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HG, COVID, and Now This: HELLP Me!

January 05, 2023 By Cristina Summers

HG, COVID, and Now This: HELLP Me!

Nothing about my pregnancy was something I was prepared for. It was difficult starting around week 4 to 5. I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which persisted throughout my pregnancy. Week 22, I contracted COVID, despite being vaccinated. Around 10 days post COVID, I was admitted to the hospital overnight for fluids and IV steroids as COVID had exacerbated my HG.

Honestly, going into third trimester, things had seemingly gotten easier. My HG felt more controlled on my medications. Things seemed to be looking up and I was thankful to be nearing the end of pregnancy in a positive manner. However, towards the end of my pregnancy, I began to notice increased swelling in my face, hands and legs. Initially I brushed it off as a normal symptom of pregnancy. I did occasionally check my blood pressure at home and had not had any issues. I decided to check my blood pressure again after work one night when I noted increasing swelling in my legs. It was elevated, 140s/100s. I rechecked it before work the next morning and it had increased to 170s/110s. I was admitted to the hospital that day and for overnight observation. I was initially told, based on my labs, I had “gestational hypertension” and sent home the next day on a “modified bed rest”. During the admission, I received two doses of Betamethasone as precaution as my baby was still pre-term. The day after I was discharged, my blood pressure remained elevated throughout the day. Concerned, I went back to the hospital that evening. This time I went to a hospital with a NICU as the hospital my OB was at could not deliver prior to 35 weeks gestation. When we arrived, they checked my blood pressure, obtained my labs, and confirmed I had developed preeclampsia. I had no comorbidities aside from it being my first pregnancy.

Following the official diagnosis of preeclampsia, everything happened so quickly. Being 34 weeks and 4 days pregnant, they immediately began the induction process. I was started on a magnesium drip to prevent seizures and received IV blood pressure medications. It wasn’t long after, my mentation began to decline. I started to develop severe pain around my rib cage along with shortness of breath and clonus. I was in so much pain, I can remember screaming “help me, help me”, which seems ironic now. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. Initially, they thought it may be a mixture of anxiety and contractions. While waiting on repeat labs, they tried various medications, none of which helped. I have never felt such severe pain in my life. When my labs finally returned, they confirmed HELLP syndrome. My liver enzymes had severely elevated, platelet count and hemoglobin dropped immensely, among other lab abnormalities. Like my preeclampsia diagnosis, the development of HELLP syndrome was all very sudden. By this point, they rushed me back for an emergent C-section as I was not far along enough to proceed with a vaginal delivery and my labs continued to worsen. Most of that night and into the next day was a blur.

My baby boy was born at 34 weeks and 5 days. He spent 12 days in the NICU. His initial APGAR score was 1. I didn’t get to go to the NICU or hold him until over 28 hours after he was born as I remained on the magnesium drip through the next day following my C-section. I spent multiple days in the hospital waiting on my labs to begin trending in the right direction. I remained on blood pressure medication for 6 weeks postpartum. Eventually, my body bounced back. My labs and blood pressure returned to normal, for which I am so thankful.

My son and I are truly both lucky to be alive and to have been at the right place at the right time. I do wonder if this could have been prevented. I, myself, am a healthcare professional and did not see the signs. I share my story to raise awareness. I share in hope that one day no mom, no baby, no father, no family will have to experience what we did.