As an expectant mother, your baby’s health is your top priority. But, your health is important as well, and certain maternal health conditions can have consequences for both you and your newborn child. One of these conditions is HELLP syndrome. As explained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center (GARD):
“HELLP syndrome . . . is named for 3 features of the condition: Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzyme levels, and Low Platelet levels. It typically occurs in the last 3 months of pregnancy (the third trimester) but can also start soon after delivery.”
For expecting mothers who are diagnosed with HELLP syndrome during pregnancy and for those who experience symptoms after delivery, prompt diagnosis and effective treatment can be critical for protecting both the mother and the baby. Unfortunately, mistakes are common, and failure to diagnose or properly treat HELLP syndrome can have serious health consequences for the mother and potentially lead to long-term complications for the child.
At present, the specific cause of HELLP syndrome remains unknown. HELLP syndrome is more common among women who experience preeclampsia or eclampsia. However, it is possible to develop HELLP syndrome without having one of these conditions. NIH considers HELLP syndrome to be “a variant of preeclampsia,” and notes that while “HELLP syndrome occurs in about 1 to 2 out of 1,000 pregnancies. In women with preeclampsia or eclampsia, the condition develops in 10% to 20% of pregnancies.”
There is also an association between high blood pressure and HELLP syndrome, although it is possible to develop HELLP syndrome without high blood pressure. According to NIH, the most common symptoms are:
However, pregnant women who have HELLP syndrome will not necessarily exhibit all (or any) of these symptoms. If you have any concerns about your (or your child’s) health during your pregnancy, you should promptly consult with your doctor.
In order to diagnose HELLP syndrome, physicians will generally perform blood tests to measure the mother’s red blood cell count, and platelet counts and liver function tests are commonly used as well. A urine sample may also be taken to measure the mother’s protein level, and CT scans can be used to identify signs of liver damage consistent with preeclampsia.
Importantly, NIH reports that misdiagnosis of HELLP syndrome is common. In particular, HELLP syndrome is often misdiagnosed as:
As NIH explains, “[t]he main treatment [for HELLP syndrome] is to deliver the baby as soon as possible, even if the baby is premature. Problems with the liver and other complications . . . can quickly get worse and be harmful to both the mother and child.” Potential complications of HELLP syndrome include:
HELLP syndrome can also be fatal for the mother and the newborn child, although deaths from HELLP syndrome are rare. Failure to administer prompt and effective treatment is a primary factor in maternal deaths resulting from HELLP syndrome, while NIH notes that the fatality risk for newborns, “depends on birth weight and the development of the baby’s organs, especially the lungs.”
Although HELLP syndrome is relatively rare, the risks associated with this condition make it important for doctors to provide accurate diagnoses and prompt treatment when women develop this variant of preeclampsia during or after pregnancy. As noted by NIH, misdiagnosis of HELLP syndrome is common, and administering prompt treatment is a key factor in mitigating the risks for the mother and the child. Failure to properly diagnose or treat HELLP syndrome may constitute medical negligence and malpractice, and mothers and families who are suffering due to their doctors’ mistakes should seek legal representation promptly.
If you believe that your, your spouse’s or partner’s, or your child’s complications from HELLP syndrome may be the result of medical malpractice, you should consult with an attorney promptly. There are two key questions your attorney will need to answer:
If you have a claim, your HELLP syndrome attorney will seek just compensation on your behalf through the doctor’s insurance company. Doctors carry medical malpractice insurance—not because they expect to make mistakes, but because they know it is possible that they will make mistakes from time to time. This insurance coverage is available to help families like yours in times of need; and, if your family has a claim, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make sure you seek the maximum compensation available. Of course, this requires experienced legal representation.
Our lawyers have a proven track record of securing just compensation for families just like yours. We can help if you have a claim related to HELLP syndrome, and we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation to learn more.
At Berkowitz Hanna, we provide legal representation for mothers and families throughout Connecticut who are suffering due to birth injuries and complications resulting from malpractice. Our attorneys have decades of experience, and we have recovered millions of dollars in financial compensation for losses caused by medical mistakes.
If you need help, we are here for you. Call or contact us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation today.