Glossary of Terms Used by Your OB/GYN
Afterpains – Pains caused by contractions of the womb after your baby is born. They tend to be the worse during breastfeeding. They can last 2 to 3 days.
Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) – A protein made by a growing fetus. This blood test helps find out if the baby has a neural tube type of birth defect.
Amniocentesis – A small amount of fluid is taken from the sac around the fetus. It can be tested to check for some birth defects.
Amniotic Fluid – Watery liquid around the fetus. It moves constantly around the baby and is replaced every few hours.
Amniotic Sac – The sac that is around the baby inside the womb. It contains the baby, the placenta and the amniotic fluid.
Anemia – Any time that the number of red blood cells is too low. This is common in pregnancy. It is usually caused by too little iron in a diet.
Areola – The colored ring around the nipple of the breast.
Back Labor – Pain or labor felt in the lower back.
Bag of Water – The sac of amniotic fluid and the fetus.
Beta HCG – The hormone that is measured in pregnancy tests. An increasing B-HCG level is generally a sign of a healthy pregnancy.
Bilirubin – A substance in blood. Levels are watched closely in newborn babies. Too much bilirubin can be treated by exposure to light.
Biophysical Profile – A test of fetal heart rate, breathing, body movement and muscle tone, and the amount of amniotic fluid. Heart rate is measured by a non-stress test (NST). Ultrasound is used for the other four measurements. If your baby passes the tests then you can feel good about your baby’s health.
Bloody Show – This is when you notice small amounts of blood with painful contractions in early labor. You should probably go to the hospital if you notice this.
Braxton-Hicks Contractions – These are contractions that do not really open up the cervix. They are helpful in that they let your body get ready for real labor. These should only occur at the end of pregnancy.
Breech – An abnormal position of the fetus. Buttocks or legs come into the birth canal first, instead of the head.
Dilation – The cervix opens up to allow the baby to come through. We call this process dilation.
Cervical Os – The small opening of the cervix that dilates during the first stage of labor.
Cervix – The “neck” of the uterus. The lower end of the cervix extends into the vagina. The cervix fully opens up and becomes part of the birth canal during the final stages of labor.
C-section – The baby is delivered through a cut in the abdomen and the uterus.
Colostrum – Milk that is formed in the breast late in pregnancy and in the first days after delivery. It is thin, yellow fluid called “first milk.”
Contraction – When all of the muscle tissue in your womb tightens at the same time. Earlier in pregnancy it may feel only like the baby balling up or your whole stomach getting tight. One or two contractions a day is okay.
EDC (Estimated Date of Confinement) – The expected due date for the baby. Count forward 280 days from the first day of the last period.
Edema – Swelling of the tissues due to the build up of fluid. This happens more in the ankles and feet at the end of pregnancy.
Effacement – When the cervix becomes thinner and shorter. It occurs late in pregnancy or during labor.
Episiotomy – A surgical cut made in your vagina. It widens the birth canal opening for the baby to come out. Believe it or not, if you need it you won’t feel it at that stage of labor.
False Labor – Tightening of the muscles of the womb, but the cervix does not dilate.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) – A pattern of physical, mental, and behavioral problems in the baby. It is caused by the mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy.
Fetal Growth Retardation (IUGR) – The baby is not growing as fast as it should in your womb. You need to listen carefully to your doctor’s instructions.
Fetal Monitor – Device used before or during labor to listen and record the fetal heartbeat. It can be done through mom’s abdomen or through her vagina.
Fetus – A baby growing in a woman’s womb.
Gestation – Time of growth from conception through birth. The length of pregnancy. Doctors usually talk about a pregnancy lasting 40 weeks. There are special reasons for this. If you are having problems with your pregnancy and your doctor needs to make important decisions they need to be very sure how far pregnant you are.
Gestational Diabetes – This is sugar diabetes in pregnancy. If the amount of blood sugar in your body is too high the baby can grow too much. You might have a difficult delivery.
Glucose-Tolerance Test – This is the test for gestational diabetes. It is a blood test you will have around 24-28 weeks. The lab will give you a really sweet drink. They will check your body’s response an hour after you drink it.
Group B Streptococcus – A bacteria that is often found in the vagina or rectum. It is not a sexually-transmitted infection. Your doctor will check for this in the last month of pregnancy. Try to remember if your test was positive. It is not bad if you are. You will get antibiotics when you are in labor. A baby that gets this infection can get very sick.
Hemorrhoids – Varicose veins of the rectum. They may be on the inside or outside. Hemorrhoids and varicose veins usually get worse in late pregnancy.
High Risk – An increased chance of suffering harm, damage, loss or death. This means that your obstetrician will need to see you more often.
Incompetent Cervix – This is a cervix that is too weak to support a baby on its own. It can be identified on exam or by ultrasound. Your own history of pregnancies might give your doctor an idea if this could be a problem.
Jaundice – A buildup of bilirubin that causes the baby to look yellow. Your baby might have some extra lights placed over the top of the crib in the hospital to help it go away.
Labor – Contractions of the uterus that opens up the cervix. After the cervix is open, the contractions push the baby down through the birth canal. You are designed very well to have a baby.
Lightening – Change in the shape of the pregnant uterus a few weeks before labor. Often described as the baby “dropping.”
Meconium – A greenish substance that builds up in the bowels of a growing fetus. It is normally discharged shortly after birth.
Mini-pill − A birth control pill that only has one hormone. It is safe to use if you are breastfeeding.
Mucus Plug – Secretions in the cervix; often released just before labor. It is a pink tinged, jelly-like substance.
Multiple Pregnancy – A pregnancy with two or more babies.
Neonatologist – A pediatric doctor who cares for premature or sick newborn babies.
Neural Tube Defects – Abnormalities in the fetus’s spinal cord and brain.
Non-stress Test (NST) – A test to measure the baby’s movement and heart rate. An electronic fetal monitor is used.
Obstetrician (OB) – Doctor who specializes in pregnant women and the delivery of babies.
Pap Test (Pap Smear) – A test on cells from the cervix and vagina. It is very good at looking for problems that could turn into a cancer down the road.
Pediatrician – Doctor who specializes in babies and children.
Pelvic Exam – Exam of a woman’s internal and external reproductive organs.
Pelvis – The lower portion of the body. It is made up of your pelvic bones and muscles.
Perinatologist – Doctor who specializes in the care of high-risk pregnancies.
Placenta – Tissue that connects mother and fetus. It provides nourishment and oxygen for the baby.
Postpartum Blues – Feelings of sadness, fear, anger or anxiety that happen about 3 days after childbirth. They usually go away within 2 weeks. It comes quickly and leaves quickly. It is part of the whole process. Do not feel guilty if you are having the blues. If they do not go away you need to call your doctor.
Postpartum Depression – Strong feelings of sadness or anxiety after childbirth. It interferes with a new mother’s ability to care for her child or chores. If you do not feel like taking care of yourself or the baby you need to call your doctor.
Postpartum – After childbirth or delivery.
Post-term Pregnancy – A pregnancy that is longer than 42 weeks. It is not a good idea to let a pregnancy go 2 weeks past your due date.
Preeclampsia – A disease that you can get in pregnancy. People will have high blood pressure and swelling. The swelling might also be in your hands and face. The disease goes away after the baby is delivered. If you have this diagnosis your doctor will need to watch you very closely.
Premature Delivery – Early delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy.
Preterm – Born before 37 weeks.
Prolonged Labor – Labor lasting more than 24 hours. The whole labor process lasts longer if it is your first pregnancy.
Quickening – Feeling the baby move inside the uterus.
Round Ligament Pain – Pain caused by stretching the ligament on the sides of the uterus during pregnancy. It is normal, but it can be painful and unpredictable.
Rupture of Membranes – Loss of fluid from the amniotic sac. Also called “breaking of waters.” It is usually a big gush.
Stretch Marks – Areas of the skin that are torn or stretched. Often found on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks and legs. It is hard to predict who will get them. There is not a treatment to stop them. But skin cream does not hurt.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) – Diseases that are spread by sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital warts, herpes, syphilis and HIV. These can hurt you and your baby if you get them during pregnancy.
Speculum – An instrument used to spread the walls of the vagina so that the cervix can be seen.
Tocolysis – Stopping contractions during early labor.
Tocolytic Agents – Drugs that stop labor.
Trimester – Pregnancy is divided into three 3-month periods: first, second and third trimesters.
Tubal Sterilization – Female sterilization. The fallopian tubes are closed by tying, banding, clipping or sealing with electric current.
Ultrasound –A test to examine the fetus. Sound waves are used to show the shape of the baby and its parts.