HELLP! Do I Really Want to Do This Again?

My first pregnancy was full of surprises, including finding out that– SURPRISE! Ten days before my wedding–my nausea wasn’t wedding nerves, but morning sickness. At my last wedding-dress fitting my boobs were spilling out the top, not because it was that time of the month, but because I was pregnant!

I was in total denial. I couldn’t be pregnant: I wasn’t married yet! I ended up being almost 8 weeks pregnant at my wedding and feeling pretty crappy, even with the anti-nausea pills the doctor had given me. My morning sickness lasted through the end of the first trimester, and then I felt great; I was so excited to be married, with a baby on the way.

17 weeks

Unfortunately the feeling good lasted only a couple of weeks. I had horrible tailbone pain from about 18 weeks on, and my desk job did not help. After 24 weeks, my weight really started to increase, even though I wasn’t overeating. Soon after that came the swelling and the purchase of old lady orthopedic shoes for work because my feet wouldn’t fit into anything else. I really started to feel awful on Christmas day when I was about 29 weeks. My stomach was upset, and I just didn’t have much of an appetite, but the rapid weight gain continued.

21 Weeks

I knew pregnancy wasn’t easy, but I started to wonder, “Is it really supposed to be this bad? Is this normal?” Not wanting to be an obnoxious, super-complaining first-time pregnant mom, I figured that everything must be normal. I didn’t hold anything back from my doctors, but when I went to my regular visits everything seemed fine.  No red flags.

30 Weeks

On Monday, January 25, 2010, I went to my regular appointment at 33 weeks and started telling the doctor how horrible I had been feeling– tailbone pain, nausea, foot pain, etc. She said, unfortunately, that’s just what happens toward the end. I went to work every day the rest of that week and through the weekend. On Thursday night I randomly had a nosebleed; I wasn’t quite sure what to do because I had never had one before, but I’d always remembered from TV that they would stuff toilet paper in the person’s nose and tell her to hold her head back. However, a quick Google search and almost choking taught me that that is NOT what you want to do. You actually want to tilt your head forward, and it should stop in about 10 minutes. But 25 minutes later, my nose was still gushing. Right when we really started to get worried at around 30 minutes, it stopped.

The next day at work I felt pretty bad. I tried to keep my feet propped up to ease the swelling, and my nose and throat still felt weird after the nosebleed. I felt like I needed to clear my nose, so I breathed in really hard, and all of a sudden I felt something in my throat. When I ran to the bathroom to spit it out, I discovered that it was a huge blood clot about the size of a quarter. It totally freaked me out, but I knew it was just from the nosebleed. Should I call the doctor? No, it was just the nosebleed.

Saturday and Sunday were tough. Although I did not feel like moving, I worked both days. Then I started to notice that my urine was really dark, no matter how much water I drank. I called my older sister, who had had preeclampsia during her first pregnancy, and asked her if it was protein in my urine. That’s what they always tested at my doctor appointments. Would I be able to tell? She told me I should definitely call the doctor. It was Sunday then and my friends at work were telling me to call because I was so swollen. Well, what are they going to do on a Sunday? I’ll call tomorrow.

On Monday morning I was running errands with my mom and called my doctor’s office to see if they could fit me in. I told them I had gained seven pounds in one week and that I was really swollen. They worked me in that morning, and I asked my mom if she would mind coming along. They weighed me and yes, I had gained seven pounds in one week for a whopping total of 59 pounds at only 34 weeks. My doctor was worried about my swelling, and I did have protein in my urine. When they took my blood pressure, it was 121/80: still normal, but high for me.

As a precautionary measure, my doctor sent me over to the hospital for more testing. She ordered blood-pressure and fetal heart-rate monitoring, as well as blood work. At this point, I really wasn’t worried. I thought, well, I guess I have preeclampsia. They’re probably going to put me on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. As I lay in the hospital bed sending jokey texts to my sisters and talking to my mom about the nurse being totally rude, I didn’t realize that my blood pressure had shot up to 155/95. I glanced over at the monitor and told my mom, who said not to worry–it was probably just nerves. Then the snippy nurse (ironically, this nurse eventually became my favorite) who wouldn’t give us any info or let us know when we would be able to leave came in and asked if I had ever been anemic.–No. Before I could even ask why she was back out the door. Now I was worried. What’s going on? Why is my blood pressure rapidly going up? Why am I still being monitored? My doctor told me an hour, and it’s been two. Why won’t anyone tell me anything?

A new nurse suddenly came in. Finally! Someone’s going to tell me something. “Well, you aren’t going to be leaving today. Your doctor is coming up with a plan of action and will be calling you on that phone soon.” What!? Plan of action? What does that mean? She informed me that the doctor would explain, but they needed to get the baby out.

Instead of a phone call, my amazing doctor sprinted across the street to the hospital and explained that I had an extreme form of preeclampsia called HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low blood platelets). She told me that because my body had become toxic, and the only recourse was to get the baby out via an emergency C-section. I was at Baptist Beaches Hospital, which does not have a NICU. She told me that they would normally life-flight me downtown, but they didn’t have time.  If anything was wrong with the baby, I would remain at Beaches and they would life-flight the baby to Baptist Health Center downtown.

The whole time everything was being explained to me, I didn’t really realize how serious my condition was. I was so worried about the baby that I just kept praying that he or she would be okay. When my doctor said, “Normally we would life flight you downtown, but we don’t have time,” I thought it was because they wanted to get the baby out before something happened to it; I didn’t realize they were actually afraid that I wouldn’t make it.

It was all so much to take in. Luckily, my husband was on a job nearby and made it there really quickly. We had decided not to find out the baby’s sex, but we had narrowed it down to two girl names and two boy names. We quickly discussed the options and made a semi-decision; we would finalize it once we saw him or her.

The delivery-room nurses were still discussing with the anesthesiologist whether to put me completely under for the C-section or whether I should be kept awake because of my blood platelet count. In the end, they decided I should be awake because they were afraid I would slip into a coma.

The whole C-section experience was surreal and happened so fast. I felt really hazy and just wanted to know my baby was okay. Eight minutes after they gave me the spinal, my doctor lifted her in the air and she let out a feisty scream as my husband yelled, “It’s a bo…GIRL!” He got confused when he saw the umbilical cord. Teeny Elizabeth Kingsley weighed only 4 pounds, 11 ounces, but she still scored a 9 on the Apgar scale and had no need for the NICU.

It’s a girl!

Two hours later, I was on a high, so happy to have my healthy little girl with me at last. They told me she would have a hard time breastfeeding because she was a preemie, but she latched on right away. I had to be put on magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures and help lower my blood pressure.

The high was gone the next day when I started to feel really bad again. My legs became so swollen that I couldn’t even bend them at the knees. My blood pressure was still very elevated, and the magnesium sulfate was giving me a horrible migraine, making me feel like my whole body was on fire. Right as all these things were happening, some visitors came into my room. I felt awful, looked awful, and did not want to see anyone. I started to panic, and before I knew it, I was surrounded by nurses pumping meds into my IV. I was knocked out for a couple of hours and finally got some sleep, but my blood pressure was still high.

The three days following my delivery were awful. On Wednesday night my blood pressure skyrocketed to 200 over 105, and they had to start taking it every two minutes until it eventually went down. Finally, on Thursday I started to feel better and was off of the magnesium sulfate. That was when everything started to sink in. When my old pediatrician–who also became Kingsley’s doctor–came to visit, she said, “Geez, Meg, I’m so glad you called that morning! To think that if you had gone about your day without coming in, you would have just stroked out on us–scary!”

Yikes! I’ve never posted any hospital pictures before.

What? I mean, I knew it was bad, but I could have died? For some reason, that just hadn’t occurred to me. I was so worried about the baby that I didn’t even realize everyone was actually worried about me and wondering whether I would make it. Before my own experience with HELLP Syndrome, I had never even heard of it–it was definitely NOT in my copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting!

In the two weeks after Kingsley’s birth, I lost 30 pounds; for eight weeks I was on blood pressure medication and iron supplements. After that, I was pretty much back to normal except for the 29 other pounds I needed to lose, but I was happy to have both my little fighter and my health.

Now, almost three years later, I’m finally ready to be pregnant again. Everyone who’s heard my story or knows how Kingsley was the first year or so (that’s a whole other story!) always asks, “Are you scared to do it again?” Well, my chances of having HELLP Syndrome again are lower, and they will monitor me more closely throughout my pregnancy. And this time around, I know what is and isn’t normal; I will happily complain about everything this time! And yes, I do want to do it again because I want a different experience. I want to have a healthy pregnancy and a normal delivery. I know that may not happen, but I still want to try.

UPDATE 5/20/13: I wrote this back in December with an optimistic outlook on baby number 2, but the truth is I’m kind of scared. I am so thankful that I made it through with a healthy baby girl that is thriving and gives me joy every day. When it really came down to thinking about being pregnant and possibly having this happen again, it started to make me feel really anxious. I am now a mom to a beautiful, smart 3-year-old girl who needs me. What if something happened and the outcome was not positive? I’ve been struggling with these feelings the last 5 months since writing my post and as much as I wish to have a healthy and normal pregnancy and another baby, I’m not sure I’m in the right place mentally yet. I plan to meet with my OBGYN and a high-risk doctor to talk about some of my concerns before I proceed.

Did you have a difficult pregnancy or experience preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome that made you hesitant to have another baby?

Megan Kilis
Born in Jacksonville and raised in New Orleans and Houston, Megan attended college in Knoxville, then worked in Nashville. From her nomadic lifestyle grew a love for the beach, as well as a fondness for Cajun food and jazz, Texas BBQ, Tennessee football, and everything Music City. She is a work-from-home mompreneur with a passion for business, fashion, fitness, community, and all things mom. Having fallen in love with her parents’ hot plumber Mike in 2007, she married him two years later in her parents’ backyard. After their spunky curly-haired charmer Kingsley was born in February 2010, Megan decided not to return to her job. While spending time as a stay-at-home mom, however, she realized that Jacksonville was lacking some important resources for moms–so in August 2012, she asked her friend Vicky to join her in starting Jacksonville Moms Blog, now Jacksonville Mom. Megan loves learning more about her city; connecting with other moms, as well as connecting moms with one another; and discovering new local businesses. As the blog has grown, so has her family: in May 2014, she and Mike welcomed a spirited baby boy named Britton. When she’s not working on Jacksonville Mom, you can find Megan sweating it out with other moms, shooting skeet with Mike, or running around on the beach with her energetic duo!


  1. Hi Megan. Great to meet you on Friday. Read your story and so glad everything turned out well! My son is a couple weeks older than Kingsley. He loves his little sisters so much and it’s a great age difference. I think you should go for it! You will be monitored closely, especially if you go to ROC. I would love to do a guest blog if you ever need it!

  2. I had HELLP syndrome when I was pregnant with my son in 2009. My first pregnancy and had never heard of HELLP syndrome. I had regular prenatal care and told my physician every concern, although he would always brush it off as “normal” pregnancy complaints. This made me feel stupid so I just quit telling him of my concerns. Around week 33 I went to bi-monthly appointments. Between weeks 33 and 35 I gained about 20 pounds, my feet swelled so that they couldn’t bend and regular shoes were not an option, I had these tiny bumps that would bleed a lot when rubbed by my clothes or something rough. At 34 weeks I called my OB’s office to tell them of my symptoms and I could no longer physically work. The nurse said they do not take pregnant women off work until 36 weeks. I told her of my symptoms and after checking with my doctor they agreed I could be off work. I was surprised he didn’t want to see me, but figured he thought I was just complaining about “normal” pregnancy problems again. 4 days later my water broke at home at 4am. We went to the hospital around 6, we were advised to take our time and wait until after shift change. I was in a room, hooked up to fetal monitors, had labs drawn, a few minutes later had labs drawn again….then my doctor came in he quickly and briefly explained HELLP syndrome. My BP was they the roof, platelets were the lowest he had ever seen and that’s about all I remember of that conversation…shock set in. My nurse came in and laid out the plan. I had to remain in bed, had to have a catheter, could not have a epidural, had mag sulfate started, had fluids started, antibiotics started because I didn’t have the strep A test done, and I was started on pitocin. Pitocin was on and increased my entire labor, it was hell. Labor was about 10 hours and my son went straight to the NICU. He had fluid on his lungs and they thought he had an infection, but it was determined that they contaminated the blood draw. He ended up with elevated Billie Ruben levels and spent a total of 6 days in the NICU. I was released after 2 days and some more Magnesium Sulfate.
    It has been 4 years and we just decided to have another one. We got pregnant the day after my son’s 4th birthday. I will not hold back anything I think my doctor should hear this time. I have considered changing doctors. Having a Premiee is hard, we were in and out of specialists for 3 years, but my son is the greatest thing to come into my life.

  3. Thank you guys! So glad I am not the only one. My Heelp was found at 32 weeks, 3.8 pound baby and almost 6 years later we are still scared, but after holding my niece, it just feels like time. I am going to watch my diet and excersize and make sure to be very clear to my doctors that I know when something is wrong with my body, and not make them make me feel bad and tell me “that’s pregnancy”.

  4. I am a HELLP survivor also. I had my daughter almost 7 weeks early. She spent two weeks in the NICU. I was on either hospital or home bed rest for about six weeks. The whole experience was traumatizing. I can honestly say I have a form of PTSD after coming so close to losing my life and hers. My husband and I want another baby so badly, but I don’t think me getting pregnant again is the right way for us to do it. My experience is still pretty fresh, so maybe I will feel differently as time goes on. They do say time heals all wounds.

    • Time does heal all wounds. I went through the same thing. We did meet with a high risk Dr. before trying to conceive again. He gave us the go ahead and said often times when a woman gets pregnant again, HELLP does not reoccur. He said each pregnancy/placenta is different. So, 3 years after having our daughter we got pregnant again. I was monitored VERY closely and had a great pregnancy!!! Our son arrived perfectly healthy via a planned c section at 38 weeks. It was so much better an experience and I’m so glad we did it!

        • Yes, Megan, our situations sound the exact same! Our daughter was 3.5 when we got pregnant with our baby boy who was born May 31, 2014. It was so much better the second time around!

    • Hi Tara!

      I need to write a follow up post, but I’m happy to report that my second pregnancy was hellp-free! I ended up doing a full work up with my doctor and also did preconception counseling at a high risk group. After everything came back as normal and it didn’t look like I had any predisposing factors that would make me more prone to preeclampsia/hellp, we decided to go for it. They also told me that it was smart I let my body rest and recover before trying again. I got pregnant when my daughter was 3.5 years old. I just had my baby boy May 5, 2014 via a voluntary scheduled c-section. I had no problems throughout my pregnancy besides just normal pregnancy whoas. They monitored me closely the entire time and were really good about checking in with me. It was a really positive experience. You have to figure out what is best for you and your family, but if you do decide to try again, I hope that you have a positive outcome!

  5. I know this post is old, but I found it while researching pregnancy after HELLP. I had servers pre-e, HELLP syndrome, and postpartum pre-e with my first daughter. I won’t go into details, but we are both lucky to be alive. I’m a happy, healthy mom to a wonderfully precocious one and a half year old. We keep talking about possibly trying for baby number two when she turns two. Before, I thought I could do it. But when I started thinking about it more seriously, the anxiety started keeping me up at night. Like you, I don’t want to risk something happening to me and me not being there to experience all of my daughter’s special moments. It almost feels reckless to me. Not sure what we will ultimately decide, because I do want more children, but I’m just not ready to take the leap.

  6. I know its an old post but I vow to write something on every post I researched when I was pregnant, maybe it will help somebody. I got the hellp syndrome with my first pregnancy and was terrified to be pregnant again because of the odds of getting it a second time. I looked everywhere to see if anybody had a second pregnancy with no problem and I didnt find anything really reassuring.

    I gave birth 4 weeks ago to a beautiful baby girl and had no hellp whatsoever with this pregnancy. My blood pressure was perfect the whole time. My platelets were a little low after delivery but the doc said it could happen.

    The first time, my blood pressure was not that high and I didnt had any protein in my urine. I felt fine, Couldn’t have guess that something was wrong if the doc hadn’t sent me to do some blood work because of the blood pressure. Thats why I was so afraid this pregnancy. Afraid of having the Hellp but not knowing it. If anybody has questions Im available to answer 🙂

    • can you shared how you decides to get pregnat agian without feeling scared….i lost my baby girl ar 32 weeks …i did not know something bad was happening to me until i started feeling cramps like if my period was about to come..when i went to the hospital it was already too late my baby did not had a heartbeat …but did an emwrgency c section i had placentA abruption…and then did some bloodwork and found out i had hellp syndrome…i would like to try again but im so scared….

      • Hi Stephanie,

        I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m can understand how that would be difficult to move forward with another pregnancy. Although I didn’t suffer the loss of my baby, I was still really scared which is why I sought out a high risk doctor to check out my health prior to getting pregnant. I got a full physical from my regular doctor and then all the tests they could do at the high risk doc to assess my probability of something happening again. There was still a risk, but it was low and I felt confident in the care of my doctors and how closely I was being monitored the second time around. My second pregnancy was fine.

  7. I realize this is an old thread, but I just want to put this out there: one of my older sisters had HELLP with her first pregnancy, and then I went on to have HELLP with MY first pregnancy! Both of our experiences were scary, but they both had happy endings with healthy babies. My older sister ended up going on to have a second child (while under the care of an MFM), and I wanted to say that her second pregnancy went beautifully – full term, no complications whatsoever. My child is now two years old, and we’re considering trying for another. My sister’s story helps reassure me, but we will definitely be meeting with an MFM doctor soon to discuss my particular case. I think being under the care of a high-risk doctor who understands and who follows you closely can make a world of difference!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here