Tuesday, September 1, 2015

HELLP Syndrome: Knowing About It Could Save Lives

By: Christine Cox, The Choosy Mommy

On Monday, May 25, 2015, which happened to be Memorial Day, my husband and I welcomed baby #2, Cam, into our family. Much to our surprise, Cam arrived 7 weeks early at 33 weeks and 3 days gestational. As a second time mommy, I thought I had a lot of things figured out, but I learned so much from my premature peanut. Our experience was unlike my other pregnancy and delivery. My situation was rare and I hope that another mother, or even father, can learn something from my story.

The Thursday before Cam was born, I was in pain starting in the very early hours of the morning. My stomach just hurt. It was hard to describe the pain but it wasn’t contractions. I guess you could say the pain was a constant cramping feeling. That progressed to my back hurting to the point of feeling like I could not walk. I knew something was wrong so I promptly called my OB and went in for a checkup.
My blood pressure was a bit elevated but we figured it was just due to me stressing out. I had a bit of protein spilling into my urine, but it wasn’t enough to be concerned about at that time. The baby’s heart tones were fine according to the Doppler, but just to be sure, I was sent to the hospital for a non-stress test.

The non-stress test also showed that the baby was fine, and my blood pressure had declined by the time I got to the hospital and was hooked up to an IV. However, at that time the doctors were more concerned about my cervix changing than anything else. After an hour or so of monitoring, they thought I may have dilated a bit and since the hospital did not have the highest level of NICU that we would need at 32 weeks I had to be transported to another hospital.

I was hooked up and monitored at the new hospital for another hour. After nothing changed, they gave me some pain medicine and a steroid to help develop the baby’s lungs faster in case we did end up delivering early, and sent me home. I felt fine until Sunday evening.

My toddler and I spent most of Sunday in the pool. It was one of the first really nice weekends of the summer so we took full advantage of the weather. But by dinner time, I started to feel achy again. Not exactly the same pain that I had on Thursday, but similar. The stomach pain intensified (still not a contraction feeling) and I could not get comfortable. Plus my shoulder hurt, but I chalked that up to being in the pool all day and kind of ignored it.

The only time I felt fine was when I was soaking in a hot bath. At one point I did end up throwing up but I also didn’t really think much of that either since I was getting upset. But after taking 4 baths, I finally said to my husband that something isn’t right and we have to go to the hospital again (and by this time it was midnight!)

We dropped our toddler off at grandma’s house and went back to the first hospital. They did a blood test to find out that I had something that I have never heard of before---HELLP syndrome. I was told that we would have to deliver my baby ASAP. Yet again, I was transported to the second hospital since we were still too early in my pregnancy for the first hospital’s NICU.

This syndrome is rare which is why I felt it was important to share my story. According to WebMD, HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening liver disorder thought to be a type of severe preeclampsia. It is characterized by Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes (which indicate liver damage), and Low Platelet count.

HELLP syndrome often occurs without warning and can be difficult to recognize. A lot of women believe they just have flu-like symptoms and ignore the pain and signs. It can occur without the signs of preeclampsia (which are usually a large increase in blood pressure and protein in the urine – like I had). WebMD states that symptoms of HELLP syndrome include:
  • Headache.
  • Vision problems.
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen (liver).
  • Shoulder, neck, and other upper body pain (this pain also originates in the liver).
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Seizure.
What you need to remember most from this is that HELLP syndrome can be life-threatening for both the mother and her unborn baby. A woman with symptoms of HELLP syndrome requires emergency medical treatment, hence why I was told we had to deliver ASAP, because it is the only known way to reverse the syndrome.
At 11:38 a.m., my son was delivered by cesarean due to him being breach. Born at a whopping 4 pounds, 14 ounces, Cam was breathing on his own and crying!
Cam spent 13 days in the NICU so he could grow and learn things outside of the womb that babies who remain inside the womb normally do (I’ll tell you about this in another blog). This was the most stressful 13 days my husband and I have had. In fact, my husband, a U.S. Marine, said that he would rather go back to Iraq than go through the 13 days in the NICU again!
Now a little more than 3 months old, Cam weighs in around 9 pounds, 7 ounces, He is a happy, healthy baby. My family and I are doing fine now and I haven’t had any further issues since delivery.
My story is important to read because it teaches expectant mothers, and fathers for that matter, to not ignore the signs your body is trying to tell you. Your body is a well-oiled machine but when something is wrong, it starts giving you signs to do something about it. Don’t ignore your body and get the help needed ASAP!
Have you heard of HELLP syndrome prior to reading this post? Do you have a rare pregnancy/delivery story that you’d like to share?

About the Author: Christine Cox is the blog master and The Choosy Mommy for Choosy Kids. She has always had a passion for writing and is honored to contribute her work to this blog. Most of her writing inspiration comes from her daughter, Capri, who is fun-loving and full of energy, and newborn son Cam. Click here to learn more about Christine.

24 comments :

  1. I'm so glad you listened to your momma's intuition and decided to go back in yo bbc.co the hospital! Pre-E and HELP are scary things. As a birth doula I've been involved in two births where these occured and it is always such a relief to have a healthy baby and momma at the end.
    Glad you and your family are doing well!

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    1. What's funny is that I had no idea how serious my situation was until I was Googling HELLP in the hospital!!

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  2. What a gorgeous little boy! So happy to hear all is well, and thank you for sharing and raising awareness!

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  3. Wow I have never heard of this before! How scary.. and glad to see he is doing well!

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    1. None of my friends had heard about it either which is why I thought I'd share! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I've heard of HELLP syndrome, but wasn't familiar with the specifics. I'm so glad you shared your story to educate other women. That is one of the primary reasons I write my blog...to educate about premature birth, TTTS and SIUGR. I'm glad your sweet baby is doing well. If you ever need to talk about the NICU, I'm here.

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    1. Please feel free to email me at christinecox0925@gmail.com if you'd like to have this post as a guest blog on your site!! I'd be happy to share!

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  5. I had my son on May 28 due to being diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. It was such a scary experience. I had an atypical presentation, so my only symptom was the severe upper back pain from my liver. If I had waited a few more hours it would have been fatal. My little one was in the NICU for 28 days and it was so difficult. It is nice to see someone share their story as this is so important for women to listen to their bodies and speak up when down thing doesn't feel right. Thank you!

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    1. Ugh! Had you heard of HELLP prior to your diagnosis? How far along were you? 28 days is so long :( hope everyone is ok now!

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  6. I have never heard of HELLP so thank you for bringing this to our attention! I am so happy that Cam is doing so great now. :)

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  7. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story.

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  8. I am so happy to hear that your and your adorable little one are OK - I never heard of HELLP before! Thank you for sharing your story with us!

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  9. Wow, thank you for sharing your story! It is something that I will remember, for sure.

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    1. That's my goal! Awareness for this syndrome!!

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  10. That would be so scary. I'm thankful you both are okay.

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    1. I look back and I wasn't really scared because I didn't understand the severity of the situation but now it freaks me out knowing what could have happened.

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  11. Wow! I really didn't know about this. I am so sorry you had to go through this, I am glad everything was alright.

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    1. Thank you. Spread the knowledge so others are aware.

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  12. Awww! He's a adorable - glad to hear you and baby are doing well.

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