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Glossary of Terms

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AB screen - Antibody screen

ACOG - American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology

Afterbirth - The placenta and fetal membranes that are expelled after a baby is born

Aging Placenta - Late in the pregnancy the placenta can become less effective in supplying oxygen and nutrition to the fetus

Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) Test - A test done on the mother's blood or the amniotic fluid which measures the amount of AFP protein made by the fetus to help determine if the baby is developing normally

Alpha thalassemias - Inherited anemias found predominantly among people of African and Southeast Asian descent

Amniocentesis (Amnio) - A test performed to detect various genetic characteristics or lung maturity by extracting a small amount of amniotic fluid through the pregnant women's abdomen

Amniotic Fluid - A liquid surrounding the unborn baby in the uterus, containing urine and skin cells shed by the unborn baby; the water that breaks when you are ready to give birth

Amniotomy - The intentional rupturing of the amniotic sac to induce labor

Analgesic - A medication that reduces pain

Anemia - A condition in which the blood has too few red blood cells

Anencephaly - A birth defect resulting in the abnormal development of the baby's brain and skull.

Anesthesia - A partial or complete loss of sensation or consciousness, with absence of pain sensation, produced by an anesthetic

Antepartum - Before labor or childbirth

Apgar Score - A rating or score given to a newborn at one and five minutes after birth to assess color, heart rate, muscle tone, respiration and reflexes. Zero to 2 points is given for each. Scores close to ten are desirable

Areola - The dark colored skin surrounding the nipple

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BC method - Birth control method

Beta thalassemias - Inherited anemias found mainly in people from Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy or Middle East countries

Bilirubin - A substance made from the metabolism of broken-down red blood cells; in high levels this may cause jaundice in a newborn

Birth Defect - A congenital (present at birth) disorder varying from minor cosmetic irregularities to life-threatening disorders

Birthing Center - A place designed and equipped for women giving birth; some are in hospitals, others are separate facilities

Birthing room - A room for labor and birth instead of a delivery room, which is similar to a surgical facility

Blastocyst - The name for the rapidly dividing fertilized egg once it enters the uterus

Blood glucose - The amount of glucose (sugar) absorbed into the blood

Bonding - The process of parents and their newborns developing an attachment with each other through cuddling, nursing, playing, talking etc.

Breech position - At birth, the baby is positioned with feet or bottom toward the cervix

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Caput succedaneum - The swelling of the baby's scalp during labor

CBC - Complete blood count measures your hemoglobin, red and white cell counts and appearance of your blood platelets

Cephalhematoma - A swollen and bruised area beneath the outer surface of the skull of a newborn; disappears after a few weeks

Cephalopelvic disproportion - Circumstance in which the baby's head won't fit through the mother's pelvis

Cervical cultures - A sample of cells and mucus taken from the cervix to check for evidence of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, yeast, mycoplasma, etc.

Cervical incompetence - A condition in which the cervix begins to open before the pregnancy has come to term; a cause of miscarriage and preterm labor in the second and third trimesters

Cervix - The necklike lower part of the uterus, which dilates and effaces during labor to allow passage of the fetus

Cesarean birth - A birth in which an incision is made through the abdominal wall and uterus to deliver the baby

Chloasma - A mild darkening of the facial skin, also known as the "mask of pregnancy"

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) - A procedure that removes a small sample of chorionic villi cells from the placenta where it joins the uterus, to test for chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome

Circumcision - A procedure done on male infants that removes the foreskin from the penis

Colicky baby - A young infant with excessive evening crying spells, without other signs of illness

Colostrum - The yellowish fluid produced by your breasts until your milk "comes in"; usually noticed later in pregnancy

Congenital disorder - A condition present from birth

Contraction - The tightening of the uterine muscles

Contraction stress test - One of several tests designed to help evaluate the condition of the fetus; it measures the fetal heart rate in response to contractions of the mother's uterus

Cord blood - The blood that remains in your baby's umbilical cord after it has been cut is called cord blood which is rich in stem cells. These valuable cells which are genetically unique to your baby and family, can only be collected in the minutes after your baby's birth.

Cord compression - A condition that prevents proper blood flow through the umbilical cord restricting the passage of oxygen from the placenta to the fetus

Cord prolapse - When the umbilical cord slips through the cervix before the baby; it is a serious complication because blood flow to the baby can be cut off when the uterus contracts

Corona radiata - A layer of cells surrounding an egg at ovulation; a sperm must penetrate this layer to fertilize the egg

Corpuscles - Constituents of blood, divided into red and white varieties

Crowning - The appearance of the top of the baby's head at the vaginal opening

Cystic Fibrosis - A genetic disorder affecting the respiratory and digestive systems, most commonly found among whites of Northern European descent

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Dilation - Indicates the diameter of the cervical opening and is measured in centimeters; at 10 centimeters you are fully dilated

Dominant disorders - Genetic disorders transmitted from parent to child in which a single altered gene overrides the normally functioning gene

Doppler ultrasound - A listening device by which your doctor can examine blood flow through the major veins and arteries and hear a fetal heartbeat by about the 12th week

Down syndrome - The most common type of chromosome abnormality caused by an extra number of 21st chromosomes; this abnormality results in varying degrees of mental retardation and other birth defects

DTP vaccination - The immunization that protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)

Dystocia - Difficult labor due to an abnormal position or size of the fetus.

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Eclampsia - A serious complication of pregnancy manifested by convulsions and loss of consciousness, including coma; progresses from preeclampsia.

Ectopic pregnancy - A pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus; also called tubal pregnancy

EDC - Estimated date of confinement; your due date

Edema - Swelling that occurs when the body tissue contains more fluid than normal

Effacement - Gradual thinning, shortening and drawing up of the cervix; measured in percentages, 100 percent indicating total effacement

Egg - A reproductive cell produced by the female; also called an ovum

Electronic fetal monitor - A machine that continuously records fetal heartbeat or maternal uterine contractions; it's attached externally to a woman's abdomen by two belts or internally attached through the vagina with an electrode to the baby's scalp

Embryo - The fertilized ovum from shortly after the time of fertilization until eight weeks of gestation

Epidural - A method used to decrease or eliminate discomfort during labor; a small needle and sometimes a catheter is placed in your lower back and pain medication is given through the catheter; this is sometimes called an epidural block

Episiotomy - Surgical incision in the perineum to enlarge the vaginal opening

Erythema toxicum - Redness of the newborn

External version - A doctor's attempt late in pregnancy to turn a malpositioned baby into a better birthing position

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Failure to progress - Refers to a delay or halt during labor because the cervix doesn't dilate or the baby doesn't fit through the pelvis

Fallopian tubes - Structures that connect the ovaries to the uterus; if an egg is fertilized, pregnancy begins here

Fetal distress - An evident change in fetal activity or heartbeat; a term used to predict fetal hypoxia (a deficiency in the amount of oxygen passing to the fetus) which may lead to meconium stained amniotic fluid, indicating the fetus's well-being may be jeopardized

Fetus - An unborn baby after the first eight weeks of gestation

Fontanelle - The soft spots on baby's head where the skull has not fused together; at birth a baby has a fontanelle on both the top and back of the head; the back one closes quickly, and the top one takes up to 18 months

Forceps - An obstetrical instrument that fits around the baby's head to guide the baby through the birth canal during birth

Formula - A prepared milk-like product, given by bottle to infants instead of, or to supplement, breast milk

Fraternal twins - Two fetuses develop from two separate, fertilized eggs; fraternal twins are not identical

Fundal height - The distance from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone; used to help determine the fetus's age

Fundus - The upper, rounded portion of the uterus

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General anesthesia - A method of delivering medication that puts you completely asleep for an operation

Genes - A segment of a DNA molecule, located on a chromosome that contains genetic information; genes carry traits from parents to children

Genetic - Determined by genes; often implies an inherited condition

Genetic counseling - Designed to help parents understand the consequences of particular diagnoses, options for treatments and possibilities of recurring problems in later pregnancies

Gestation - The period of time a baby is carried in the uterus, usually referred to in weeks; A full-term gestation is between 37 and 42 weeks

Gestational age - A reference to the age of the fetus, counting from the first day of the last menstrual period

Gestational diabetes - A form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy, resulting in improper regulation of glucose levels in the blood

Glucose - A form of sugar; All carbohydrates and part of fat can be changed by the body into glucose; used by the body for energy

Glucose tolerance test - A screening done between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to check for gestational diabetes

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Hemoglobin (HGB)/ Hematocrit (HCT) - A constituent of the red blood cells that contains iron and stores oxygen; it determines whether or not you are anemic

Hemogram - A complete detailed record of the findings in a thorough examination of blood, especially with reference to the numbers, proportions and morphologic features of the formed elements; indications for a hemogram include red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet disorders

Hemorrhoids - Swollen blood vessels around the anus which may bleed and cause pain

Hepatitis B - A viral infection that affects the liver

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) - A hormone produced by the placenta important for keeping the mother's body from rejecting the fetus as a foreign tissue

HIV - human immunodeficiency virus, either of two closely related retroviruses that attacks immune system cells (T-helper lymphocytes) and causes AIDS; there are two types HIV-1 and HIV-2; HIV-1 is the most common

Hydatidiform mole - An abnormal growth, instead of a normal embryo, that forms inside the uterus after fertilization

Hydraminos - An excess of amniotic fluid

Hydrocephalus - Increased size of the fluid-filled cavities of the brain; can be caused by open spina bifida

Hyperemesis gravidarum - Excessive vomiting in pregnancy

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Identical twins - Twins formed from the division of a single fertilized egg into two separate fetuses

Induction - A means of artificially starting labor, usually by administering oxytocin or by breaking the bag of waters

Intestinal motility - The speed with which food passes through the digestive tract; during pregnancy, increased levels of progesterone can slow that passage, resulting in morning sickness, heartburn and vomiting

Intraocular pressure - The pressure of fluid within your eyeball; the decrease in this pressure and the increase of the cornea's thickness can result in slightly blurred vision during pregnancy

Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) - Fetal growth that is less than optimal because of unfavorable conditions in the uterus

In vitro fertilization - The process by which eggs and sperm are combined in an artificial environment outside the body, then transferred back into a woman's uterus to grow

Isolette - An enclosed bassinet for premature babies that helps keep the baby warm

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Jaundice - Yellow tinge to your baby's skin caused by too much bilirubin in your baby's bloodstream

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Kegel exercises - Exercises done to strengthen the muscles that control urination; can help to prevent urine leakage

Kick counts - A record of how often you feel your baby move; an indicator of the baby's health, taken around 28 weeks

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Labor - Periodic rhythmical contraction of the uterine muscles which opens the cervix and allows the baby, placenta and membranes to be

Lactation - The production of breast milk

Lactation consultant - A registered nurse that has completed a certification program on breastfeeding

La Leche League - An organization designed to provide information and be a support group for mothers and expectant mothers who want to breastfeed their babies

Lamaze - A birthing method which teaches the mother a form of physical and emotional preparation for childbirth to reduce pain and the use of medications during birth

Lanugo - Fine, downy hair growing on the skin of a fetus by about week 26

Lightening - The repositioning of the baby lower in the pelvis; this usually occurs several weeks before the onset of labor

Linea negra - The barely noticeable white line (linea alba) running from the navel to the pubic hair, which often darkens during pregnancy

Lochia - The discharge of blood, mucus and tissue from the uterus during the six weeks after childbirth (postpartum)

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Macrosomia - Larger than normal birth weight

Magnesium sulfate - A medication used to stop contractions of the uterus in preterm labor

Malpresentation of the head - When the baby enters the pelvis before birth in a position that does not allow the back of the head, the smallest part, to come out first

Maternal serum alpha fetoprotein (MSAFP) - A blood test done to indicate an increased risk for defects of the spine

Meconium - The baby's first bowel movements, which are black or green

Membranes, bag of waters, amniotic sac - A sac of thin membranes containing watery fluids (amniotic fluid) and the fetus; the membranes either rupture spontaneously during labor or may be ruptured to hasten labor

Milia - Pinpoint-sized white spots on a newborn's nose and cheeks; they eventually disappear and need no treatment

Miscarriage - Premature, spontaneous termination of a pregnancy

Molding - The temporary shaping of the bones of the baby's skull while passing through the birth canal

Mongolian spots - A form of birthmark with large, gray-blue spots resembling bruises; more common in dark-skinned babies, these marks usually disappear later in childhood; also called blue-gray macules

Motor development - The increasing ability of newborns to use their muscles

Mucus plug - A plug of mucus that blocks the cervical canal during pregnancy to prevent entrance of germs into the uterus; the plug is loosened and passed during labor, frequently when the cervix starts to thin out and open at the beginning of labor; this usually pink-tinged or bloody mucus discharge is called the "show"

Multiple gestation - More than one baby developing in the uterus

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Neonatal - Referring to the newborn, usually the first four weeks of life

Neonate - A newly born infant

Neonatologist - A physician with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems of the newborn

Neural tube - A groove in a fetus that develops into the brain, spinal cord, spinal nerves and backbone

Neural tube defect - A birth defect resulting in improper development of the brain or spinal cord

Newborn (neonatal) intensive care unit (NICU) - A medical section of a hospital designed especially to care for newborns with complications that usually result from preterm birth

Non-stress test - A test that helps a doctor examine the condition of a fetus by measuring the heart rate in response to his or her own movements

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Obstetrician (OB) - A physician who specializes in childbirth and the care of pregnant women

Oxytocin - A hormone in your body that contributes to the start of labor

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Pap smear - Cervical secretions collected and examined for precancerous cells of the cervix

Pediatrician - A physician who specializes in the care of children from birth through adolescence

Pelvic floor muscles - A group of muscles at the base of the pelvis that help support the bladder, urethra, rectum, and in women the vagina and uterus

Percutaneous umbilical cord sampling (PUBS) - A procedure in which a blood sample is withdrawn from the umbilical cord while the fetus is still in the uterus; used mainly for rapid chromosome analysis or to evaluate fetuses at risk for certain blood disorders

Perinatal - Referring to the time before, during and immediately after birth

Perinatologist - An obstetrician who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of problems of pregnancy; these might be medical problems in the mother, complications of the pregnancy or problems the unborn baby has developed

Perineum - Area between the vaginal and anal opening in women

Phenylketonuria (PKU) - A condition present at birth in which the body lacks a specific enzyme; this causes abnormal metabolism and if not treated may result in brain damage

Pitocin - Synthetic oxytocin

Pituitary gland - Attached to the brain, it has many functions, including production of hormones that induce milk production in the mother

Placenta - The circular, flat organ that connects the unborn baby, by way of the umbilical cord, to the uterus for oxygen, nutrient exchange and elimination of wastes; it's also known as the afterbirth

Placental abruption - Separation of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus before labor begins

Placenta previa - An abnormal location of the placenta in which it partially or completely covers the cervix

Postconception age - A reference to the age of the embryo since conception, used early in the pregnancy

Posterior position - A fetus' position in the uterus in which the back of the baby's head lies toward the back of the woman's pelvis and may cause back labor

Post-term pregnancy - A pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks

Preeclampsia - A disease occurring during pregnancy marked by pregnancy-induced hypertension, protein in the urine and swelling; formerly called toxemia

Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) - A condition in pregnancy marked by high blood pressure; most common in the last three months of pregnancy

Premature baby - A baby born before the completion of 37 weeks of gestation (preterm)

Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) - Breaking of the amniotic sac before the baby has reached 37 weeks gestational age

Prenatal - The time before birth; also called antenatal

Presentation - The part of the baby lying nearest to the cervix; the part that will be born first; the most common presentation is cephalic, or headfirst

Preterm labor - Contractions that start opening the cervix before week 37 of pregnancy; also called premature labor

Prolonged labor - A difficult labor that does not accomplish a vaginal birth within 18 to 24 hours

Prostaglandin - A hormone-like compound involved in the onset of labor

Pudendal block - A local anesthetic injected into the vaginal wall to ease the pain of second-stage labor, and for an episiotomy

Pyloric stenosis - Condition in infants caused when a muscle between the stomach and small intestine becomes enlarged, narrowing the stomach outlet; usually results in projectile vomiting

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Quickening - The mother's first perception of fetal movements; these are usually felt between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy

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RH - Rhesus factor, a distinguishing characteristic of the red blood corpuscles; all humans are either Rh negative or Rh positive; most are RH positive

Rhogam - An injection of a naturally occurring blood product that almost always prevents the mother from producing antibodies against Rh-positive cells

Ripening of the cervix - The softened, effaced and dilated condition of the cervix just prior to labor

ROM - Range of motion

Round ligament pain - An occasional sharp pain in your groin; the muscles that support your uterus sometimes overstretch, usually when you're changing position, such as getting out of bed or a chair, producing a jab; the pain can last a few minutes or longer, but disappears within a day

Rubella - A normally mild, highly contagious disease marked by a red, eruptive rash; known as German Measles

Ruptured bah of waters - Breaking of the amniotic sac, a normal process of going into labor

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Show - Blood-tinged mucus discharge from the vagina before and during labor

Sickle cell disease - A recessive, inherited genetic disorder common to people of African descent causing abnormal oxygen-carrying capacity in red blood cells, resulting in anemia, fatigue and delayed growth and development

Spina bifida - A defect in the spine that results in failure of the vertebrae to fuse; this can occur in any vertebra but is most commonly found at the base of the back or lower spine

Spinal block - Similar to an epidural block, but the anesthetic is injected into the space below the spinal cord then into the area around it

Spontaneous abortion - A miscarriage

Sonogram - Also known as ultrasound scan, a sonogram will clearly show your baby's size, its position and whether there is more than one fetus; it can also be used to rule out major abnormalities

Stages of labor - First: The onset of labor contractions to complete dilation and effacement of the cervix; Second: The complete dilation and effacement of the cervix to birth of the baby; Third: The birth of the baby to the delivery of the placenta (afterbirth)

Station - Indicates the position of the fetus by describing how far the fetal head has moved through the pelvis

Stem cells - Stem cells are the body's "master" cells because they give rise to all tissues, organs, and systems in the body. The stem cells' ability to differentiate, or change, into other types of cells in the body, is a new discovery that holds tremendous potential for treating and curing some of the most common diseases such as heart disease, cancers, stroke, and Alzheimer's. Stem cells are already being used to treat nearly 70 diseases, including leukemia, other cancers, and blood disorders.

Stillbirth - The fetus dies before birth

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) - Also known as "crib death"; the sudden, unexplained death of an infant while sleeping

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Tay Sach's - A recessive, inherited genetic disorder more common among Ashkenazi Jews in which the enzyme needed to break down certain lipids is absent

Teratogens - Agents that cause physical defects in a developing fetus

Terbutaline - A medication used to stop contractions of the uterus in preterm labor

Transducer - A device that emits sound waves and transmits the signals to a computer that displays an ultrasound image

Transverse lie - Position in which a baby lies crossways in the uterus before birth, often causing a shoulder to present first

Trimester - One of the three periods of pregnancy, each period lasting about 3 months

Tubal ligation - The tying and cutting of a woman's fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from becoming fertilized during sexual intercourse; sterilization

Tubal pregnancy - Occurs when a fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tubes and develops there rather than migrating down to the uterus; also called ectopic pregnancy

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Ultrasound - A procedure using high-frequency sound waves to scan a woman's abdomen, producing a picture (sonogram) of the baby and the placenta

Umbilical cord - The structure that carries nutrients and oxygen from the placenta to the fetus and carries waste products away

Umbilical hernia - A bulge around an infant's belly button when he or she cries; it usually isn't serious and does not require medical treatment

Undescended testicles - Failure of an infant's testicles to enter the scrotum through the inguinal canal by the time of birth; it is more common in premature babies

Uterine atony - Lack of muscle tone in the uterus after birth, preventing contractions needed to control bleeding from the placental site

Uterine inversion - A turning inside out of the uterus after the baby and placenta have been born; usually caused by an improperly attached placenta

Uterine rupture - A tearing of the uterus during pregnancy or labor

Uterus - The female organ in which the unborn baby develops; also known as the womb

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Vacuum-assisted birth - Use of a vacuum extractor, a large rubber or plastic cup held gently to the baby's head with suction applied, to help deliver a baby

Vaginal birth - Birth of a baby through the birth canal

Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) - Birth of a baby through the vagina after a previous cesarean birth

Varicella - Also known as chickenpox, it is a viral infection characterized by a rash of red spots all over the body

Varicose veins - Protruding, enlarged, bluish veins, usually in the legs

Vernix caseosa - A slippery, white, fatty substance covering the skin of the fetus

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Womb - The uterus

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Zygote - Union of an ovum and sperm; a single fertilized egg before it begins to divide and grow


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