FREE shipping on orders over £49

Glossary of pregnancy-related terms

12th September 2007 |By

Find out what pregnancy‐related medical terms, such as ‘Amniocentesis’,’Neonate’ and ‘Zygote’, really mean…

Letters Baby

Find out what pregnancy‐related medical terms, such as ‘Amniocentesis’,’Neonate’ and ‘Zygote’, really mean…

A&B spells (Apnoea and Bradycardia spells)

Episodes when the baby stops breathing for at least 15 seconds and the baby’s heart rate slows down to less than 100 beats per minute (normal is around 120‐160 beats per minute).

Adhesion

The abnormal joining of adjacent tissues following infection or other inflammation. This is often used to refer to fallopian tubes that can develop adhesions and prevent conception.

After‐Birth

The placenta and other associated membranes which are passed from the uterus after the birth

Alpha‐Fetoprotein (AFP)

A plasma protein normally produced by the foetus’ liver. AFP eventually finds its way into the mother’s blood and the amniotic fluid. When too much or too little AFP enters the mother’s blood stream it can be a sign of foetal problems, such as birth defects. High AFP levels in the mother’s blood indicate an increased risk of Foetal Spina Bifida or other malformations. Low AFP levels are associated with an increased risk of Down’s Syndrome and other chromosomal problems.

Amenorrhoea

The absence of menstruation

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis‐Sometimes called an “amnio”, this minor surgical diagnostic test allows the doctor to obtain a sample of the amniotic fluid by inserting a long, thin, hollow needle through the mother’s abdomen into the uterus. The amniotic fluid is then analysed to look for genetic characteristics of the baby.

Amniotic fluid

Fluid inside the membrane that forms a sac around the embryo and later the foetus. This buoyant fluid helps the foetus grow uniformly, helps the bones and muscles develop, and allows the baby to move within the uterus.

Amniotic Sac

The membranous bag that surrounds the foetus and becomes filled with amniotic fluid as pregnancy advances.

Antenatal care

Medical care for a pregnant woman and her developing baby for the duration of the pregnancy

Antenatal tests

Medical tests conducted during pregnancy to determine any genetic disorders in the foetus or to check the well‐being of the woman

Anterior position

A baby in the anterior position faces the back of the mother’s pelvis during pregnancy and/or during labour

Analgesic

Refers to any medication that relieves pain while allowing the patient to remain conscious.

Apgar test

The first test most babies are given (at one and five minutes after birth). It assesses five basic indicators of health

respiration, pulse, activity level, response to stimulation, and appearance

Artificial insemination

A medical procedure to place sperm inside the reproductive tract. Baby Blues During the first few weeks after delivery up to 15% of new mothers experience post natal depression. This is characterized by mood swings, lethargy, feelings of inadequacy, and anxiety.

Basal body temperature

Just before ovulation, a woman’s basal (resting) temperature increases. The temperature should be taken early in the morning, which is usually the lowest temperature of the day to time intercourse to increase the likelihood of conception.

Birth Canal

The tunnel comprising of the vagina and cervix through which the baby must pass from the uterus during birth.

Blastocyst

The rapidly dividing fertilised egg at around the stage when it enters the uterus.

Bloody Show

As the cervix dilates, blood and the cervical mucous plug (from the cervical canal) pass from the vagina. The bloody show is a classic indicator of beginning or progressing of labour

Braxton Hicks Contractions

“Practice” contractions, starting around the eighth month, which prepare the uterus for labour.

Breast Pump

A breast pump is designed to extract milk from a mother’s breasts so that she can feed her baby later with the expressed milk in a bottle. Pumps range from inexpensive manual models to powerful machines which can empty both breasts at the same time within a few minutes

Breech position

When baby is aligned in the uterus to come out buttocks first, as opposed to head first

Caesarean Section

Delivery of the baby through an incision in the abdominal and uterine walls when delivery through the birth canal is impossible or dangerous

Cephalopelvic disproportion

Sometimes the baby’s head is larger than the mother’s pelvis, therefore, the safest way to deliver the infant is to do so by caesarean section

Cervical incompetence

Inability of the cervix to remain closed during pregnancy, which may result in miscarriage or premature delivery. To avoid premature delivery, the cervix may be stitched up or the mother may be confined to bed

Cervical mucous method

This is a natural birth control method accomplished by timing intercourse according to the consistency of the woman’s cervical mucous. Mucous similar to raw egg white signifies a time close to ovulation, when a woman is most fertile, while thick and cloudy mucous indicates a time when conception is less likely

Cervix

The cervix keeps the foetus from falling out of the uterus. During labour, the cervix thins and dilates to allow the baby to pass out of the uterus and into the vagina

Chlamydia

A shortened form of Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium that is the most common cause of sexually transmitted disease in women of reproductive age.

Chloasma

Brown markings on the skin of a pregnant woman caused by hormonal changes, often seen on the face, in a pattern called ‘butterfly’ marking. These fade after pregnancy.

Chorion

The outermost layer of the two foetal membranes, which envelope the growing foetus and serves as a protective barrier against infection

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)

A method of diagnosing abnormalities in a foetus, done at 8‐10 weeks of pregnancy, in which a small sample of chorionic tissue is taken from the placenta for laboratory analysis

Colic (infantile)

Episodes: when an infant, who is otherwise completely well, is irritable, cries or screams excessively and draws up the legs. Common in 6%‐13% of all infants.

Colostrum

The thin, human breast milk produced shortly after delivery and before the regular breast milk is produced.

Colposcopy

Examination of the cervix under illuminated magnification

Conception

Conception occurs when a sperm and an egg join to form a single cell. It usually takes place in the Fallopian tubes. The fertilised egg then travels into the uterus, where it implants in the lining before developing into an embryo and then a foetus.

Contractions

The contracting of the muscles of the uterus during labour. The uterus contracts in an effort to expel the foetus into and out of the birth canal Cradle Cap A waxy, scaly, skin rash that is common in newborn infants. The medical name is seborrhoeic dermatitis

D&C (Dilatation and Curettage)

Surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus scraped. A D&C may be necessary to empty completely the uterus after a miscarriage. The D&C is also used on occasion to investigate abnormal menstrual bleeding.

Depo‐Provera

This injected form of birth control requires injections of progestin every two or three months

Doppler Ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound is used early in high‐risk pregnancies to evaluate the blood flow through the foetus’s umbilical artery

Doula

A doula is a person specially trained to help during labour and after the birth of a baby. A doula might help a new mother to breastfeed, or cook, clean, and care for older children.

Due Date (EDD)

The estimated date of delivery. The due date is also called the estimated date of confinement (EDC). Calculation of the EDC or due date is performed by counting forward 280 days (40 weeks) from the first day of the last menstrual period.

Eclampsia

A rare, serious condition of late pregnancy, labour and the period following delivery, characterised by convulsions in the mother which can be life threatening.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Pregnancy in which the embryo develops outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tubes.

EDD or EDC

The estimated date of delivery. The due date is also called the estimated date of confinement (EDC). Calculation of the EDC or due date is performed by counting forward 280 days (40 weeks) from the first day of the last menstrual period.

Effacement

This is the thinning (sometimes called ripening) of the cervix in preparation for delivery. During effacement, the cervix goes from more than an inch thick to paper thin.

Electronic Foetal Monitor

This device monitors the progress and vital signs of a foetus during labour. It records the foetal heartbeat and a woman’s contractions.

Embryo

The name given to a developing infant from about two weeks after conception to the end of the second month of pregnancy, when it is then called a foetus.

Endometriosis

The endometrium is the tissue which lines the uterus. Endometriosis is a disease where endometrial cells grow outside the uterus, most often on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, or the exterior of the uterus. It is estimated that 10‐15% of women of childbearing age have this condition, many of them without symptoms, although the condition is also associated with infertility.

Engagement

Engagement is when the foetus descends into the pelvic cavity. In first‐time mothers, this usually happens two to four weeks before delivery.

Entonox

A gas, made up of 50% oxygen and 50% nitrous oxide. The vast majority of maternity hospitals pump gas and air to all of their delivery rooms from a central supply, so it’s always available when you want it.

Epidural Block

An anaesthetic technique that reduces pain during childbirth without altering the mother’s level of consciousness. This type of local anaesthesia is often given during labour to relieve the pain of contractions and delivery. A needle is inserted through the skin of the back into the epidural space. Anaesthetic is then injected around the spinal cord which anaesthetises the nerves of the lower part of the body.

Episiotomy

A minor surgical procedure which widens the birth canal by cutting the vaginal opening to prevent the jagged, less controlled tearing of tissue during the stretching associated with delivery.

Fallopian Tube

The ducts that conduct the egg from the abdomen to the uterus after ovulation and conception. It is within the fallopian tube that the sperm usually meets and fertilises the egg.

Fertilisation

It occurs when a sperm penetrates an egg. The moment when a sperm fertilises an egg is also called conception, and conception usually takes place in one of the Fallopian tubes.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

This syndrome involves physical and mental birth defects caused by a baby’s mother drinking large amounts of alcohol (often defined as more than five or six drinks a day) during pregnancy.

Foetal presentation

This describes the position of the baby ‐ such as feet down (breech) or head down (vertex) ‐ inside a woman’s uterus. About 96% of babies present in the vertex position; some who initially present in breech position turn before delivery begins.

Foetoscopy

A procedure for directly observing a foetus inside the uterus by means of fibre optic, tubular telescope inserted via a tiny incision in the mother’s abdominal wall.

Foetus or Fetus

The name given to the embryo after the 8th week. Technically this name should be used until the baby is completely outside of the mother’s body.

Folic Acid

A vitamin which plays a crucial part in foetal growth, especially in the development of the nervous system and the formation of blood cells.

Forceps Delivery

The use of forceps (A tweezer like instrument) used by an obstetrician to ease out the baby’s head during a difficult birth.

Full term

Refers to a full term pregnancy. Infants who are not prematurely born are considered to be full‐term. The World Health Organisation considers full‐term any infant born after 38 completed weeks of gestation.

Fundal Height

The distance between the top of a pregnant woman’s uterus (called the fundus) to her pubic bone. It is measured to determine foetal age.

Gamete intrafallopian transfer

(GIFT)

A form of assisted conception, which involves the combining of egg and sperm outside of the body and immediately placing them into the fallopian tubes to achieve conception.

Gestation

The period of time a baby is carried in the uterus; full‐term gestation is between 38 and 42 weeks (counted from the first day of the last menstrual period).

Gestational age

It is basically a measure of the length of time that a baby spends in the womb. The baby’s age is calculated in weeks as the time from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period to the day of birth.

Gravida

The medical term for a pregnant woman. The term is often prefixed to indicate the number of pregnancies. For example a primigravida is a woman pregnant for the first time and secundagravida is someone pregnant for the second time.

Haemorrhoids

These are swollen blood vessels in the anus. They are caused by increased blood volume and pressure from the uterus on the veins in the legs and pelvis, and are common during pregnancy. Constipation can also cause (or compound) the problem.

Hyperemisis Gravitarum

Excessive vomiting in pregnancy.

Human Chorionic Gondotrophin (HCG)

A hormone produced by the placenta and which is essential to normal pregnancy. HCG can be detected as soon as 7‐10 days after conception using a home pregnancy test kit.

Implantation

The attachment of the fertilized egg to the uterine lining, which usually occurs about five days after ovulation.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Laboratory fertilisation of an egg by a sperm. The fertilised egg is then implanted in the female reproductive tract.

Induction

If labour has not started at an appropriate time or if there are maternal indications for delivery before labour starts naturally, medications may be used to induce labour.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

Direct injection of sperm into an egg.

Latching on

To “latch on” to the breast, a baby needs to open his mouth wide. When a baby latches on to the breast successfully, he will be feeding from the breast and not just the nipple. It should not hurt when your baby feeds, although you may experience a h3 class=”articleTitle3″ sensation of sucking.

Lactation

The production and secretion of milk after childbirth.

Lochia

The discharge after childbirth of blood and fragments of the uterine lining from the site where the placenta was attached.

Luteal Phase

The second part of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation has occurred, on average 12 to 16 days.

Meconium

The thick sticky, greenish‐black faeces passed by babies during the first day or two after birth, which consists of bile, mucus, and shed intestinal cells.

Menstrual Cycle

The regular growth and expulsion of the endometrium ‐ the lining of the uterus ‐ which occurs if no fertilised egg implants.

Miscarriage

Spontaneous abortion or loss of the foetus before 21 weeks of gestation.

Mucus Plug

A plug of mucus that fills the cervical canal during pregnancy. Discharge of the plug is usually followed by rupture of the membranes and progressive labour.

Multigravida

The name given to someone pregnant for the third or more time.

Multiple Birth

Delivery of more than one baby (twins, triplets etc.)

Natural Childbirth

The process of giving birth without anaesthesia or medication to relieve pain.

Neonate

A newly born infant under the age of one month.

Neonatology

The branch of Paediatrics concerned with the care of newborn infants.

Nipple Shield

Flexible plastic covers which can be placed on the breast before feeding.

Obstetrics

The branch of medicine concerned with pregnancy and antenatal care, childbirth and postnatal care.

Oligohydramnios

A rare condition in which there is an abnormally small amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the foetus in the uterus during pregnancy.

Oligospermia

A condition in which there are too few sperm in the semen to allow a good chance of conception ‐ sometimes referred to as a low sperm count.

Ovaries

Sex glands which produce key female hormones and eggs, and are found on either side of the uterus.

Ovulation

The moment at which a mature egg is released from the ovaries into the Fallopian tubes ‐ the time around when a woman is most likely to conceive.

Paediatrics

The branch of medicine concerned with the growth and development of children. Peak day The final day in a menstrual cycle in which your cervical mucus has the consistency of egg white.

Perinatal

Relating to the period just before or just after birth. Usually defined as from 18th week of pregnancy to the end of the first week after birth.

Perineum

The perineum is the area between the vagina and anus. When an episiotomy is performed during childbirth, it is the perineum that is cut.

Pethidine

Pain‐relieving drug, which is related to morphine and used during labour. It is usually given as an injection into the thigh. It can cause drowsiness, dizziness and nausea.

Placenta

The organ that develops in the uterus during pregnancy and links the blood supplies of mother and baby.

Placenta Praevia

Implantation of the placenta in the lower part of the uterus near or over the cervix.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

This is one of several causes of failure to ovulate among women. Multiple ovarian cysts often form and periods become highly irregular.

Post natal depression

Depression in a woman after childbirth.

Pre‐eclampsia

A serious condition in which high blood pressure, accumulation of fluid in the tissues and protein in the urine develop in the woman in the second half of pregnancy. Pre‐eclampsia affects about 7 percent of pregnancies.

Sciatica

Common pregnancy‐related condition. Pain in the leg, lower back, and buttocks is caused by pressure of the growing uterus on the sciatic nerve.

Six‐week check

Both mother and baby will have a thorough medical examination and check‐up approximately six weeks after the birth to monitor their overall progress and ensure their good health.

TENS machine

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a method of pain relief consisting of a pack of electrode pads placed on the back. It discharges an electrical stimulus that interferes with the passage of pain signals to the brain and may help the body to produce endorphins, its own pain‐killing hormones. The pack has a hand‐held control, which can be used to vary the strength of the stimulus.

Trimester

A third of a pregnancy. Trimesters divide pregnancy into three 13‐week periods. The development and potential problems of pregnancy and the foetus vary by trimester. Ultrasound Scan In ultrasound procedures, high‐frequency sound waves are used to create a moving image on a screen. Ultrasound images can be used to diagnose infertility and other medical problems.

Umbilical cord

The baby’s lifeline from the mother during pregnancy. The umbilical cord is formed during the fifth week of gestation and connects the foetus’ circulation with the mother’s placenta. Through this vascular structure, the foetus receives nutrients such as oxygen, glucose, and protein. When the baby is born the cord is about 2 feet long and 1/2 inch thick.

Uterus

Also called the womb. The uterus is the organ that houses and protects the foetus during pregnancy. The uterus grows and expands with your baby’s growth.

Varicose Veins

Dilatation of veins, usually in the legs, due to rupturing of the small valves in the veins. Many pregnant women experience distended, enlarged veins on their legs.

Ventouse extraction

In a ventouse delivery, a suction cup attached to a machine is placed on the baby’s head to assist the baby’s passage through the birth canal.

Vernix

A cheesy, white substance that covers a baby’s skin at birth. The vernix is secreted by the sebaceous glands around the 20th week to protect the baby’s skin from the amniotic fluid.

Yolk Sac

One of the protective membranes surrounding the embryo.

Zygote

This is a medical term for a newly fertilised egg before it implants into the uterus.

Written by