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HELLP Syndrome and Pre-eclampsia
First time holding baby

Pre-eclampsia. HELLP Syndrome. An emergency C-Section. A premature baby. This is what happened to me at 32 weeks into my pregnancy a mere 2 years ago.

It doesn’t define me or affect my enjoyment of motherhood, but it is always with me. You don’t go into a pregnancy thinking your life could be at risk or that your baby will be premature. But sometimes these things happen. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia by my doctor due to a combination of very high blood pressure and protein found in my urine at a routine appointment. That’s why you always have to pee in a cup and get your blood pressure taken at the appointments. I was sent directly to the hospital where I was subsequently diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome, a rare complication of pre-eclampsia.

The letters in HELLP stand for:

  • Hemolytic anemia (when red blood cells break down)
  • Elevated Liver transminases (sign of liver problems)
  • Low Platelet count (causing problems in blood clotting).

Symptoms may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Shoulder or neck pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the upper abdomen (right quadrant or just below the breastbone)
  • Headache
  • Vision Changes
  • Diarrhea

There is no “cure” for pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. The only way to stop the condition from getting worse is to deliver the baby, although I understand more mild cases of pre-eclampsia can be closely monitored in order to delay having the baby as long as the health as the mother is not being compromised. Strangely, you can be diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome within 6 week after delivering a baby.

So small. So precious.

I had a severe case of HELLP and an emergency C-Section was required under general anesthesia. When I woke up the next day in the ICU at Burnaby Hospital, I had a breathing tube at first and my vision had become blurred as a consequence of the high blood pressure but I was relieved to learn that I was going to be okay and my baby was being cared for by world class doctors at Children’s Hospital with a good prognosis.

Prior to this experience, I had never heard of this disease, and quite frankly it’s the kind of thing that would have kept me up at night.  Did I mention I am a worrier? My Aunt Eleanor would not approve.

Today as I write this post, my good friend is at the hospital, diagnosed with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks (luckily not complicated by HELLP). She is expecting twins and called me last night to let me know what was happening because she knew I’d been through it.

I told her not to worry, that everything will be okay. And I expect it will. But it is scary. It’s not the way it is supposed to be for pregnant mommies to be. And I don’t know why this happened to me, or is happening to her.

I often get asked if I am going to have another baby. My answer is no, and there is a whole world of fear behind that answer. Fear that it could happen again. Fear that I could die. Fear of having another premature baby and having him/her go through all that. It’s not that I was told it was out of the question, but I would be at high risk during a future pregnancy.

But mostly, I am just so happy to be a mama. I enjoy the antics of my 2 year old boy more than I ever would have thought I could. He is precious. He is the center of my universe along with my husband. And he is the reason to stay healthy, keep fit, and stop worrying so I can live a long long life! And that is enough.

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One thought on “HELLP

  1. Wow what a scary diagnosis! I head heard of preeclampsia but I didn’t know how serious it was. Thanks for sharing this info.

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