Lexicon of Common Terms
Afterpains: pains similar to mild contractions that take place after birth as the uterus is returning to normal size, can be stimulated by breastfeeding
Amniotic Sac: the bag of membranes containing the baby and amniotic fluid. Sometimes referred to as “membranes”
Analgesia: medication to relieve pain
Apgar Score: a method of assessing the health of a newborn based on breathing, heart rate, skin color, muscle tone, and reflex response.
Areola: the dark circle in the center of a woman’s breast.
Bilirubin: a reddish brown substance in the urine, blood, and bile that results from the normal breakdown of red blood cells in the baby after birth. If this occurs in an abnormally high amount, jaundice results, giving the skin and whites of the eyes a yellowish hue. Will often be treated with light therapy.
Braxton Hicks Contractions: normal uterine contractions occurring irregularly and periodically throughout pregnancy. These can be painful and may increase in discomfort with each subsequent pregnancy.
Breech: when baby is not head down.
Cervix: the opening sphincter of the uterus. Starts off as long and closed. When labor begins it thins out (effacement) and dilates (opens).
Colostrum: the super nutritious milk like food which is produced by the breast in the first few days after delivery. You may not feel that you have sufficient milk; however, colostrum is very calorie dense although it is produced at a lower volume.
Dilate: the measurement to evaluate how much the cervix has opened in preparation for the birth of the baby. Contractions cause the cervix to dilate.
Effacement: the shortening and thinning out of the cervix.
Engorgement: the filling of the breast with milk postpartum.
Epidural: a regional anesthesia used during labor to relieve the discomfort of labor and birth.
Episiotomy: an incision made in the perineum to create a larger space for the baby’s head to pass through during delivery without tearing. The advantages and disadvantages of tearing vs. episiotomy are under debate - follow your intuition.
Forceps: long instruments used to help deliver babies late in labor.
Fundus: The upper rounded portion of the uterus.
Gestational age: the age of the baby measured in weeks. From the first day of the last menstrual period the “due date” is at 40 weeks, but the baby becomes full term at 36 weeks.
I.S.E.: Internal scalp electrode used to monitor the fetal heart rate
I.U.P.C.: Intrauterine pressure catheter used to monitor strength of the contractions.
Lactation: The act of or period during which a mom nurses her baby.
Lanugo: The fine hair on the body of the newborn.
Lightening: The feeling produced when the baby descends further into the pelvic cavity near the end of pregnancy. Commonly referred to as “dropping.”
Linea Nigra: the dark line appearing on the abdomen and extending from the pubis toward the belly button.
Lochia: The vaginal discharge of blood, mucus, and uterine tissue following birth. This discharge typically last 4-6 weeks after childbirth. It will be heavy and slowly decrease, then become more brownish red and finally cease.
Mask of Pregnancy: Spots and patches of discoloration on the skin, usually face, that are caused by pregnancy hormonal changes. They are usually temporary.
Meconium: The dark-green or black substance found in the large intestine of newborn babies and will be the first bowel movement. In some cases, some may be passed in utero.
Membranes: the bag of membranes containing the baby and amniotic fluid. Also referred to as “amniotic sac.”
Milia: Small white nodules that appear similar to acne on the skin of the newborn, caused by clogged oil glands and hair follicles due to the hormonal shifts after birth - commonly referred to as baby acne. This condition self resolves.
Molding: The shaping of the baby’s head as he moves through the birth canal.
Mucus Plug: The mucus held in the center of the cervix when it is closed. This mucus is released just prior to or during labor. It is a sign that labor will come on within days or hours. It is usually tinged with blood or with brownish red streaks. Sometimes called show or bloody show.
Neonatal: All things medical pertaining to the newborn, usually during the first four weeks of life.
Non-Stress Test (NST): A test used to check the well being of the baby during pregnancy. This is a routine test, but can also be done at times of concern: diabetes, decrease in fetal movement, after amniocentesis, slow growth, high blood pressure, post term (after your due date), and preterm labor.
Oxytocin: A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland which stimulates labor and post-labor stimulates the contractions which shrink the uterus.
Perineum: The muscular tissue between the vaginal and rectal openings.
Phenylketonuria (PKU): An inherited congenital disorder of protein metabolism which must be treated with dietary restrictions to prevent brain damage in the infant.
Pitocin: The synthetic form of oxytocin used to induce and augment labor.
Placenta: The circular, flat, vascular structure in the impregnated uterus which acts as the exchange point between baby and mother during pregnancy for nourishment. All the nourishment for the baby travels through the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby - waste travel back to be processed by the mom’s body.
Placenta previa : premature separation of the placenta.
Postnatal: Refers to happenings and conditions after birth.
Preeclampsia: A serious condition during pregnancy which requires careful medical monitoring. Signs are elevated blood pressure, rapid swelling, and protein in the urine. If gone unmanaged, places mom and baby in a life or death struggle.
Primigravida: A woman pregnant for the first time.
Primipara: A woman giving birth to her first baby.
Pubic/Pubis: The bone forming the front of the pelvis.
Puerperium: The period between birth and the return of the uterus to its normal state - about 6 weeks.
Quickening: The feeling of the baby moving felt by the mother. Usually happens 18-20 weeks in first time moms; 16-18 months in subsequent pregnancies.
Rupture the Membranes: a method of puncturing the amniotic sac to help bring on or intensify labor.
Show: The mucus held in the center of the cervix when it is closed. This mucus is released just prior to or during labor. It is a sign that labor will come on within days or hours. It is usually tinged with blood or with brownish red streaks. Sometimes called the mucus plug or bloody show.
Station: The estimation of the degree of descent of the baby through the birth canal.
Transverse Presentation: When the baby is lying at a right angle to the cervix when labor begins.
Vacuum Extractor: A suction cup applied to the head of the baby during labor to assist the delivery.
Vernix Caseosa: The protective fatty substance that covers the skin of the baby and is still present at birth.
Vertex: The top or crown of the head.
Vulva: The external genitals of a woman.