HELLP Syndrome for Surrogates

Pregnancy complications can impact a surrogate pregnancy just as easily as any other pregnancy. One of the lesser-known conditions that can occur is HELLP Syndrome, a serious condition that has major impacts to the heath of both you and the child you’re carrying.

HELLP Syndrome is a rare condition that can affect pregnant women during their late second or third trimesters. HELLP syndrome is named for the things it does to a woman’s body:

H- hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells)

EL- elevated liver enzymes (liver function)

LP- low platelet counts (platelets help the blood clot)

Doctors know little about why HELLP develops or how to prevent it. Typically, women who are ultimately diagnosed with HELLP will begin to display symptoms including elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine, increased swelling in the extremities, and headaches. Additionally, other common symptoms can occur including increased nausea and fatigue.

If left undiagnosed or untreated, HELLP carries serious risks to both you and the baby, including the potential of death. Other risks include placental abruption, lung failure in both the surrogate and infant, renal failure, DIC (Blood clotting disorder), fluid buildup in the lungs, and ruptured liver hematoma. For these reasons, it is important to tell your doctor about all symptoms, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

The best treatment for HELLP Syndrome is delivery of the baby. Symptoms will generally subside within 2-3 days of delivery. Prior to 2015, it was believed that a Caesarian delivery was the best option for delivery. However, medical professionals are starting to believe that the trial of labor delivery may be optimal in women past 34 weeks gestation with a favorable cervix. You’ll want to talk with your OBGYN about what method is best for you.

If you are fewer than 34 weeks gestation, doctors may try several treatment options to control the syndrome and delay delivery. These methods can include bed rest, blood pressure medications, magnesium to manage seizures, and steroids to speed the lung development of the baby.

The condition statistically occurs in less than 1% of pregnancies and usually presents itself with many of the same symptoms as pre-eclampsia, often leading to misdiagnosis. Doctors will need to run a series of blood tests in order to accurately diagnose the condition. HELLP Syndrome can also set in within 48 hours following birth, with symptoms appearing up to seven days later.

The American Pregnancy Association estimates that 4-12% of women diagnosed with pre-eclampsia will go on to develop HELLP Syndrome.

Teo Martinez

Teo Martinez is the CEO of Growing Generations, a surrogacy and egg donation agency headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Educated at both UCLA and Pepperdine University, and with over 15 years of experience working in assisted reproduction, Teo’s background makes him one of the most experienced and accomplished professionals in the field.