The team at Women’s View, lead by Dr. Richard Buyalos – one of the worlds leading experts on endocrinology, obstetrics, and gynecology – has compiled a comprehensive list of 98 definitions related to pregnancy. Choose a letter below to take you to the definition you’re looking for. You can also scroll through the list to find the term you are looking for. These definitions are also available in the free Pregnancy View™ smart phone app.


ABCDEFGHIJKLMN • O • PQRSTUV • W • X • Y • Z


A

Afterbirth – The placenta and membranes discharged from the uterus after childbirth.

Amniotic Fluid Index (AFI) – This test checks the amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby through an ultrasound (sonogram) test.

Amniotic Fluid – The fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb. It protects the baby from trauma and promotes lung maturation.

Amniotic Sac – Sometimes referred to as the bag of waters. The sac is formed by two thin membranes that contain watery fluid (amniotic fluid) and the fetus.

Anemia – A condition where the body has an insufficient number of healthy red blood cells which can result in fatigue and dizziness.

Amniocentesis – A procedure which places a needle through the mothers abdomen into the uterus under ultrasound guidance. It removes a sample of amniotic fluid and is most often used to detect genetic abnormalities. It can also be used to gauge fetal lung maturity, detect amniotic fluid infections, or determine other pregnancy complications.

Anesthesia – The use of medications to block or reduce pain.

Areola – The pinkish brown skin that circles the nipple. It frequently darkens during pregnancy.

vAutosomal Recessive Inheritance – Genetic conditions that appears only in individuals who have received two copies of a gene, one copy from each parent. Examples include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and Tay-Sachs disease.

Autosomal Dominant Inheritance – Genetic conditions which requires only one copy of a gene from either parent to cause a disease. Examples include Marfan syndrome, Huntington’s disease, and Noonan Syndrome.

Apgar Score – A rating system of one through ten given to a newborn at one and five minutes after birth to assess color, heart rate, muscle tone, respiration and reflexes. Each of these are given a score of 0, 1, or 2. These numbers are added, which gives you the final Apgar score. The maximum value is ten.

Aneuploidy – The occurrence of one or more extra or missing chromosomes that often lead to miscarriage or genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome.

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B

Blastocyst – Rapidly dividing fertilized egg (embryo) that enters the uterus and has cells committed to both placental and fetal development. In humans, the blastocyst stage of development is reached 5 to 6 days after an egg is fertilized.

Braxton Hicks Contractions – Sometimes referred to as false labor contractions – can begin during the second trimester. They don’t usually cause cervical changes or have a regular pattern. They may occur more commonly when you are dehydrated or fatigued.

Breech Position – When the baby’s is positioned so that the buttocks and/or the feet are in place to come out first during birth.

Birth Plan – A document that outlines your preferences for management during labor and delivery. It may include personal preferences regarding anesthesia, the delivery setting, who will be in your delivery team, and choices such as breastfeeding after birth. It is commonly used to ensure that you and your practitioner or midwife are in sync regarding expectations of the birth.

Bradley Technique – A relaxation method of natural childbirth that is family oriented. It teaches couples to manage labor through deep breathing and the support of a partner/labor coach. Also known as “husband/partner-coached childbirth”.

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C

Cervix – Lower neck-like part of the uterus, which thins and dilates during labor.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) – A procedure that removes a small sample of the placenta under ultrasound guidance to test for chromosomal or other genetic abnormalities. This test is usually performed between 10 to 14 weeks gestation.

Colostrum – Yellowish or whitish fluid that is present the first few days after birth which proceeds mature milk production. It contains antibodies and nutrients for the newborn.

Contraction – The tightening of the uterine muscle. True contractions cause the cervix to thin out (efface) and open (dilate). They have a regular pattern. Braxton Hicks contractions – sometimes referred to as false labor contractions – can begin during the second trimester. They don’t usually cause cervical changes or have a regular pattern.

Cerclage – A procedure to prevent the cervix from dilating prematurely by placing a stitch or stitches in and around the cervix. This procedure is usually performed between 12 to 15 weeks gestation in women at risk for cervical incompetence (premature dilation of the cervix).

Cystic Fibrosis – An autosomal recessive hereditary disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to accumulate in the lungs, digestive track and other areas of the body. It is a life threatening disorder. It requires an affected gene from each parent.

Chromosome – A structure found in the nucleus of a cell which contain the genes. Chromosomes comes in pairs, and a normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes.

Cord Blood Banking – The process of collecting and storing baby’s blood from the umbilical cord and placenta immediately after birth. This blood contains stem cells that may potentially be used to treat future medical problems for the child or other individuals.

Cervical Incompetence – Also known as cervical insufficiency, is a medical condition in which a pregnant women’s cervix begins to efface and/or dilate prematurely. This may cause miscarriage or preterm birth.

Cholasma (melasma or mask of pregnancy) – A common skin condition in which the pregnancy hormones cause darkening of the forehead, cheeks and bridge of the nose. It usually occurs after 16 weeks of gestation and is worsened by sunlight. This condition typically fades after the baby is born.

Chadwick’s Sign – A blueish-purplish discoloration of the cervix, vagina and labia resulting from increased blood flow associated with pregnancy. This early sign of pregnancy can be observed as early as six to eight weeks after conception.

Crowning – When the baby’s head is visible at the vaginal opening at the end stages of labor.

Cesarean Section (C section) – A surgical procedure in which incisions are made through a mother’s abdomen and uterus to deliver one or more babies.

Chorioamnionitis – A bacterial infection of the placental tissues in the amniotic fluid that occurs either before or during labor. It’s associated with significant maternal and fetal complications. It occurs in 1 to 2 percent of all pregnancies, and is much more common in preterm births.

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D

Doula – See DoulaView.com

Down Syndrome – A medical condition also known as trisomy 21 resulting in an extra 21st chromosome. This condition is associated with multiple physical and neurological abnormalities. Tests to identify this condition can be performed during the first and second trimesters.

Diabetes – Metabolic disease in which the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to transport sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues. In pregnancy, gestational diabetes can occur. Gestational diabetes can sometimes be controlled by diet and exercise alone. However, medications including oral insulin sensitizing agents and insulin injections are needed to adequately control blood sugar levels.

Dilation – The gradual opening of the cervix during labor. It is measured in centimeters. The non-dilated cervix is classified as “closed” and is considered “fully dilated” when it reaches 10 centimeters in diameter.

Doppler Device – Handheld portable device which uses sound waves to detect and quantify fetal heart rate.

Doppler Ultrasound – Provides visual or audible representation of blood movement through blood vessels using sound waves via abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound.. The reflected sound is used to detect and quantify blood flow including fetal heart rate.

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E

Ectopic Pregnancy – Pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube.

Epidural – Anesthetic method used to decrease or eliminate discomfort during labor; sometimes called an epidural block. This entails administration of an anesthetic agent in the space just outside the spinal cord in the lower back.

Episiotomy – Surgical incision in the vagina (perineum) to enlarge the vaginal opening during birth.[

Effacement – The thinning of the cervix during labor which occurs before the cervix begins to dilate. It is measured in percentages from 0 to 100% (completely effaced).

Engaged (lightening) – The descent of the baby into the lower pelvis. This happens most commonly 2 to 3 weeks prior to the onset of labor and may also occur when labor begins.

External Cephalic Version – A process by which a breach baby can sometimes be moved from buttocks or feet to head first. It is usually performed after 37 week gestation. The baby is gently turned to rotate the baby’s head into the lower pelvis while carefully monitoring the baby’s heart rate.

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F

Full Term Birth – A baby born between week 37 and the end of week 41.[

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G

Group B Streptococcus – GBS is a common type of bacteria found in many women. Although it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, it can cause illness in newborn babies if transmitted at the time of delivery. If you test positive for GBS you will be treated with antibiotics during labor to prevent GBS from being transmitted to your baby.

Gene – The basic units of heredity found on chromosomes. Humans contains approximately 3 billion genes contained in 46 chromosomes.[

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H

Heartburn – A sharp, burning pain that occurs when stomach acids bubble back into the lower esophagus. This sometimes causes a sour taste in your mouth. It is more common in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Hemorrhoids – Dilated, twisted blood vessels in and around the rectum. Hemorrhoids are common, especially in the last months of pregnancy when the uterus is compressing the rectal veins. They cause pain, itching and/or bleeding during a bowel movement. They usually improve without treatment shortly after birth.

High Risk Pregnancy – When you or your baby are at an increased risk of health issues. Examples include high blood pressure, diabetes, and twin pregnancies.

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I

Induction of Labor – Methods your practitioner can use to accelerate labor. These include stripping the membranes, breaking your bag of water (amniotic sac) or use of medications such as Pitocin and/or misoprostol.

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) – When the unborn baby growing at less than the expected rate during pregnancy.

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J

Jaundice – Yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes caused my too much bilirubin in the bloodstream.

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K

Kegel Exercise – An exercise done by contracting the vaginal muscles to strengthen the pelvic floor and to help prevent the leakage of urine.

Karyotype – An assessment of a set of human chromosomes. Two chromosomes specify gender – XX for female and XY for male. The rest are arranged in pairs, numbered 1 through 22, from largest to smallest. This arrangement helps scientists quickly identify chromosomal alterations that may result in genetic disorder’s such as Down Syndrome.

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L

Lanugo – A soft, downy hair that covers a fetus’s body and may be seen on the shoulders, back, forehead and temples of a newborn. It begins to grow in the second trimester and is most prominent in weeks 28 to 32.

Lamaze Method – Breathing and relaxation techniques to help women understand and cope with pain and to facilitate labor. This technique is most commonly used during natural childbirth. It include focused breathing, movement and massage.

Lightening (engaged) – The descent of the baby into the lower pelvis. This happens most commonly 2 to 3 weeks prior to the onset of labor and may also occur when labor begins.

Linea Nigra – A pigmented line between the navel the pubic hair. This line frequently darkens from pregnancy hormones. In most women, this pigmented line will lighten after delivery.

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M

Mask of Pregnancy (cholasma or melasma) – A common skin condition in which the pregnancy hormones cause darkening of the forehead, cheeks and bridge of the nose. It usually occurs after 16 weeks of gestation and is worsened by sunlight. This condition most likely will fade after the baby is born.

Maternal-Fetal-Medicine (MFM) – Also known as perinatologists, these are obstetrician-gynecologists who specialize in high risk pregnancies. MFM specialists perform a significant percentage of screening and diagnostic tests including biophysical profiles, chorionic villus testing, and amniocentesis.

Melasma (cholasma or mask of pregnancy) – A common skin condition in which the pregnancy hormones cause darkening of the forehead, cheeks and bridge of the nose. It usually occurs after 16 weeks of gestation and is worsened by sunlight. This condition most likely will fade after the baby is born.

Meconium – Baby’s first stool (typically black and tarry), created by the sloughing off of materials (including lanugo and vernix) ingested by the baby in utero.

Midwife – Professionals who work in partnership with women to provide support, care, and advice during pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period. In most countries they are certified and licensed.

Mumps – A viral disease caused by the mumps virus. May lead to birth defects in the baby if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy. Effective vaccines are available.

Mucus Plug – Thick collection of mucus that develops in the cervical canal during pregnancy. The plug is passed when the cervix begins to thin and open and is commonly referred to as “bloody show”.

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N

Neural Tube – Embryonic structure that develops into the brain, spinal cord, nervous system, and backbone. Many birth defects are a consequence of abnormalities in neural tube development.

Neural Tube Defect – Birth defects in the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system such as spina bifida. Some neural tube defects have been linked to insufficient folic acid levels before and during pregnancy.

Non-Invasive Fetal Diagnostic Test (NIFDT) – A noninvasive test to assess a subset of chromosomal abnormalities currently marketed under the brand names MaterniT21, Harmony, Verifi, and Panorama. The test requires a simple blood draw from the mother as early as 9 to 10 weeks gestation. Fragments of fetal DNA found in pregnant woman’s blood are isolated and analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities of the X and Y chromosomes, Down syndrome (also known as trisomy 21), Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18), and Patau syndrome (trisomy 13), all of which can cause serious developmental and medical issues.

Nuchal Fold – Skin fold on the nape (back) of the baby’s neck. Measurement of the nuchal fold by ultrasound is used as a screening test for a certain birth defects including Down syndrome (Trisomy 21).

Nonstress Test (NST) – A test that assesses the baby’s heart rate during movement in the womb. An acceleration of fetal heart rate with baby’s movement is reassuring and considered a favorable or “reactive test”.

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P

Placenta – Round, flat organ that is responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients via the umbilical cord to the fetus.

Placenta Previa – Abnormal location of the placenta in which it partially or completely covers the cervix. This may be associated with bleeding during pregnancy.

Placental Abruption – Placental detachment from the uterine wall associated with bleeding and abdominal pain. Significant placental abruption can result in a loss of blood supply and oxygen to the baby.

Perinatologists – Also known as Maternal-Fetal-Medicine (MFM), these are obstetrician-gynecologists who specialize in high risk pregnancies. Perinatologists perform a significant percentage of screening and diagnostic tests including biophysical profiles, chorionic villus testing, and amniocentesis.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) – Refers to the genetic pre-screening of embryos. These techniques are primarily used to either screen for the presence of abnormal genes such as Sickle Cell or Cystic Fibrosis, or to detect an abnormal number of chromosomes (aneuploidy). PGS allows for the detection of chromosomal imbalances including Down Syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities which will prevent implantation and/or result in miscarriage. PGS will also identify the gender of the embryo.

Prolactin – A hormone produced and released by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream which stimulates breast milk production.

Perineum – The area between the vaginal opening and the anus. Tears of the perineum can occur during delivery. In some cases, an episiotomy may be performed to prevent a tear or rip of the perineum during birth.

Preeclampsia – Diagnosed by persistent high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy or during the postpartum period that is associated with increased protein in the urine or the new development of decreased blood platelets, trouble with the kidney or liver, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain abnormalities including visual disturbances and/or seizures.

Preterm Delivery – A birth before the 37th week of gestation. Also know as premature birth.

Preterm Labor – Uterine contractions that cause softening, thinning, or opening of the cervix between 20 and 37 weeks.

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Q

Quickening – When a mother feels her baby move for the first time. This usually occurs between 18 to 20 weeks gestation.

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R

Relaxin – Hormone produced by the placenta that softens connective tissues, which allows the pelvis to open wider during childbirth.

Round Ligament Pain – Intermittent sharp pains on the sides of the pelvis attributed to stretching of the round ligaments that support and stabilize your uterus. It is usually felt during the 2nd trimester and is considered a normal part of pregnancy.

RH Factor Test – A blood test that indicates whether you’re Rh positive or Rh negative. The Rh factor is a specific protein found on the surface of red blood cells.

Rhogam – A medication given at about week 28 of pregnancy to women with Rh-negative blood types to prevent development of antibodies that could harm the fetus.

Rubella – Also known as German Measles, and is caused by the rubella virus. May lead to birth defects if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy. Effective vaccines are available.

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S

Sickle-Cell Disease – A hereditary blood disorder characterized by red blood cells that assume an abnormal sickle shape. These sickle shaped cells carry less oxygen to the tissue. Affected individuals acquire one abnormal gene from both parents.

Stretch Marks (also known as Striae) – The result of stretching of the skin as a result of rapid growth or weight change. Most common in the third trimester of pregnancy, they are usually found on the breasts, abdomen, hips and thighs. Over time, they may fade but will usually not disappear completely.

Spinal Block – Similar to an epidural, it entails an anesthetic injection in the lower back that provides quick pain relief lasting for one to two hours.

Surfactant – A substance produced in the baby’s lungs to help with lung expansion.

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T

Teratogens – Substances, such as lead and mercury, that may cause birth defects if a baby is exposed to them while in the womb.

Thalassemia – An inherited blood disorder passed down through families in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissue. This disorder results in excessive destruction of red blood cells leading to anemia.

Toxoplasmosis – A parasite found in cat feces and undercooked meat. It may be dangerous to the baby if their mother is infected during pregnancy.

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U

Umbilical Cord – The tubular structure that transports blood between the placenta and the baby. It provide oxygen and nutrients and allows for the removal of waste products.

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V

Varicella (chickenpox) – Is a viral disease which causes itchy blusters and sores all of the body. It is very contagious. Varicella infections can be very serious especially for babies and newborns. Effective vaccines are available.

Vena Cava – The large vein that returns blood to the heart and lungs to pick up oxygen. The oxygenated blood is then transported to the mother’s tissues and to the baby via the umbilical cord.

Viable – Term used when the baby has developed to the point that it can survive outside the womb.

Varicose Veins – Twisted enlarged veins near the surface of the skin. They are most common in the legs and ankles and are particularly common in the latter stages of pregnancy. Most varicose veins will shrink or disappear after birth.

Vernix Caseosa – A white creamy substance that covers the baby’s body to protect the skin from exposure to amniotic fluid.