The comprehension of pregnancy terminology is important to the health of you and your unborn child. The following list of pregnancy terms will help you better understand what your doctor is talking about when she discusses your pregnancy with you.
Some of the terms will be familiar, some you will have heard before but not know the meaning, and some you may never have heard prior to being pregnant.
Afterpains – contractions of the uterus that happen the first few days after birth
Amniotic fluid – the liquid inside the amniotic sac which surrounds the fetus
Amniotic sac – a thin-walled bag that holds the fetus and amniotic fluid
Bloody show – light bleeding from the vagina during labor, especially at the end of the first stage
Braxton-Hicks contractions – irregular tightening of the uterus; false labor
Breech position – instead of a normal head-down position, the fetus is in a head-up position with feet or buttocks ready to emerge first
Cervix – the opening to the uterus, located inside the vagina
Cesarean section (C-section) – a surgical procedure to deliver a baby through an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus
Childbirth – the emergence of a child from its mother’s uterus
Circumcision – a surgical operation to remove the loose fold of skin covering the tip of the penis
Colostrum – the first milk, a clear yellowish fluid secreted by the breast during pregnancy and the first few days postpartum
Contraction – a rhythmic tightening of the muscles in the uterus which squeezes the fetus through the birth canal
Delivery – the birth of a baby
Dilation – the process of being expanded; getting larger or wider
Doppler machine – a machine that picks up the heartbeat of a fetus as early as 8 to 12 weeks of pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy – when the fertilized ovum is implanted in any tissue other than the uterine wall
Effacement – a change in the cervix during labor which shortens and thins the walls of the cervix
Epidural anesthesia – pain medication given in the spinal area
Episiotomy – a surgical cut to enlarge the vagina and prevent tearing of tissue during delivery
Fetal monitor – a machine that allows tracking of the fetal heart rate and the contractions of the uterus
Fetoscope – a special stethoscope for hearing the fetal heartbeat through the mother’s abdomen
Fetus – the unborn baby from the 8th week after conception until birth
First trimester – from conception to 12 weeks
Kegels exercise – exercises done during pregnancy or postpartum to strengthen the muscles used while giving birth.
Labor – the time and process of giving birth
Latch on – a term for the proper position and sucking of a baby at the breast.
Miscarriage – spontaneous abortion, when a pregnancy ends on its own within the first 20 weeks.
Non-stress test – recording of the heartbeat and movement of the fetus through the mother’s abdomen by a special machine
Ovary – female organ that produces the egg
Ovulate – to release an egg from the ovary
Oxytocin – a hormone that causes the uterus to contract
Placenta – organ inside the uterus which transfers nutrients between the mother and the fetus
Postpartum – after giving birth
Postpartum hemorrhage – the loss of more than a pint of blood within the first 24 hours after the baby is delivered
Pre-eclampsia – a condition which causes high blood pressure and protein leaks from the kidneys during pregnancy
Pregnancy – the period of time between conception and birth
Pregnancy test – a blood or urine test used to determine pregnancy
Pregnancy stages – three stages of three months each called trimesters
Pregnancy ultrasound – a method of imaging the fetus and the female pelvic organ during pregnancy
Premature birth – a birth occurring earlier than 37 weeks
Prenatal care – health care that a woman receives before her baby is born.
Prenatal diagnosis – the process of detecting and diagnosing fetal abnormalities before birth.
Second trimester – the fetus is recognizable but usually is not developed enough to be viable if born.
SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – the unexpected and sudden death of an apparently normal, healthy infant that occurs during sleep.
Sonogram – a picture which results from an ultrasound or ultrasonograph test
Stillbirth – the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth.
Stress test – recording of the fetal heartbeat and movement through the mother’s abdomen during the stress of a contraction
Stretch marks – streaking of the skin due to rapid expansion
Third trimester – from 29 weeks until the baby is born
Toxoplasmosis – infection with a parasite found in cat feces and undercooked meat; can cause brain deformities in the fetus
Ultrasound – a process which measures and records special sound waves reflected from body structures, such as the uterus
Uterus – the womb, the muscular organ in which the infant develops before birth
“Water breaks” – flow of amniotic fluid out of the vagina during labor