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Pregnancy Glossary 

From amniocentesis to vertex, it seems like you need to learn a new language when you are pregnant. We have created a glossary of pregnancy and labor terms to help you through.

An amniocentesis is a test done during pregnancy that removes a small amount of fluid from the amniotic sac around the baby. The test can be done in early pregnancy to look for birth defects and chromosome problems. Later in pregnancy the test may be done to screen for infection or to determine if the baby’s lungs are mature enough to proceed with an early delivery.

A thin membrane surrounding the fetus during
pregnancy. The amnion is the inner of the two fetal membranes (the chorion is the outer membrane). It contains the amniotic fluid.

Amniotic fluid:
A clear liquid that surrounds the unborn baby during pregnancy. The fluid has several functions including: allowing the baby to move in the womb, helping the baby’s lungs to mature, keeping the baby at a constant temperature, and protecting the baby by cushioning it from sudden movements.

Amniotic sac:
Sac that surrounds the baby inside the uterus. It contains the baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluid.

Any condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal. Most cases of anemia in pregnancy are caused by iron deficiency, or a lack of iron.

Irregular or missed heartbeat.

Swallowing or sucking a foreign body or fluid, such as vomit, into an airway.

Back labor:
Labor pain felt in the lower back.

Removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic study.

Breech presentation:
Abnormal position of the fetus. Buttocks or legs come into the birth canal ahead of the head.

Cataract, congenital:
Cloudiness of the eye lens present at birth.

Cesarean section (delivery):
Delivery of a baby through an abdominal incision rather than through the vagina.

Thin, yellow fluid, which is the first milk to come from the breast. Most often seen toward the end of pregnancy. It is different in content from milk produced later during nursing.

Congenital problem:
Problem present at birth.

Bowel movements are infrequent or incomplete.

Contraction stress test:
Response of the fetus to uterine contractions to evaluate fetal well-being.

Inflammation of the bladder.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection:
Group of viruses from the herpes virus family.

D&C (dilatation and curettage):
Surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus is scraped.

Developmental delay:
Condition in which the development of the baby or child is   slower than normal.

Difficulty or pain urinating.

Estimated Date of Confinement – The due date or estimated calendar date when a baby will be born.

Seizures (convulsions) and/or coma in a woman with pre-eclampsia.

Ectopic pregnancy:
Pregnancy that occurs outside the uterine cavity.

Thinning of cervix during labor.

Organism in the early stages of development.

Embryonic period:
First 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Face presentation:
Baby comes into the birth canal face first.

False labor:
Contractions or tightening of uterus without dilatation of the cervix.

Fasting blood sugar:
Blood test to evaluate the amount of sugar in the blood following a time period of fasting.

Joining of the sperm and egg.

Fetal anomaly:
Fetal malformation or abnormal development.

Fetal growth restriction:
Inadequate growth of the fetus during the last part of pregnancy.

Fetal monitor:
Device used before or during labor to listen to and record the fetal heartbeat. Can be external monitoring (through maternal abdomen) or internal monitoring (through maternal vagina) of the baby inside the uterus.

Refers to the unborn baby after 10 weeks of gestation until birth.

Instrument sometimes used to help remove baby from the birth canal during delivery.

Genetic counseling:
Consultation between a woman or a couple and a specialist about genetic defects and the possibility of genetic problems in a pregnancy.

Genital herpes simplex:
Herpes simplex infection involving the genital area. It can be significant during pregnancy because of the danger to a newborn infected with herpes simplex.

Genitourinary problems:
Defects or problems involving genital organs and the     bladder or kidneys.

Gestational age:
Dating a pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period.

Glucose-tolerance test:
Blood test done to evaluate the body's response to sugar.

Group-B streptococcal infection:
Serious infection that can occur in the mother's vagina and throat.

Prominent, rounded elevation found on the surface of the brain tissue.

Also known as acid reflux, heartburn is a painful and burning sensation in the esophagus, just behind the breastbone usually that often occurs after eating.

Determines the proportion of red blood cells to plasma. Important in diagnosing anemia.

Pigment in red blood cell that carries oxygen to body tissues.

Dilated blood vessels in the rectum or rectal canal.

Increased amount of amniotic fluid.

Excessive accumulation of fluid around the brain of the baby. Sometimes called water on the brain.

An abnormally high level of bilirubin (a pigment produced from the breakdown of red blood cells) in the blood. Bilirubin in the blood causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to appear yellow (jaundice).

Hyperemesis gravidarum:
Severe nausea, dehydration and vomiting during pregnancy. Occurs most frequently during the first trimester.

Increased blood sugar.

High blood pressure.

Elevation of the thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

Defective or incomplete development or formation of tissue.

Low blood pressure.

Low or inadequate levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG):
A hormone produced in early pregnancy that is measured in a pregnancy test.

Hyaline membrane disease:
Respiratory disease of the newborn.

Identical Twins:
Medically termed as monozygotic twins, they occur from the division of a single zygote and share the same genetic material.

A somewhat common condition in newborn babies marked by a yellowing of the skin and caused by the immature liver's inability to process excess red blood cells.

Kick Counts:
Keeping track of the baby's fetal movement by counting the number of kicks in a certain time period.

Regular contractions of the uterus that result in dilation and effacement of the cervix.

Baby's first bowel movement, this is the greenish substance that builds up in the bowels of a growing fetus and is normally discharged shortly after birth.

Neural Tube Defect:
A birth defect resulting in improper development of the brain or spinal cord.

A pediatrician who specializes in care of the newborns.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU):
A special nursery for high-risk or premature babies that uses advanced technology and highly trained health professionals.

A congenital (found at birth) malformation in which variable amounts of abdominal contents protrude into the base of the umbilical cord.

Cyclic production of an egg from the ovary.

Organ inside the uterus that is attached to the baby by the umbilical cord. Essential during pregnancy for growth and development of the embryo and fetus. Also called afterbirth.

Placenta accreta:
Placenta that attaches to muscle of uterus.

Placenta increta:
Placenta that grows into muscle of uterus.

Placenta percreta:
Placenta that penetrates through the muscle of uterus.

Placenta previa:
Low attachment of the placenta, covering or very close to the cervix.

Placental abruption:
Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus.

Abnormally large growth of the placenta during pregnancy.

Inflammation of the lungs.

Premature baby:
Baby born before 38 weeks.

Postpartum blues:
Mild depression after delivery.

Postpartum hemorrhage:
Excessive bleeding following birth.

Combination of symptoms significant to pregnancy, including high blood pressure, edema, swelling and changes in reflexes.

Premature delivery:
Delivery before 38 weeks gestation.

Describes the part of the baby that comes into the birth canal first.

Protein in urine.

Pruritus gravidarum:
Itching during pregnancy.

Serious kidney infection.

Feeling the baby move inside the uterus for the first time in the pregnancy.

Absence of rhesus antibody in the blood.

Medication given during pregnancy and following delivery to prevent isoimmunization. See Isoimmunization.

Rupture of membranes:
Loss of fluid from the amniotic sac. Also called breaking of waters.

Sudden onset of a convulsion.

Sickle-cell anemia:
Anemia caused by abnormal red blood cells shaped like a sickle or a cylinder.

Element found in many foods, particularly salt. Ingestion of too much sodium may cause fluid retention.

Spina bifida:
Congenital abnormality characterized by a defect in the vertebral column. The spinal cord may protrude outside the protective bony canal of the spine.

Spinal anesthesia:
Anesthesia given in the spinal canal. Commonly used for cesarean births.

Formation of a blood clot (thrombus).

Monilial or yeast infection occurring in the mouth or mucous membranes of a newborn infant.

Thyroid disease:
Abnormality of the thyroid gland and its production of thyroid hormone.

Stopping contractions during premature labor.


Transverse lie:
Fetus is turned sideways in uterus.

Method of dividing pregnancy into three equal time periods of about 13 weeks each.

Umbilical cord:
Cord that connects the fetus to the placenta. It removes waste products and carbon dioxide from the baby and brings oxygenated blood and nutrients from the mother through the placenta to the baby.

Tubes from the kidneys to the bladder that drain urine.

Organ an embryo/fetus grows in. Also called a womb.

Vacuum extractor:
Device used to provide traction on fetal head during delivery.

Varicose veins:
Blood vessels (veins) that are dilated or enlarged.

The baby is positioned head first as it enters the birth canal.

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