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HELLP Syndrome in Pregnancy

by Hannah Cornaby

I have wanted to write this post for a long time but never quite knew how to tell my story and how to put all the facts down to help people understand HELLP because there is so little known about it.

At 35 weeks pregnant on a Saturday I woke up with a really bad headache almost migraine like with really blurred vision as with most things within the last few months of my pregnancy I put it down to just being pregnant and it being normal and with seeing the midwife on Monday I thought I would mention it to her.

All through the weekend I wasn’t feeling very good but as I had been ill throughout my pregnancy I didn’t think much more of it. On the Monday morning I arrived for my midwife appointment and I was told my blood pressure was slightly elevated but to just monitor it and if my headache or blurred vision came back to call maternity triage for there advice.

Thinking nothing more of it until the next day my headache was back to the point I was on the floor from the pain, E called the hospital who booked an appointment for an hour later.

Whilst in triage then monitored my blood pressure every 20 minutes for about 2 hours as well as monitoring the baby who was completely happy and oblivious to what was going on. My blood pressure was raised and although was not high was only borderline. They took bloods and told me that what I might be experiencing was the start of pre-eclampsia, to go home rest and if my bloods came back abnormal they would call me.

I was home for a couple of hours when I got a call to say that it did look like I had pre-eclampsia and they needed to admit me for at least 24 hours for monitoring and to get the condition under control. In hospital the baby was monitored regularly, as well as myself and had a few more blood tests completed. I found not much information was being passed to me but I felt well looked after and met some lovely people on the ward.

24 hours had passed and they were telling me that my bloods were deteriorating so they needed to keep me in, at this point they still believed it was pre-eclampsia so I assumed they meant proteins etc even though they hadn’t found any in my urine. By the next day I was feeling a bit worse and I found I was really thirsty drinking around 4l of water everyday, having spots in my vision, headaches and pain in my upper abdomen just under my ribs, when I found out my bloods had deteriorated further I had started to worry by this point I had been given steroid injections to build up the babies lungs in case they had to deliver. I should of realised that by this point things were a little bit more serious than they were letting on when all the other ladies on the ward were being seen by one doctor but I was under the head consultant. That afternoon they explained that I did not have pre-eclampsia but HELLP syndrome which has similar symptoms but can be more dangerous.

The next morning I woke up as normal saw the doctor but gradually felt myself getting more ill, I managed to fall asleep to be woken by the doctor who said my kidney and liver functions had got to a dangerous level where they might not be able to come back to normal and they were taking me for an emergency caesarean within the next 30-45 minutes, this set me into a state of panic I had to call E from work who only just made it and I had no baby items including nappies, milk or any clothes so I also called my mom who was looking after Hugo to help sort all that out.

It was only at the point where they said I was going for an emergency caesarean that I realised that I was poorly and the baby was in danger but the reality of how ill I actually was didn’t hit for a couple of weeks after Teddy was born. Within about 10 hours of Teddy being born I had started to feel better again and ready to go home and spend time as a family and with Hugo who I had only seen for fleeting visits everyday. We were allowed home on the Sunday evening with Teddy being born on the Friday after Teddy’s blood platelets had normalised as a condition of my blood platelets being low meant Teddy was born with fewer and I was to be monitored every 2 days by the community midwives for 3 weeks and had to have follow up blood tests every week to ensure my kidney and liver functions had returned to normal.

I still am finding it hard to come to terms with how ill I was and how badly it could of affected Teddy if the doctors hadn’t acted quickly like they did, or if I did my usual trick of its just a normal pregnancy related illness as I had, had the previous few months. I have now come to realise that those illnesses that I had been having are all linked to HELLP and were the early indicators but with HELLP being so rare and hard to diagnose it got missed time and time again.

I am writing all of these in the hope that it raises awareness of HELLP and people can understand it a little better. I have created an infographic with the main points even though I am sure I have missed quite a few, because when I got diagnosed the information available to me from the midwives and even online was limited and long medical journal rather than something quick I could read, I am hoping to spread the infographic around to make it easier for people to understand what the illness is and the symptoms without having to hunt.

Please share and talk about this post as it would mean a great deal to myself a HELLP survivor who now has a healthy all be it a small little 11 week old boy.

Love

H x

Written by Hannah for her blog, The Life of H.

Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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