Glossary of terms used in pregnancy
Pregnancy has a medical language all its own. Here are a few definitions of some of the most commonly used pregnancy terms.
Amniocentesis. Laboratory analysis of amniotic fluid. About two tablespoons worth of amniotic fluid is removed from the sac surrounding the baby, inside the mother’s womb, to determine if any genetic abnormalities exist. The test, typically performed during the second trimester, is extremely reliable and can also be used to determine the baby’s sex.
Anemia. A condition where the part of blood that carries oxygen is too low. Frequently related to low iron.
Antepartum. Before labor or delivery.
Anti-D Gamma Globulin (Rhogam). Immunoglobulin for prevention of Rh-sensitization.
Apgar Score. Physical assessment of a newborn baby; usually conducted at one minute and five minutes after birth.
Basal body temperature (BBT). A woman’s body temperature at rest; used for detection of ovulation.
Blood count. A test used to detect anemia and infection.
Breakthrough bleeding. Vaginal bleeding during the use of oral contraceptives, between normal menstrual cycles.
Certified Nurse Midwife, A Midwife who has completed a degree as a nurse as well as an advanced degree as a midwife. A CNM may provide women’s healthcare throughout the life span, and may assist women in birth in homes, birth centers or hospitals.
Cervical ectropion or eversion. Migration of cells from the lining of the endocervical canal (endocervix) to the outer portion of the cervix (ectocervix). Sometimes inaccurately called erosion or abrasion, which implies damage. Cervical ectropion is a normal condition and is common in young women and women taking birth control pills.
Cesarean Section. A surgical procedure, during which the baby is delivered through an incision in the lower abdomen and the uterine wall.
Cholesterol test. A blood test performed to check levels of cholesterol, a substance that helps transport fat through the blood.
Colposcopy. Examination of the vagina and cervix by using an instrument that provides low magnification.
Embryo. A developing baby during the first trimester.
Epidural. Type of anesthesia administered through the back during labor. This numbs a woman's body from the chest down.
Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD). Also known as the due date. Calculated as 40 weeks—about nine months—from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). Keep in mind, though, that any delivery within 37 to 42 weeks is considered normal.
Fetus. A developing baby after the first trimester.
Gynecology. The branch of medicine that involves care of woman’s health, including the reproductive system and breasts.
Laparoscopy. Direct visualization of the peritoneal cavity, ovaries, and the outer surfaces of the fallopian tubes and uterus by using a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a slender instrument—essentially a miniature telescope—with a fiber optic system that can illuminate the inside of the abdomen.
LMP. First day of a woman’s last menstrual period before pregnancy; important to know when calculating the estimated date of delivery (the “due date”).
Mammography (Mammogram). An X-ray of the breast, used to detect breast cancer.
Menopause. Permanent end of the menses, either naturally caused by ovarian failure or resulting from surgical removal of the ovaries.
Mucus, Cervical. Secretion of the cervical mucous glands; the quality and quantity of these secretions are influenced by estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen makes secretions abundant and clear, with spinnbarkeit and afernpattern on drying. Progesterone makes secretions scant, opaque and cellular, without a fern pattern on microscopic examination.
Obstetrician-Gynecologist. A doctor with special skills, training, and education in women’s health care including surgery.
Obstetrics. Branch of medicine that involves care of a woman during pregnancy, labor, childbirth and after the baby is born.
Osteoporosis. Atrophy of bone caused by demineralization.
Pap Test. A test in which cells are taken from the cervix and examined in a lab for abnormalities that could signal cancer.
Preeclampsia. A dangerous condition unique to pregnancy, characterized by elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine and severe swelling (edema). Preeclampsia can occur anytime after 20 weeks of pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth. Approximately seven percent of pregnant women in the U.S. develop the condition. Eclampsia, which can be fatal, occurs when the above symptoms are followed by seizures. About one in 20 preeclampsia cases develops into eclampsia.
Post partum. After delivery, or childbirth.
RhoGAM. Rh immunoglobulin (RhIg), also known as RhoGAM, is a special blood product that can prevent an Rh-negative mother’s antibodies from reacting to Rh-positive cells. Women diagnosed as Rh-negative receive an initial RhIg dose at about the 28th week of pregnancy and a second dose within 72 hours after delivery.
Risk factors. Individual attributes (such as age, gender and family history) and habits (such as sexual activity, smoking and drug abuse) that are more common among people who contract a particular disease than in people who do not contract the disease.
Rubella (German Measles). An acute exanthematous viral disease that may cause fetal malformation if contracted during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Salpingectomy. Surgical removal of a fallopian tube.
Salpingo-oophorectomy. Surgical removal of a fallopian tube and ovary.
Sexually Transmitted Infection. A disease that spreads by sexual contact, including chlamydia infection, gonorrhea, genital warts, herpes, syphilis, and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]).
Trimester. A time period of three calendar months. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters.
Tubal ligation. Permanent sterilization by surgically cutting and tying the fallopian tubes. Commonly referred to as having one’s “tubes tied.” Can be performed at the same time as a cesarean section, which eliminates the need for a second surgery, or six weeks or more after a vaginal delivery. In the latter case, a small incision is made near the bellybutton.
Urinalysis. A test for signs of chemical changes in the urine that can signal a health problem.
Urine dip-stick. A chemically sensitive strip that can be immersed in a urine sample to provide immediate test results; used to screen for such conditions as diabetes, infection, or preeclampsia.
Varicella. Virus that causes chicken pox.
Vulva. The lips of the external female genital area.