies annually. It’s rarity makes it not something most pregnant Moms-to-be are fully educated about, as well as many physicians seeking a proper diagnosis, which can be extremely dangerous if not found. It’s usually in conjunction with preeclampsia, which is more well known, but there have been cases where the Mother shows no signs of preeclampsia throughout her entire pregnancy, then gives birth and suddenly develops HELLP. This condition requires hospitalization, and can be fatal if not found quick enough.

Symptoms to look out for-

Breathing challenges; it may seem painful to breathe. Inhaling enough air inside is commonly reported. Feeling exhausted, far more tired than even after one would expect just having a baby. Chest pains, seizures, excessive swelling or weight gain, nosebleeds, and just feeling unwell overall.

For those who already went home after having their baby presuming they are in the clear, think again. HELLP can occur the week after the baby is born, and it catches a lot of Moms totally off guard. Learn more about these situations by reading about one Mom’s journey that CNN recently reported on, featuring Mary Pellegrino’s story about having her son, Bennett.

If you feel any of the aforementioned symptoms, please contact your OBGYN immediately, or get to the nearest hospital. Taking blood work, checking your blood pressure, and a few physical tests can quickly determine if HELLP is a concern. If it is, prepare to be admitted for a day, maybe longer depending on your progression of the condition. This can be extremely challenging to manage for any new Mom, but especially hard if you are breastfeeding, or are a single Mother. The hospital staff is usually very understanding of this rare situation, and in many cases will allow the newborn to be with the Mom as long as she can withstand caring for the baby.

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