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?

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. I too had HELLP syndrome. My daughter was delivered just shy of 39 weeks. Blood pressure went to 287/90, along with blood platelets, liver enzymes, classifying me as stage one. The highest stage of HELLP syndrome. The scariest thing was that I had been in extreme pain for weeks, but my OB doc kept dismissing it because I was a physically fit person, but very short. He figured that my height was why I was in so much pain. I also gained 60 pounds and knew that my calorie intake was far below the possible amount i was gaining. (20 pounds in one week). He missed all the signs. Including telling him about the searing pain all through my upper back, the severe gallbladder attack, and that my blood pressure was already 139/90. He dismissed all of my concerns.
    1 week in a 1/2 later, by the grace of God my water broke. We headed to the hospital and soon discovered my blood pressure was 287/90. I ended up having a general csection, since they knew they could save my daughter, but not sure if I was going to make it. Never in my life had I been so scared at the thought I was never going to have the opportunity to meet my beautiful baby girl. it truly was the scariest time in my life, where I realized I was not in control, and it was in Gods hands.
    Thankfully, I am alive today, but the road to recovery was grueling. I was told to not move and lie there burning up and feeling like a Mack truck had hit me. Between a c- section, low hemoglobin, low blood platelets, liver enzymes out of whack, and so on, I felt very overwhelmed. Along with severe memory loss and passing out due to my blood pressure going up and down for the 4 weeks after.
    During this whole time, I was very lucky to have family to help me. I literally needed 24 hour care and was unable to walk without help this whole time. The road to full recovery took about 4 months, but the emotions that came with this incident have made me very leary on having another child. I understand that the chances of having HELLP are slim, since we know what signs to look for, but your chances of having preeclampsia is much higher, along with premature birth, or losing a baby due to HELLP syndrome starting to form, along with bed rest. I truly want to consider having another child, but I am still extremely scared of going through the pain that I went through during the pregnancy and possibly losing a child. Does anyone reading this blog had HELLP syndrome, then decided to have a subsequent pregnancy?

    • I had hellp almost 3 years ago and then the next year afterwards i had a son and I was blessed with a normal prdegnancy, Im short i think my obstetrician dismissedd it because she thought it was going to be a big baby because of my husband I ended up in the intensive care unit everything was fine with my son I had to deliver him vaginally

  2. I had preeclampsia with my first, normal second and hellp delivered at 30 weeks with third. My doctor said my chances increase with each pregnancy and that I shouldn’t have any more. If I have another I won’t be going to that quack. I will go to a high risk baby doctor that will actually listen to me.

  3. Your story is so similar to mine! It’s nice to have someone to relate to. My daughter will be 4 in May and I am currently pregnant with baby #2. He is due in June. At 28 weeks, things are going well so far! It took me 3 or so years to work up the courage to get pregnant again but I’m hoping for a “normal” experience this time around too! Good luck to you:)

  4. I have to say that I can truly relate to wanting a normal pregnancy. But having just turned 40 last week, and having had HELLP with my 18-mo-old, I’m just not sure my body would be up to the challenge. Plus, I’m not sure I could handle a second one while trying to train a toddler. 🙂

    I pray that you have peace with whatever decision you make. As my doctor told my husband, pregnancy is high-risk for everyone. It’s the way it is. Don’t let the past rule your future.

    I know that for me, fear is not an option should I get pregnant again. My first was a surprise… but one that God knew before the beginning of time. So I know that He will take care of my future, with or without more children.


  5. I had HELLP with my first pregnancy and delivered my daughter at 35 weeks. She was healthy at 5lb 3oz and I recovered fully within a few weeks. I too had to be on bp meds for a few months. I got pregnant with my second baby two years later. I did have preeclampsia and it started a lot earlier in pregnancy the second time(11 weeks). The doctors put me on bp meds to keep things under control and kept a very close watch on my health. I made weekly visits to the doctor most of the pregnancy. I was put on very light duty and bed rest toward the end and delivered a healthy 9lb 5oz boy at 38 weeks. I did not develop HELLP syndrome with the second baby but I credit the doctors labeling me as high risk because of my first pregnancy and keeping such a close watch on things. I just wanted to share my experience because I know HELLP is a rare condition. Blessing to you and your family!

  6. I delivered my baby girl when I was induced (the day I was 37 weeks) because of preeclampsia. It was a crazy-fast and scary experience, but I was blessed to have an amazing OB who tried to keep me informed and calm throughout. My BP spiked suddenly at 24 weeks and i was put on bedrest. At my 36.5 week check, I had done a 24 hour urine collection (fun fun, lemme tell ya!) and before testing for 30 seconds, the doc was calling the hospital to schedule me for the next day! I was able to deliver her without an emergency c-section, but that magnesium sulfate threw me for a loop! I ended up with a beautiful and healthy 7 lb 12 oz little girl!

    I had elevated BP throughout the second half of my pregnancy but didn’t notice the sudden swelling… Until I look back at my baby shower photos! My shower was the Saturday before I was surprise-induced and I was a balloon!!!!! (As a plus-size Momma, I knew I was big, but not THAT big). I ended up losing 38 pounds within a week and a half after having her…. All fluid!

    I’m always surprised as how little I knew about pre-e before and during pregnancy. There’s not a lot of info available unless you already have been diagnosed with it! It’s great to see more of us talking about our experiences and helping educate others! Thank you for sharing yours and getting a conversation started!

  7. Your story is very similar to mine. My son is 5 and I go back and forth on a weekly basis of whether or not we should have a second child. I think that I would be more likely to go for it if my husband wasn’t so scared. He doesn’t want to risk me dying just to have a second child. I unfortunately can’t come to terms with it as easily as he has. I thought I was ready to say that we were done until I held my sisters 5 month old on mothers day. It just broke my heart. I wanted so bad to just be happy and enjoy snuggling her but it made me truly sad to think that I may never hold another baby of my own.

  8. There is a HELLP syndrome facebook page that offers support and there are many wonderful, success stories of 2nd pregnancies. I am 37 weeks pregnant with #2 after having HELLP 4 years ago with my daughter. This pregnancy has gone much smoother. I did switch to a high risk Dr. and met with him BEFORE getting pregnant to see what he thought. He was very encouraging and has been through this whole pregnancy. His theory is every pregnancy is different because every placenta is different. HELLP syndrome has a lot to do with the placenta and can wreak havoc on your body if you’re not aware of the symptoms. You will be so closely monitored should you decide to do it again. I, too, was scared but this has been much better this time around. I am scheduled for a c section in 2 weeks! I am nervous for that as the last one I was put under. However, I am excited and eager to see the birth of my son with my husband! Good luck to you ladies!!!

  9. Megan could basically have written my story! I am so happy that everything turned out ok for her, as well as others who commented about their experiences. It’s nice to hear feedback from others who truly understand. I too delivered via emergency c-section under general anesthesia after my OB sent me to the emergency room. I went to his office at 36 weeks because I was in excruciating pain, but he told me to go home and take Tylenol, it was just stretching. I refused to go home and did go to the ER. The next 24 hours were the scariest of my life as I was quickly given oxygen and had all sorts of test run thanks to the wonderful ER doc. Had I gone home, my baby and I would have died! All along I told them that the blood pressure readings were extremely high for me (120/75 -140/80) as I normally have very, very low readings. They told me that it was normal in pregnancy for your BP to elevate. I also saw floaters and this OB told me that was normal as well! He is a real wackadoodle! After a horrific experience like we had, it is so hard to imagine having another child. I become so anxious just thinking about it. On the other hand, I would love to give my precious 4 year old son, Collin, a sibling. He constantly asks for a brother or sister and it is also so hard to deal with the questions from people that wonder,”When are you having another one?” I just don’t know what to do! Any advice would be wonderful. Thanks to Megan for writing this blog!

    • I didn’t mention it, but my diagnosis was HELLP as well and my blood platelets were extremely, extremely low. I still feel like my memory was affected but the doctors have told me that wouldn’t be the cause. I disagree! Has anyone on here had trouble with a second pregnancy after having HELLP with their first?

      • I have a terrible memory. I’ve never been particularly sharp with short term details, but since HELLP it’s been a challenge with day to day stuff. Only so much room in my brain. 🙂

        Interesting to hear you say this!

        Now I just found out I’m pregnant with a 2nd. Here we go!

  10. Hi LAdies!
    Just wanted to update you that my second pregnancy was HELLP free and I delivered a healthy baby boy in May! It was so much better the 2nd time around. If you’re trying to decide on #2, I think getting a high risk Dr. is key. My Dr. this time around was so great!


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