Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome: Pregnancy complications you should know about

One of the conditions of pregnancy that OB/GYN doctors look out for during prenatal care is preeclampsia. It’s a dangerous complication because it’s life-threatening to both the mother and baby when it’s not promptly identified and treated.

The textbook sign of preeclampsia is pregnancy-related high blood pressure (hypertension). Some people describe it as a silent killer because no one can feel the increase in blood pressure. That’s why it’s so important for every pregnant mom to get prenatal care with a competent OB/GYN physician early and consistently throughout pregnancy.

Another common abnormal prenatal finding for patients with preeclampsia is proteinuria, or protein in the urine. This is one of the reasons that doctors take urine samples at every prenatal visit. In addition to causing a spike in blood pressure, preeclampsia causes temporary damage to the kidneys, which allows protein to leak out into the urine.

Aside from those common symptoms of preeclampsia, here are some others: bad headaches; changes in vision, including blurriness or temporary loss of vision; nausea and vomiting; upper abdominal pain; decreased urinary output; and shortness of breath. The challenge with these symptoms is that moms could understandably believe they could be related to the normal stresses of pregnancy. That’s why keeping regular prenatal appointments with an OB/GYN is important.

Most women who develop preeclampsia do so at or after 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Obstetrical experts believe that the best treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. There is often a period of nervous tension where physicians try to balance the safety of the mom and baby, wanting to deliver as soon as possible while allowing the baby as much time as possible to mature and develop safely.

HELLP Syndrome

HELLP Syndrome is another life-threatening complication of pregnancy that many experts describe as a variation of preeclampsia. Its name is an abbreviation for three clinical signs of this risky condition:

H for hemolysis, or the destruction of red blood cells

E for elevated liver enzymes

LP for low platelet count (the blood’s clotting factor)

The symptoms to look out for in HELLP Syndrome largely overlap those of preeclampsia. Additionally, though, some patients also have bleeding and shoulder pain when breathing deeply.

Physicians sometimes miss the diagnosis of HELLP Syndrome when moms don’t have the classic preeclampsia symptoms of high blood pressure and proteinuria. When it’s misdiagnosed, physicians often mistake it for cholecystitis (gallbladder disease), hepatitis, gastritis, or even the flu.

I think that misdiagnosis is a significant reason why there’s such a high mortality, or death rate, of 30% for this dangerous condition.

In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve represented many clients who suffered avoidable pregnancy -related injuries because their OB/GYN physicians misdiagnosed and failed to treat conditions like preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. When doctors don’t give careful, individualized attention to each patient, and instead run them through prenatal care that looks like a factory assembly line, there’s an unnecessary risk posed to pregnant moms and their babies.

If you’ve been seriously injured from prenatal, pregnancy, or labor and delivery care, a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney can help you evaluate your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.