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Pregnancy Glossary

Alpha-fetoprotein – a protein produced by the fetus that is excreted into the amniotic fluid. Abnormal levels of alpha-fetoprotein may indicate brain or spinal cord defects, multiple fetuses, a miscalculated due date, or chromosomal disorders.

Areola – This is the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.

Amniocentesi – A test is -sometimes – performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate chromosomal abnormalities(Down syndrome, or genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis). This test can also identify the baby’s sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do no not develop properly)

Antenatal – This means ‘before birth’ (alternative terms are ‘prenatal’ and ‘antepartum’)

Apgar score – This is a test given to a newborn one minute and again at 5 minutes post birth. It assesses a baby’s appearance (skin colour), pulse, grimace (reflex), activity (muscle tone) and respiration. A perfect Apgar score is 10; typical Apgar scores are seven, eight or nine. If baby’s score is lower than seven, it means that the baby might need help breathing.

Bilirubin (see also jaundice) – This is a yellow pigment that is created in the body during the normal recycling of old red blood cells. Newborns are tested for bilirubin 24 hours after birth. If high levels of bilirubin are detected, the baby has “jaundice.”

Bloody show (see also mucus plug) – This refers to the small amount of mucus and blood that is passed from the cervix at the end of pregnancy. It’s a sign that the mucus plug has loosened or already has been dislodged.

Braxton Hicks contractions (see also false labour) – when there is a tightening of the uterus (womb) that feels like labour contraction. These contractions help the uterus to grow and blood circulate.

Breech birth – A delivery presentation in which the baby’s feet, knees, or bum come into the birth canal first, rather than head first.

Caesarean section (also called a ‘C-section’) – This is a surgical procedure where the baby is delivered through an incision in the abdomen and uterus.

Cephalopelvic disproportion – A complication of childbirth when the head of the baby is too large for the pelvis.

Cervix – The narrow, lower end of the uterus that softens and opens during labour to allow the baby to come out (usually at 10cm)

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) – When placental tissue is sometimes retrieved for lab analysis to help identify certain genetic abnormalities and chromosomal disorders.

Chromatography – This is a lab test performed on a pregnant woman’s urine to detect illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.

Colostrum – This amazing fluid is thick, yellowish and is secreted from the breast during pregnancy, and the first few days after childbirth Also called “first milk” or “liquid gold,” it provides nutrients and protection against infectious diseases.

Contraction – The strong and painful tightening of the uterus during labour that causes the woman’s cervix to dilate and that helps push the baby through the birth canal.

Cord prolapse – This is when the umbilical cord comes out of the uterus while the fetus is still inside; something you don’t want to happen! It’s considered an obstetric emergency during pregnancy or labor that endangers the life of the baby.

Crowning – The point during labour when the baby’s head has reached the external vaginal opening and can be seen from the outside; hello hair!

Dilation – The opening of the cervix, measured as the diameter of the cervix in centimeters.

Doula – An amazing service offered by a non-medical assistant who provides physical, emotional and informational support in prenatal care, during childbirth and during the postpartum period.

EDD – Estimated Due Date.

Effacement – This is shortening, or thinning, of the cervix before or during early labor.

Embryo – The name for a fertilised egg from the time of conception until the eighth week.

Endometrium – The lining of the uterus.

Engorgement (see also hand express) – When a woman’s breasts become overly full of milk and may feel swollen, hard, and painful. It’s important to pay attention and relieve the engorgement because it could lead to blocked milk ducts.

Epidural – A type of anaesthetic commonly used in labour where drugs are used to numb the lower half of the body. Effectiveness and strength of an epidural can vary.

Episiotomy (see also perineum) – It’s when an incision is made in the perineum (area between the vagina and the anus) to make the vaginal opening larger in order to prevent the area from tearing during delivery. Not fun!

First-degree tear – This type of tear involves only the perineal skin (adjacent to the vaginal opening) and occurs at the time of delivery. Thankfully, it doesn’t always need stitches.

First trimester – This is the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy.

Folic acid – One of the B vitamins that is found naturally in green leafy vegetables that helps prevent anaemia and has been shown to reduce the incidence of some birth defects. Eat your greens, mamas!

Fontanelles – These six little soft spots are on a baby’s head which, during birth, enable the soft bony plates of the skull to flex, allowing the head to pass through the birth canal. These little soft spots don’t completely fuse until a child’s 2nd birthday, so be careful with those little noggins’!

Fundus – This is the top of the enlarged uterus, hello belly!

Fundal height – This is used to assess fetal growth and development. It is measured from the top of the pubic bone to the top of the uterus in centimeters.

Galactosemia – an inherited disorder where the baby is unable to metabolize galactose, a milk sugar.

Gestational age – the age of an embryo or fetus (or newborn infant) from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period (LMP) to the current date.

Gestational diabetes – a condition that develops during pregnancy when the woman’s blood sugar levels become too high because inadequate levels of insulin. This is a condition that can be treated and will usually go away after pregnancy.

Hand express – When a mother uses her hand to pump/squeeze breast milk from her breast.

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG): This is a hormone produced in pregnancy. Pregnancy tests (urine and blood) will measure the levels of this hormone to indicate the presence or absence of an implanted embryo.

Hyperemesis (see morning sickness) – The worst morning sickness ever! It’s unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.

Incontinence – The inability to control your bladder or bowel movements.

Induced – When a pregnant woman’s labour get a jump start by a healthcare professional. This usually occurs when a pregnant mother is part her due date, or needs to give birth early.

Jaundice ( see also bilirubin) – This is a condition where the skin and the whites of the eyes take on a yellowish tinge. It is caused by an excess of a chemical called bilirubin in the blood. In newborns, this is monitored 24 hours after birth and usually resolves on its own, sometimes you just need to lay your baby in front of a window for short periods over a few days..
Kegels – These awkward exercises are designed to strengthen and give voluntary control over the pubococcygeus muscles (muscles that help with urinary control and childbirth).
Lanugo – A fine, downy hair that covers the fetus until shortly before or after birth.

Leukorrhea – A whitish vaginal discharge during pregnancy.

Lactation consultant – Someone who is trained to provide information and support about breastfeeding. If a breastfeeding mom is having problems breastfeeding, they should definitely seek one out.

Low birthweight – When a newborn weighs less than 2,500 grams at birth. Oh, so tiny!

Linea nigra – This is that weird, dark vertical line that appears on the belly during pregnancy.

LMP – Last Menstrual Period.

Local anesthetic / analgesic (see epidural) – an analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. Pain-relieving drugs can be given to a woman during labor and delivery through a needle inserted into a muscle or under the skin. A local anesthetic prevents the recipient from feeling pain in a targeted area.

Lochia – This is the awesome postpartum vaginal discharge, containing blood, mucous, and placental tissue that new mamas must endure for 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth. This is why we need to stock up on MEGA sized pads!

Meconium – a tar-like substance passed by a baby as their first poo. Passing meconium before birth may be a sign of fetal distress

Midwife – a person who has been specially trained to care for women during pregnancy, labour, birth and the post-birth period.

Morning sickness (see also hyperemesis)– Don’t let the name fool you. This nausea, vomiting and aversions to certain foods and smells can affect most pregnant women to some degree ANY time of day. This joy of pregnancy usually begins at four to eight weeks gestation and generally subsides by week 16 of the pregnancy.

Natural birth – When a woman delivers a baby without any interventions; for example a vaginal delivery rather than a cesarean section.

Neonatal period – The first four weeks of a newborn’s life.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) – A unit in the hospital for babies who need a high level of special medical care.

Suggestions for terms?
Pelvic floor exercises – These are exercises a woman can do to strengthen the muscles in and around her vagina during and after pregnancy. Helps with incontinence, core strength, back pain.

Perineum – The rarely seen little area between the vagina and anus.

Placenta – This amazing organ connects to the wall of the uterus and nourishes the baby through the umbilical cord.

Placenta previa – This is the implantation of the placenta over or near the top of the cervix. This can resolve on its own, or sometimes requires a C-section.

Port-wine stain – This is a cute little name for a flat, pink, red, or purple colored birthmark.

Postnatal – This term means ‘after birth’ (also called ‘post-birth’ and ‘postpartum’)

PPD – Post Partum (postnatal) Depression – a condition that affects many mothers in the days, weeks or months after giving birth. If you suspect PPD, please tell your Doctor!

Premature – When a baby is born before 37 weeks gestation.

Prenatal – Means ‘before birth’ (alternative terms are ‘antenatal’ and ‘antepartum’)

PROM (Premature Rupture Of Membranes) – This is a condition which occurs in pregnancy when the amniotic sac ruptures before the onset of labor.

Preterm labor – When labor that starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Primigravida – a woman who is pregnant for the first time or has been pregnant one time.


Quickening – The first time a newly pregnant woman feels the light tapping or fluttering of the fetus in the womb.These sensations eventually become stronger and more regular as the pregnancy progresses. Sometimes, the first movements are mistaken to be gas or hunger pangs.
Rooting – Rooting is a reflex in newborns, usually triggered by some sort of stimulus—perhaps when you stroke your baby’s cheek with your finger—or by something less direct, such as his own shirt or fist. When this happens, the baby moves his head toward the stimulus and opens his mouth in search of food.
Second-degree tear – This type of tear of the perineum involves both skin and muscles, but not the anus, and often requires stitches.

Second-stage labour – the time from the complete dilation of the cervix (10 cm) to the birth.
Second trimester – The time period from 14 weeks to 26 weeks of pregnancy.

SGA (Small for gestational Age) – A baby whose birth weight lies below the 10th percentile for that gestational age.

Stretch marks – When a woman’s skin stretches during pregnancy, her skin can become discoloured and red, pink or purple streaks can appear on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks or legs. These marks often fade slowly after delivery.

Toxemia (see also pre-eclampsia) – This is a condition that can occur in a woman in the second half of her pregnancy that can cause serious problems for both her and the baby. It causes high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blood changes and other problems.

TENS machine – A ‘trans-electrical nerve stimulation’ machine used for pain management during labour.
Third- or fourth-degree tear – This is a severe tear of the perineum involving the skin, muscles and anus and stitches are used to repair.

Third-stage labour – This is the time from the birth of the baby to the birth of the placenta.

Third trimester – the time from 26 weeks of pregnancy onwards.

Trimester – A time span of three months during pregnancy, with each trimester having different phases of fetal development.

Triple screen – This is a blood test that indicates if there’s an increased risk of a birth defect, or a condition like Down syndrome, in the fetus. This test can also show if it is a twin pregnancy.

Trisomy 18 – This condition is when a baby is conceived with three copies instead of the normal two copies of chromosome #18, which causes multiple malformations and mental retardation. Some of the problems include: low birth weight, small head, small jaw, malformations of the heart and kidneys, clenched fists with abnormal finger positioning, and malformed feet. The mental retardation is severe.

Tubal pregnancy – This is a complication of pregnancy in which the fertilized ovum implants itself in the Fallopian tube.

Ultrasound – A scan of a woman’s uterus (womb) and baby during pregnancy and typically done in the first trimester to confirm the due date, and the second is at 18-22 weeks to confirm normal anatomy and the sex of the baby.

Umbilical cord – The cord that connects the baby to the placenta, allowing nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and oxygen to be carried from the woman to her baby.

UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) – an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, or organs that collect and store urine and release it from your body (the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra).

Uterus – A woman’s womb, or the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum.

VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Casarean, see also Casarean) – When a woman has a vaginal birth after having had one or more previous caesarean sections.

Vernix – This is the waxy or “cheesy” white substance that coats the skin of newborn humans.

Vulva – The opening to a woman’s vagina.

Walking epidural – This type of epidural epidural allows women to walk around while in labour.

Water birth – When a baby is born fully submerged in water and is usually done with a midwife.

Waters – The amniotic fluid that surrounds an unborn baby inside the uterus (see also amniotic fluid)

Suggestions for terms?
Yeast infections – This is a common infection in women caused by an overgrowth of the fungus, Candida. It is normal to have some yeast in your vagina, but sometimes it can overgrow because of hormonal changes in your body, such as pregnancy.
Suggestions for terms?

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