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Words and Terms You Should Know When Pregnant

A Glossary of Terms to know during Pregnancy


If you or your partner is pregnant, you may have already found out that obstetricians use a confusing range of terms and abbreviations. Here’s an alphabetic sample of commonly used terms to help you decipher the code. 


Adverse outcome -  A pregnancy that does not result in a live birth, including miscarriage, induced terminations, andstillbirths


AFP – Alpha Feto Protein. A protein produced within the body of the fetus. When an anatomic abnormality results in leakage of this protein into the amniotic cavity, high levels get transferred to the mother, resulting in high maternal AFP levels. A blood test determines this and is given somewhere between the 15th and 19th week in most pregnancies. 


Anemia in PregnancyIt's normal to have mild anemia when you are pregnant. But you may have more severe anemia from low iron or vitamin levels or from other reasons.


BPD – biparietal diameter. A measurement made of a baby’s head diameter during ultrasound. It’s approximately the distance between the baby’s ears. 


Breech – Refers to the baby’s position in the uterus being buttocks down. 


CVS – Chorionic Villus Sampling. A diagnostic test to check the chromosomes of the fetus, analyzing a tiny piece of the placenta. Diastasis – The separation of abdominal muscles that occurs when the uterus grows quite large. 


Ectopic pregnancy - A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants in a location outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, the ovary, or the abdominal cavity.  An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment.


EFM – Electronic Fetal Monitoring. Uses Doppler sound waves to detect the pattern of the baby’s heartbeat.


EDC – estimated date of confinement. This is the medical way of saying “due date.” FL – femur length. The measurement made during ultrasound of the baby’s thighbone. Fundus – The top of the uterus. 


Egg - A female reproductive cell, also called an oocyte or ovum.


Embryo - An egg that has been fertilized by a sperm and undergone one or more divisions.


Endometriosis - A medical condition that involves the presence of tissue similar to the uterine lining in abnormal locations. This condition can affect both fertilization of the egg and embryo implantation.


Fertilization - The penetration of the egg by the sperm and the resulting combining of genetic material that develops into an embryo.


Fetus -  The unborn offspring from the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth.


GDM – gestational diabetes mellitus. A sugar imbalance occurring during pregnancy, often corrected by dietary changes. 


hCG – human Chorionic Gonadotropin. A hormone produced by the placenta that is used in traditional pregnancy tests, and also as part of the triple marker (or expanded AFP) test during the second trimester. 


Induced abortion - A surgical or other medical procedure used to end a pregnancy.


IUGR – Intrauterine growth retardation. A condition in which the baby is not growing as quickly as expected. This refers to physical growth only and has no implications for mental capacity. Jaundice – A yellow coloration to a newborn’s skin, resulting from a buildup of bilirubin following delivery. (Bilirubin is a breakdown product of red blood cells.) 


Kegels – Exercises to help strengthen the “pelvic floor” muscles and reduce incontinence (involuntary loss of urine). Linea negra – A darkened line between the naval and pubic area that becomes prominent in some pregnant women. LBW – low birth weight. Used to describe babies born weighing less than 2,500 grams (5½ pounds). 


Laparoscopy - A surgical procedure in which a fiber optic instrument (a laparoscope) is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen to view the inside of the pelvis.


Live birth - The delivery of one or more babies with any signs of life.


Miscarriage (also called spontaneous abortion) - A pregnancy ending in the spontaneous loss of the embryo or fetus before 20 weeks of gestation.


Morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) is a common part of pregnancy, but in 3% of cases it can last longer than one trimester.  For many women, the toughest part of early pregnancy is morning sickness.


Multiple Pregnancies: Twins and More  - If you are pregnant with more than one fetus, you can expect to have the same symptoms as those of a pregnancy with one fetus (called a singleton pregnancy). But the symptoms may happen earlier and may be worse.


Multi-fetal pregnancy reduction - This procedure is also known as selective reduction. A procedure used to decrease the number of fetuses a woman carries and improve the chances that the remaining fetuses will develop into healthy infants. Multi-fetal reductions that occur naturally are referred to as spontaneous reductions.


Meconium – The first bowel movement made by the baby. This can occur before delivery, resulting in green amniotic fluid. Multip (or multiparous) – A woman who already had a baby.


Nullip (or nulliparous) – A woman who never had a full-term baby. 


NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the nursery providing intensive care for newborn babies who require monitoring and special care. 


OA (occiput anterior) – When the back of baby’s head (occiput) is against the front of the mother’s pelvis. In this case, the baby is facing the mom’s back. 


OP (occiput posterior) – When the back of the baby’s head is lying against the back of the pelvic bones. This is a less common position than OA at the time of delivery. 


Primip (or primiparous) – A woman having her first baby. Perineum – The skin and underlying tissue between the vagina and rectum. Quickening – The first detection of fetal movement by the mother. 


ROM – Rupture of Membranes. This abbreviation refers to the bag or waters breaking. AROM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes) is when the bag of water is broken on purpose by the health provider, often to speed up labor. 


Trimestre - First  -   The first twelve weeks of pregnancy

Trimestre - Second - Week 13 to 27 


Trimestre - Third  - On the home stretch


U/S – Ultrasound. A test using sound waves to create a visual picture of the fetus and structures within the uterus. 


VLBW - very low birth weight. Refers to birth weight less than 1,500 grams. These babies are almost always premature. 


Vernix – A white cheesy cream that coats the baby’s skin in the weeks before birth. 


VBAC - vaginal birth after Caesarean. Refers to vaginal deliveries that are attempted following a previous Caesarean section delivery. 

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