HELLP syndrome

What causes HELLP syndrome?

The cause of HELLP syndrome is unclear. Although it is more common in women who have preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy), some women develop HELLP syndrome without showing signs of these conditions.

The following risk factors may increase a woman's chance to develop HELLP syndrome:

  • Having a previous pregnancy with HELLP syndrome
  • Having preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension
  • Being over age 25
  • Being Caucasian
  • Multiparous (given birth 2 or more times)

In less than 2 percent of women with HELLP syndrome, the underlying cause appears to be related to LCHAD deficiency in the fetus.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is HELLP syndrome inherited?

A variety of genetic factors (both in the mother and fetus) have been found to play a role in the development of preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. However, the condition is likely multifactorial. This means that several genetic and environmental factors likely interact to cause HELLP syndrome, and no one gene is thought to be responsible for the condition.

Some women may have a genetic predisposition to developing preeclampsia and related conditions, such as HELLP syndrome. This means that certain genetic factors increase a woman's risk to develop HELLP syndrome. However, many women with a genetic predisposition will never develop HELLP syndrome.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is the long-term outlook for women with HELLP syndrome and children whose mothers had HELLP syndrome during pregnancy?

The long-term outlook (prognosis) for mothers with HELLP syndrome varies from woman to woman, but HELLP syndrome is rarely fatal. The outcome for mothers with HELLP is generally good, but serious complications are relatively common. In most cases, after delivery, a mother's signs and symptoms begin to improve within 2 days. However, some women experience complications. The risk of serious complications generally is higher for women with severe symptoms and for those with more severe laboratory abnormalities. Examples of complications include disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), placental abruption, acute kidney failure, and pulmonary edema. However, these complications are related. For example, placental abruption can cause DIC, which then may cause acute kidney failure; acute kidney failure may lead to pulmonary edema. Of note, HELLP syndrome with or without kidney failure does not affect long-term kidney function. Other complications that have been reported include adult respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, and stroke.

The prognosis for a fetus or newborn of a mother with HELLP syndrome is thought to largely depend on the gestational age at delivery and birth weight (rather than the fact that HELLP syndrome was present, or the severity of signs and symptoms). This means that in many cases, the longer the pregnancy continues, the better the chance for survival and good health for the baby. Premature birth is common in mothers with HELLP syndrome. The rate of preterm delivery is 70%, with 15% occurring before 28 weeks of gestation. This is the leading cause of fetal or newborn death, with the overall risk of death ranging from 7 to 20 percent.

The mother's laboratory abnormalities are not thought to be related to the chance of survival of a fetus or newborn. Additionally, HELLP syndrome does not affect liver function in the fetus or newborn. Unfortunately, there is very limited data available regarding the long-term follow-up of children born to mothers with HELLP syndrome.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Where To Start

American Pregnancy Association

The American Pregnancy Association provides information about HELLP syndrome.

Last updated on 04-27-20

Preeclampsia Foundation

The Preeclampsia Foundation provides information about HELLP syndrome. The information includes the signs and symptoms of the syndrome, risks, prognosis, and more.

Last updated on 04-27-20

Name: Preeclampsia Foundation 6905 North Wickham Road, Suite 302
Melbourne, FL, 32940, United States
Phone: 321-421-6957 Toll Free: 800-665-9341 Email: info@preeclampsia.org Url: http://www.preeclampsia.org
Name: American Pregnancy Association 1431 Greenway Drive, Suite 800
Irving, TX, 75038, United States
Phone: 972-550-1040 Fax : 972-550-0800 Email: Questions@AmericanPregnancy.org Url: http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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The RareGuru disease database is regularly updated using data generously provided by GARD, the United States Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center.

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