Have you ever been apart of a conversation where someone says a word or term and you have no idea what they are talking about? It’s kind of uncomfortable. If this is your first pregnancy or if you aren’t in the medical field, hearing medical words or phrases for the first time can be overwhelming and confusing. Now, I’m obviously not a doctor. 3 babies later, and I’ve got the terms down, so I wanted to share them with you! Here are pregnancy, labor and birth terms you need to know, so you don’t feel lost during your OB visits!
Alpha-Fetoprotein Screening (AFP)
Alpha-Fetoprotein is a protein produced by the liver of a fetus. Some of this protein is passed through the placenta, and into the mother’s blood. An alpha-fetoprotein screening is a test that measures the level of AFP in the mother’s blood. If there is too little or too much, it may mean there is a birth defect or condition, such as down syndrome or neural tube defects, present in the fetus.
Amniocentesis is a procedure that samples amniotic fluid. A needle is inserted into the uterus, and this is intended to test for abnormalities in the fetus. This isn’t typically done unless there’s very good suspicion that there are abnormalities, because it does pose a risk.
Amniotic fluid is the fluid surrounding the fetus. It acts as a temperature control, and helps absorb any blows to the belly. The fetus also swallows this fluid, when he/she practices utilizing the digestive system!
False labor. Braxton hicks are really annoying contractions that are helping your uterus practice for the real thing. Braxton hicks feel like tightening in your abdomen or mild cramps. They aren’t consistent, and are typically brought on when you’ve done too much or are dehydrated.
Your baby is the wrong way. A breech baby is head up, instead of facing head down. A breech baby is born bottom first. See Transverse below.
The cervix is the bottom portion of the uterus. It’s the pathway from the vagina to the uterus. The cervix opens up when the baby is being born (See chart below).
A Cesarean or “C-Section” is surgery to delivery the baby. If the mother or baby is at risk, it is multiples or a baby is breech, a cesarean may occur.
Contractions are what move the baby down towards the exit. When the baby moves down, it thins and opens the cervix. Contraction pains vary for each woman, but they are typically a hardening of the belly, ache in stomach and back, and pressure along the cervix (this also might be felt in the bottom region).
Dilation is when the cervix opens. Below is a size reference to help you get a visual:
Effacement is when the cervix gets prepared to deliver the baby. It refers to the cervix ‘thinning’. Physicians and nurses will use percentages when they discuss how effaced the cervix is (100% effaced is baby time!).
An episiotomy is an incision made during delivery to prevent bad tearing. The incision is made between the vagina and anus.
Gestational age refers to how far along the pregnancy is. It is calculated by the first day of the last menstrual cycle to the current date. This is different from fetal age (the measurement of the fetus).
Unlike Type I or II diabetes, gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. It does affect your sugar levels, and causes high blood sugar. During pregnancy, the placenta makes hormones that can lead to a buildup of glucose in your blood. Typically, your pancreas can make enough insulin to handle that. If it doesn’t, your blood sugar levels will rise and can cause gestational diabetes.
Glucose Tolerance Test
The glucose tolerance test, also known as the Glucola test, is to test for gestational diabetes. During the Glucola test, you are given an allotted time to drink the Glucola. After drinking the Glucola, you have to wait (typically an hour), then your blood is drawn.
The mucus plug is like a cork. The mucus plug accumulates at the bottom of the cervix, sealing your cervix from your uterus. Throughout pregnancy, you may lose pieces of your mucus plug, but it tends to regenerate. Once the cervix is dilated enough, you lose all of the plug, and labor tends to follow up to two weeks later.
Non-stress Test (NST)
A noninvasive monitor. This basically is checking on the health of your baby. The non-stress test records your baby’s movement, heartbeat, and contractions. It looks like a polygraph, with lines moving up and down. Those lines are notes that the machine reports when there are changes in heart rhythm when your baby goes from resting to moving, or during contractions if you’re in labor.
The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy. It passes blood, glucose, oxygen and vital nutrients via umbilical cord to the baby.
When the placenta forms, it is attached to the uterus. Sometimes, it can attach too far down or too low, that it covers the cervix, aka the exit route.
Pre-Eclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy caused by blood vessels not developing of functioning properly. Pre-eclampsia is very important to be caught, because it is life threatening.
There are different levels of ‘term’ in a gestation. A full term baby is typically about 40 weeks. Preterm means that the baby was born early. You may also hear terms, such as ‘preemie’ or ‘micro preemie’ when referring to preterm babies.
RH Factor (RH Negative/Positive)
Rhesus or ‘RH’ factor is an antigen. It is a protein found on red blood cells. When a person has the RH antigen, they are considered RH positive. If they do not, they are considered RH negative. A blood test determines the RH factor. If the blood test shows RH negative, then you will get a RhoGam injection.
*It is possible, but very rare to be ‘anti-D’ or RH-null*
RhoGam is a brand. It is Rh immunoglobulin, which means it is used to prevent antibodies from forming. If a woman with RH negative blood has a baby with RH positive blood, then a reaction can occur. RhoGam is intended to prevent this reaction, which could be life-threatening.
The round ligament is a ligament of the uterus. The round ligament supports the uterus as it grows during pregnancy. Commonly, women experience round ligament pain. This pain is an intense, sudden stabbing, pulling or spasm like feeling.
Ruptured membranes is a term that refers to the amniotic sac rupturing. In other words, ‘water breaking’. This can range from a slow leak to a full-on gush!
Sciatica refers to pressure on the sciatic nerve, which results in radiating pain. This pain starts at the lower back and radiates through the hips, buttocks and even down the leg. It typically only occurs on one side, but it can affect both.
Transverse is another way of saying that the baby is sideways.
When you think of a yolk, you probably think of eggs (yes, chicken eggs!). This is the same thing that occurs in humans. The yolk sac provides nourishment in the beginning stages of pregnancy.
Did you know any of these terms before pregnancy?
Are you a first time mom? Check out this post on things I wish I would have known before having my kiddos!