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HELLP syndrome often misdiagnosed in pregnant moms

An estimated two to six percent of pregnant mothers in Texas experience HELLP syndrome during their pregnancy. The condition is believed to be related to preeclampsia and can be dangerous for both the mom and the unborn baby. The condition causes the red blood cells to break down, elevates liver enzyme levels and decreases the number of platelets, which are responsible for helping the blood to clot. It is often initially misdiagnosed as it has similar symptoms of other conditions, such as gallbladder disease or hepatitis.

Common symptoms of HELLP include headaches that don't go away with rest or medication, upper right abdominal tenderness or pain, fatigue, and nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may also occur as part of pregnancy, so the condition may be dismissed by a patient or a provider until it has advanced to a later stage. When HELLP occurs as a part of preeclampsia, the patient may also experience protein in their urine, visual disturbances and swelling.

The condition normally occurs during the third trimester, though in rare cases it may develop earlier in the pregnancy. Physicians are encouraged to test all women who present with symptoms for the condition. These tests include liver function blood tests, blood pressure levels and urine protein checks. The only cure for HELLP syndrome is delivery of the baby; symptoms of the condition usually go away within 48 hours of delivery. If the baby is too young to deliver, a doctor may place the mother on bed rest and treat the symptoms with medications until it is safe to deliver the baby.

If left untreated or misdiagnosed, HELLP syndrome can cause several birth injuries, which include lung failure in the baby, intrauterine growth restriction or death. It's important for physicians to listen to the mother and test for HELLP syndrome in order to prevent these complications from occurring. Families of babies who received a birth injury as a result of a misdiagnosis of HELLP may be entitled to medical compensation.

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