Glossary of Pregnancy Terms

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Abdominal measurement—Measurement at prenatal visits of baby’s growth inside the uterus. Made from pubic symphysis to fundus; also called fundal measurement. Too much growth or too little growth may indicate problems.

Abnormal placentation—Complication of multiple Cesarean deliveries; of concern to medical experts with increasing rate of Cesarean delivery.

Abruptio placenta—See placental abruption.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)—Debilitating, frequently fatal illness that affects the body’s ability to respond to infection. Caused by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV).

Active labor—Woman’s cervix is dilated between 4 and 8cm. Contractions are usually 3 to 5 minutes apart.

Advance-practice nurse—Nurse who has received postgraduate education in a medical specialty; must be nationally certified, such as in women’s health. Licensed through a state nursing board. Also called a nurse practitioner (NP).

Aerobic exercise—Exercise that increases heart rate and causes person to consume oxygen.

Afterbirth—Placenta and membranes expelled after baby is delivered. See placenta.

Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)—Substance produced by unborn baby as it grows inside the uterus. Large amounts of AFP are found in amniotic fluid. Part of triple-or quad-screen test.

Alveolar gland—Grapelike cluster of cells in the breast where milk is produced.

Amino acids—Substances that act as building blocks in developing baby.

Amniocentesis—Procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from amniotic sac for testing for some genetic defects and for fetal lung maturity.

Amniotic fluid—Fluid surrounding baby inside the amniotic sac.

Amnioinfusion—Injection of sterile saline solution into the amniotic sac.

Amniotic sac—Membrane that surrounds the baby inside the uterus; contains baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. Also called amnion.

Ampulla—Dilated opening of a tube or duct.

Anatomy scan—Ultrasound that measures baby’s length and head size, and checks for organ development. Also called a level-2 ultrasound.

Anemia—Condition in which the number of red blood cells is less than normal.

Anencephaly—Defective development of baby’s brain, combined with absence of bones normally surrounding the brain.

Aneuploidy—Abnormal number of chromosomes.

Angioma—Tumor or swelling; composed of lymph and blood vessels. Usually benign.

Anovulatory—Woman doesn’t ovulate.

Anti-inflammatory medications—Drugs to relieve pain and/or inflammation.

Apgar scores—Measurement of baby’s response to birth and life on its own. Taken 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth.

Areola—Colored ring surrounding the nipple of the breast.

Arrhythmia—Irregular or missed heartbeat.

Aspiration—Swallowing or sucking foreign body or fluid, such as vomit, into an airway.

Asthma—Disease marked by recurrent attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Often caused by allergic reaction.

Atonic uterus—Uterus that lacks tone.

Atopic—Inherited tendency to develop allergies; caused by an oversensitive immune system.

Augmented labor—When labor is “stalled” or progress is not being made, medication (oxytocin) is given.

Autoantibodies—Antibodies that attack parts of the body or tissues.

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Baby blues—Mild depression in a woman after delivery.

Back labor—Labor pain felt in the lower back.

Beta-adrenergics—Substances that interfere with transmission of stimuli; affects autonomic nervous system.

Bicornuate uterus—Uterus is divided into two halves; a woman may have one cervix or two cervices.

Bilirubin—Product formed in the liver from hemoglobin when red blood cells are destroyed.

Biophysical profile (BPP)—Method of evaluating baby before birth.

Biopsy—Removal of a small piece of tissue for microscopic study.

Birthing center—Facility specializing in delivering babies. Usually a woman labors, delivers and recovers in same room. May be part of hospital or a free-standing unit. Sometimes called LDRP, for labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum.

Bishop score—Method used to predict success of inducing labor. Includes dilatation, station, effacement, consistency and position of cervix. Score is given for each point, then all are added together to give a total score to help doctor decide whether to induce labor.

Blood pressure—Push of blood against artery walls; arteries which carry blood away from the heart. Changes in blood pressure may indicate problems.

Blood typing—Test to determine if a woman’s blood type is A, B, AB or O.

Blood-pressure check—Checking a woman’s blood pressure. Changes in blood pressure can be an alert for potential problems. High blood pressure can be significant during pregnancy, especially nearer the due date.

Blood-sugar tests—See glucose-tolerance test.

Bloody show—Small amount of vaginal bleeding late in pregnancy; often precedes labor.

Board certification (of physician)—Doctor has received additional training and testing in a particular specialty. In obstetrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers certification. Certification requires expertise in care of women. FACOG following doctor’s name means he or she is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Braxton-Hicks contractions—Irregular, painless tightening of the uterus during pregnancy.

Breech presentation—Abnormal birth position of fetus. Buttocks or legs come into the birth canal before the head.

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Carrier—Person with recessive disease-causing gene. A carrier usually shows no symptoms but can pass mutant gene on to his or her children.

Cataract, congenital—Cloudiness of the eye lens; present at birth.

Cell antibodies—See autoantibodies.

Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)—Registered nurse who has received additional training delivering babies and providing prenatal and postpartum care to women.

Cephalo-pelvic disproportion—Baby is too big to fit through the birth canal.

Cervical cultures—To test for STDs; when Pap smear is done, a sample may be taken to check for chlamydia, gonorrhea and other STDs.

Cervix—Opening of the uterus.

Cesarean section or delivery—Delivery of a baby through an abdominal incision rather than through the vagina. Also called C-section.

Chadwick’s sign—Dark-blue or purple discoloration of vagina and cervix during pregnancy.

Chemotherapy—Treatment of a disease with chemical substances or medication.

Chlamydia—Sexually transmitted venereal infection.

Chloasma—Colored patches of irregular shape and size on the face (may have the appearance of a butterfly) or other body parts. Can be extensive. Also called mask of pregnancy.

Chorion—Outerrmost fetal membrane around amniotic sac.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)—Diagnostic test done early in pregnancy to determine some pregnancy problems. Tissue is taken from area of the placenta inside the uterus through the abdomen or cervix.

Chromosomal abnormality—Abnormal number or abnormal makeup of chromosomes.

Chromosomes—Structures within cells that carry genetic information in the form of DNA. Humans have 22 pairs of chromosomes and 2 sex chromosomes. One chromosome of each pair is inherited from the mother; the other is inherited from the father.

Cleft lip—Birth defect of the lip.

Cleft palate—Birth defect in part of the roof of the mouth.

Clubfoot—Birth defect in which a foot is misshaped and twisted.

Colostrum—Thin yellow fluid; first milk to come from the breast. Most often seen toward the end of pregnancy. Different in content from milk produced later during nursing.

Complete blood count (CBC)—Blood test to check cellular elements of the blood, iron stores, and to check for infections.

Condyloma acuminatum—Sexually transmitted skin tags or warts; caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). Also called venereal warts.

Congenital deafness screening—Blood test to help identify problem in a baby if a couple has a family history of inherited deafness.

Congenital problem—Problem present at birth.

Conization of the cervix—Large biopsy of the cervix that is taken in the shape of a cone. Conjoined twins—Twins connected at some point on their bodies; may share vital organs. Previously called Siamese twins.

Constipation—Infrequent or incomplete bowel movements.

Contraction stress test (CST)—Test of baby’s response to uterine contractions to evaluate baby’s well-being.

Contractions—Uterus squeezes or tightens to push baby out during birth.

Corpus luteum—Area in the ovary where an egg is released at ovulation. Cyst may form in area after ovulation, called corpus luteum cyst.

Crown-to-rump length—Measurement from top of baby’s head (crown) to baby’s buttocks (rump).

Cystic fibrosis—Inherited disorder that causes breathing and digestion problems.

Cystitis—Bladder inflammation.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection—Most common virus passed from mom to baby during pregnancy; infects about 1% of all newborns.

Cytotoxic—Substance that can terminate a pregnancy.

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D&C (dilatation and curettage)—Surgical procedure in which the cervix is dilated and the lining of the uterus scraped.

Dermatoses—Skin conditions or skin eruptions.

Developmental delay—Condition in which child’s development is slower than normal.

Diagnostic test—Test done to determine if a problem is present. It is often done after a screening test indicates a problem may be present. See screening test.

Diastasis recti—Separation of abdominal muscles.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)—Nonsteroidal synthetic estrogen; used in the past to try to prevent miscarriage.

Dilatation—Amount, in centimeters, cervix has opened before birth. When woman is fully dilated, she is at 10cm.

Dizygotic twins—Twins born from two different eggs. Also called fraternal twins.

Dominant gene—Trait will be evident even if only one gene is present (from one parent); an example is dimples.

Doppler—Device that amplifies a fetal heartbeat so the doctor and others can hear it.

Down syndrome—Chromosomal disorder in which a baby has three copies of chromosome 21 (instead of two); results in mental retardation, distinct physical traits and various other problems.

Due date—Date baby is expected to be born. Most babies are born near this date, but only 1 of 20 are born on the actual date.

Dynamic cervix—Describes dilatation of the cervix seen during ultrasound. It is often associated with a history of an incompetent cervix or preterm labor and preterm delivery.

Dysuria—Difficulty or pain when urinating.

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Early labor—Woman experiences regular contractions (one every 20 minutes down to one every 5 minutes) for longer than 2 hours. Cervix usually dilates to 3 or 4cm.

Eclampsia—Convulsions and coma in a woman with pre-eclampsia. Not related to epilepsy. See pre-eclampsia.

Ectodermal germ layer—Layer in developing baby that produces skin, teeth and glands of the mouth, nervous system and pituitary gland.

Ectopic pregnancy—Pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus, most often in the Fallopian tube. Also called tubal pregnancy.

ECV (external cephalic version)—Procedure done late in pregnancy in which doctor manually attempts to move a baby in the breech presentation into a normal head-down birth presentation.

EDC (estimated date of confinement)—Estimated due date for delivery of a baby.

Effacement—Thinning of the cervix; occurs in latter part of pregnancy and during labor.

Electroencephalogram—Recording of the electrical activity of brain.

Embryo—Organism in early stages of development; from conception to 10 weeks.

Embryonic period—First 10 weeks of gestation.

Endodermal germ layer—Area of tissue that produces digestive tract, respiratory organs, vagina, bladder and urethra in a baby. Also called endoderm or entoderm.

Endometrial cycle—Regular development of mucous membranes that line inside of uterus. Begins with preparation for acceptance of pregnancy and ends with shedding of the lining during menstrual period.

Endometrium—Mucous membrane that lines inside of uterine wall.

Enema—Fluid injected into the rectum for the purpose of clearing out the bowel.

Engorgement—Filled with fluid; usually refers to breast filled with milk in a breastfeeding mother.

Enzyme—Protein made by cells; improves or causes chemical changes in other substances.

Epidural block—Type of anesthesia; medication is injected around the spinal cord during labor or other types of surgery.

Episiotomy—Surgical incision in the area behind vagina, above rectum; used during delivery to avoid tearing the vaginal opening and rectum.

Essential nutrient—Nutrient that can’t be made by the body; must be provided in the diet.

Estimated date of confinement—See EDC.

Exotoxin—Poison or toxin from a source outside the body.

Expressing breast milk—Manually forcing milk out of the breast.

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Face presentation—Baby comes into the birth canal face first.

Fallopian tube—Tube that leads from the uterine cavity to the area of the ovary. Also called uterine tube.

False labor—Tightening of uterus without dilatation of the cervix.

Fasting blood sugar—Blood test to evaluate the amount of sugar in blood following a period of fasting.

Fertilization—Joining of the sperm and egg.

Fertilization age—Dating a pregnancy from the time of fertilization; 2 weeks shorter than gestational age. Also see gestational age.

Fetal anomaly—Birth defect.

Fetal arrhythmia—See arrhythmia.

Fetal fibronectin (fFN)—Test done to evaluate premature labor. A sample of cervical-vaginal secretions is taken; if fFN is present after 22 weeks, indicates increased risk for premature delivery.

Fetal goiter—Enlargement of baby’s thyroid gland.

Fetal monitor—Device used before or during labor to listen to and to record fetal heartbeat. Monitoring baby inside the uterus can be external (through maternal abdomen) or internal (through maternal vagina).

Fetal period—Time period from after the first 10 weeks of gestation until birth.

Fetal stress—Problems with a baby that occur before birth or during labor; often requires immediate delivery.

Fetoscopy—Test that enables a doctor to look through a fiberoptic scope to detect subtle problems in a fetus.

Fetus—Refers to an unborn baby after 10 weeks of gestation until birth.

Fibrin—Elastic protein important in blood coagulation.

Fistula—Abnormal opening from one part of the body to another, such as from the vagina to the rectum.

Forceps—Instrument sometimes used to deliver a baby. It is placed around a baby’s head, inside the birth canal, to help guide baby out of the birth canal.

Fortification—Addition of one or more essential nutrients to a food.

Frank breech—Baby presenting buttocks first. Legs and knees are straight.

Fraternal twins—See dizygotic twins.

Fundus—Top part of the uterus; often measured during pregnancy.

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Genes—Basic units of heredity. Each gene carries specific information and is passed from parent to child. Child receives half of its genes from its mother and half from its father. Every human has about 100,000 genes. Codes determine specific characteristics, such as hair color.

Genetic counseling—Consultation between a couple and specialists about the possibility of genetic problems in a pregnancy.

Genetic screening—Performing one or more genetic tests.

Genetic tests—Various screening and diagnostic tests done to determine whether a couple may have a child with a genetic defect. Usually part of genetic counseling.

Genital herpes simplex—Herpes simplex infection involving the genital area. Can be significant during pregnancy because of danger of newborn becoming infected with herpes simplex.

Genitourinary problems—Problems involving genital organs and bladder or kidneys.

Germ layers—Layers or areas of tissue important in fetal development.

Gestational age—Dating pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period; 2 weeks longer than fertilization age. Also see fertilization age.

Gestational diabetes—Occurrence of diabetes only during pregnancy.

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTN)—Abnormal pregnancy in which embryo does not develop. Also called molar pregnancy or hydatidiform mole.

Globulin—Family of proteins from plasma or serum of blood.

Glucose-tolerance test (GTT)—Blood test done to evaluate body’s response to sugar. Blood is drawn from mother-to-be once or at intervals following consumption of a sugary substance.

Glucosuria—Glucose (sugar) in urine.

Gonorrhea—Contagious venereal infection, transmitted primarily by intercourse.

Grand mal seizure—Loss of body control and functions during major seizure.

Group-B streptococcal (GBS) infection—Serious infection occurring in mother’s vagina, throat or rectum.

Group-B streptococcus (GBS) test—Near the end of pregnancy, samples may be taken from woman’s vagina, perineum and rectum to check for GBS. Urine tests may also be done. If test is positive, treatment may be started or given during labor.

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Habitual miscarriage—Occurrence of three or more miscarriages.

Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—Enacted in 1996, legislation includes privacy rule creating national standards protecting personal health information. Also addresses transfer and continuity of health insurance coverage.

Heartburn—Discomfort or pain that occurs in the chest, often after eating.

Height of fundus—Top of the uterus is the fundus. Doctor looks for this point, and measures from here to bottom of uterus, around pubic bone, to see if growth of baby is normal.

Hematocrit—Determines proportion of blood cells to plasma; important in diagnosing anemia.

Hemoglobin—Pigment in red blood cells that carries oxygen to body tissues.

Hemolytic disease—Destruction of red blood cells. See anemia.

Hemopoietic system—System that controls the formation of blood cells.

Hemorrhoids—Dilated blood vessels, most often found in rectum or rectal canal.

Heparin—Medication used to prevent blood clotting and to treat or to prevent thrombosis.

Hepatitis-B antibodies test—Test to determine if a pregnant woman has hepatitis B.

High-risk pregnancy—Pregnancy with complications that require special medical attention, often from a specialist. Also see perinatologist.

HIPAA—See Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.

HIV/AIDS test—Test to determine if a person has HIV or AIDS; test cannot be done without person’s knowledge and permission.

Homan’s sign—Pain caused by flexing toes toward knees when a person has a blood clot in the lower leg.

Home uterine monitoring—Pregnant woman’s contractions are recorded at home, then transmitted by telephone to the doctor. Used to monitor women at risk of premature labor.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)—Hormone produced in early pregnancy; measured in a pregnancy test.

Human placental lactogen—Hormone of pregnancy produced by the placenta and found in the bloodstream.

Hyaline membrane disease—Respiratory disease of a newborn.

Hydatidiform mole—See gestational trophoblastic disease.

Hydramnios—Increased amount of amniotic fluid.

Hydrocephalus—Excessive accumulation of fluid around baby’s brain. Sometimes called water on the brain.

Hyperbilirubinemia—Extremely high level of bilirubin in the blood.

Hyperemesis gravidarum—Severe nausea, dehydration and vomiting during pregnancy. Occurs most frequently during the first trimester but can continue throughout pregnancy.

Hyperglycemia—Increased blood sugar.

Hypertension, pregnancy-induced (PIH)—High blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy.

Hyperthyroidism—Higher-than-normal levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

Hypoplasia—Defective or incomplete development or formation of tissue.

Hypotension—Low blood pressure.

Hypothyroidism—Low or inadequate levels of thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

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Identical twins—See monozygotic twins.

Imaging tests—Tests that look inside body; includes X-rays, CT scans (or CAT scans) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Ileoanal pouch—Pouch or sac connecting the ileum (small intestine or small bowel) to the anus (the lower opening of the digestive tract).

Immune globulin preparation—Substance used to protect against infection with certain diseases, such as hepatitis or measles.

In utero—Within the uterus.

Incompetent cervix—Cervix dilates painlessly, without contractions.

Incomplete miscarriage—Miscarriage in which part, but not all, of uterine contents are expelled.

Inducing labor—Medication is used to start labor. See oxytocin.

Inevitable miscarriage—Pregnancy complicated with bleeding and cramping. Usually results in miscarriage.

Infertility—Inability or decreased ability to get pregnant.

Insulin—Hormone made by the pancreas; promotes use of sugar and glucose.

Intrauterine-growth restriction (IUGR)—Inadequate fetal growth during pregnancy.

In-vitro fertilization—Process in which eggs are placed in a medium outside the body to which sperm are added for fertilization. Fertilized egg is then placed inside the uterus in attempt to result in pregnancy.

Iodides—Medications made up of negative ions of iodine.

Iron-deficiency anemia—Anemia produced by a lack of iron in the diet; often seen in pregnancy.

Isoimmunization—Development of a specific antibody directed at the red blood cells of another individual, such as baby inside the uterus. Often occurs when an Rh-negative woman carries an Rh-positive baby or is given Rh-positive blood.

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Jaundice—Yellow staining of skin, eyes and body tissues. Caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin. Treated with phototherapy.

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Ketones—Breakdown product of metabolism found in blood, particularly from starvation or uncontrolled diabetes.

Kick count—Record of how often a pregnant woman feels her baby move; used to evaluate fetal well-being.

Kidney stone—Small mass or lesion found in the kidney or urinary tract. Can block urine flow.

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Labor—Process of expelling fetus from the uterus.

Laparoscopy—Less-invasive surgical procedure performed for tubal ligation, diagnosis of pelvic pain or diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy.

Leukorrhea—Vaginal discharge characterized by white or yellowish color. Primarily composed of mucus.

Lightening—Change in the shape of a pregnant uterus a few weeks before labor. Often described as the baby “dropping.”

Linea nigra—Darker-than-normal line that often develops during pregnancy; line runs down the abdomen from bellybutton to pubic area.

Lochia—Vaginal discharge that occurs after delivery of the baby and placenta.

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Macrosomia—Abnormally large-sized fetus.

Malignant GTN—Cancerous change of gestational trophoblastic disease. See gestational trophoblastic disease.

Mammogram—X-ray study of breasts to identify normal and abnormal breast tissue.

Mask of pregnancy—Increased pigment over the area of face under each eye. Commonly looks like a butterfly.

Maternal serum screen—Blood test done between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy on mother-to-be to screen for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and neural-tube defects.

McDonald cerclage—Surgical procedure performed on an incompetent cervix; drawstring-type suture holds cervical opening closed during pregnancy. Also see incompetent cervix.

Meconium—First intestinal discharge of a newborn; green or yellow in color. Consists of epithelial or surface cells, mucus and bile. Discharge may occur before or during labor or soon after birth.

Melanoma—Cancerous pigmented mole or tumor.

Meningomyelocele—Birth defect of baby’s central nervous system. Membranes and spinal cord protrude through an opening in the vertebral column.

Menstrual age—See gestational age.

Menstruation—Regular or periodic discharge of endometrial lining and blood from the uterus.

Mesodermal germ layer—Embryonic tissue that forms connective tissue, muscles, kidneys, ureters and other organs.

Metaplasia—Change in structure of tissue into another type that is not normal for that tissue.

Microcephaly—Abnormally small development of head in a developing fetus.

Microphthalmia—Abnormally small eyeballs.

Miscarriage—Premature end of pregnancy; giving birth to an embryo or fetus before it can live outside the womb, usually defined as before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Missed miscarriage—Failed pregnancy without bleeding or cramping. Often diagnosed by ultrasound weeks or months after a pregnancy fails.

Mittelschmerz—Pain that coincides with release of an egg from the ovary.

Molar pregnancy—See gestational trophoblastic disease.

Monilial vulvovaginitis—Infection caused by yeast or monilia; usually affects the vagina and vulva.

Monozygotic twins—Twins conceived from one egg. Often called identical twins.

Morning sickness—Nausea and vomiting usually occurring during the first trimester of pregnancy. Also see hyperemesis gravidarum.

Morula—Cells resulting from early division of a fertilized egg at the beginning of pregnancy.

Mucus plug—Secretions in the cervix often released just before labor.

Multiple-markers test—See quad-screen test and triple-screen test.

Mutations—Change in the character of a gene. Passed from one cell division to another.

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Natural childbirth—Labor and delivery in which a woman has as few interventions as possible. May include no medication or monitoring. Woman usually has taken classes to prepare her for labor and delivery.

Neural-tube defects—Abnormalities in the development of the spinal cord and brain in a fetus. Also see anencephaly; hydrocephalus; spina bifida.

Nonstress test (NST)—Test that records fetal movement felt by a woman or observed by a healthcare provider, along with changes in fetal heart rate. Used to evaluate fetal well-being.

NSAIDs—Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, Motrin, Alleve and Advil.

Nuchal translucency screening—Detailed ultrasound that allows doctor to measure the space behind a baby’s neck. When combined with blood-test results, it can help measure a woman’s probability of having a baby with Down syndrome.

Nurse-midwife—Registered nurse who has received extra training in the care of pregnant women and delivery of babies.

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Obstetrician—Medical doctor or osteopathic physician who specializes in the care of pregnant women and delivery of babies.

Oligohydramnios—Lack or deficiency of amniotic fluid.

Omphalocele—Birth defect resulting in outpouching of the bellybutton containing internal organs in a fetus or newborn infant.

Opioids—Synthetic compounds with effects similar to those of opium.

Organogenesis—Development of organ systems in an embryo.

Ossification—Bone formation.

Ovarian cycle—Regular production of hormones from the ovary in response to hormonal messages from the brain. Ovarian cycle governs endometrial cycle.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome—Complication of infertility treatment involving ovarian enlargement and abdominal swelling, with changes in blood-fluid volumes. Can be life-threatening. May occur when infertility drugs, such as Clomid, are used to stimulate ovulation.

Ovarian torsion—Twisting or rotation of the ovary.

Ovulation—Cyclic release of the egg from the ovary.

Ovulatory age—See fertilization age.

Oxytocin—Medicine that causes uterine contractions; used to induce or to help along labor. May be called by brand name Pitocin. Also hormone produced by pituitary glands.

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Palmar erythema—Redness of palms of the hands.

Pap smear—Routine screening test to evaluate the presence of premalignant or cancerous conditions of the cervix.

Paracervical block—Local anesthesia to relieve pain of dilating cervix.

Pediatrician—Medical doctor or osteopathic physician who specializes in the care of babies and children.

Pelvic exam—Inside of pelvic area is felt to assess various uterine conditions. At the beginning of pregnancy, it is done to assess uterine size. At the end of pregnancy, it can help determine if the cervix is dilating and thinning.

Percutaneous umbilical cord blood sampling (PUBS; cordocentesis)—Test done on a fetus to diagnose Rh-incompatibility, blood disorders and infections.

Perinatologist—Physician who specializes in the care of high-risk pregnancies.

Perineum—Area between the rectum and vagina.

Petit mal seizure—Brief seizure, with possible short loss of consciousness. Often associated with blinking or flickering of eyelids and mild twitching of the mouth.

Phosphatidyl glycerol (PG)—Lipoprotein present when fetal lungs are mature.

Phospholipids—Fat-containing phosphorous; most important are lecithins and sphingomyelin, which are important in maturation of fetal lungs before birth.

Phototherapy—Treatment for jaundice in a newborn infant. Also see jaundice.

Physician assistant (PA)—Qualified healthcare professional who may take care of you during pregnancy. He or she is licensed to practice medicine in association with a licensed doctor. Also called physician associate.

Physiologic anemia of pregnancy—Anemia during pregnancy caused by increase in the amount of fluid in blood compared to the number of cells in blood. Also see anemia.

Placenta—Organ inside the uterus attached to baby by the umbilical cord. Essential during pregnancy for growth and development of an embryo and fetus. Also called afterbirth.

Placenta previa—Attachment of the placenta very close to, or covering, the cervix.

Placental abruption—Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus.

Pneumonitis—Inflammation of lungs.

Polyhydramnios—See hydramnios.

Postmature baby—Baby born 2 weeks or more past its due date.

Postnatal—After baby’s birth.

Postpartum—6-week period following baby’s birth. Refers to mother, not baby.

Postpartum blues—Mild depression after delivery.

Postpartum distress syndrome (PPDS)—Range of symptoms including baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum hemorrhage—Bleeding greater than 17 ounces (450ml) at the time of delivery.

Postterm pregnancy—Pregnancy of 42+ weeks gestation.

Pre-eclampsia—Group of important symptoms unique to pregnancy, including high blood pressure, edema, swelling and changes in reflexes.

Pregnancy diabetes—See gestational diabetes.

Premature birth—Birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Premature delivery—Delivery before 37 weeks gestation.

Premature rupture of membranes (PROM)—Rupture of fetal membranes (bag of waters) before onset of labor.

Prenatal care—Program of care for a pregnant woman before birth of her baby.

Prepared childbirth—Woman has taken classes so she knows what will happen during labor and delivery. She may request pain medication if she needs it.

Presentation—Describes which part of the baby comes into the birth canal first.

Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM)—Rupture of fetal membranes before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Proteinuria—Protein in urine.

Pruritus gravidarum—Itching during pregnancy.

Pubic symphysis—Bony prominence in pelvic bone found in the middle of a woman’s lower abdomen. Landmark from which doctor often measures the growing uterus during pregnancy.

Pudendal block—Local anesthesia during labor.

Pulmonary embolism—Blood clot from another part of body that travels to the lungs. Can be very serious.

Pyelonephritis—Serious kidney infection.

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Quad-screen test—Measurement of four blood components to help identify problems—alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin, unconjugated estriol and inhibin-A.

Quickening—Feeling baby move inside uterus.

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Radiation therapy—Method of treating various cancers.

Radioactive scan—Diagnostic test in which radioactive material is injected into a particular part of the body then scanned to find the problem there.

Recessive gene—Both parents must have the same gene for a trait to be present, such as the occurrence of cystic fibrosis.

Rh-factor—Blood test to determine if a woman is Rh-negative.

Rh-negative—Absence of rhesus antigen in the blood.

Rh-sensitivity—See isoimmunization.

RhoGAM—Medication given to Rh-negative women during pregnancy and following delivery to prevent isoimmunization. Also see isoimmunization.

Ripening the cervix—Medicine is used to help the cervix soften, thin and dilate.

Round-ligament pain—Pain caused by stretching ligaments on the sides of the uterus during pregnancy.

Rubella titers—Blood test to check for immunity against rubella (German measles).

Rupture of membranes—Loss of fluid from the amniotic sac. Also called breaking of waters or water breaking.

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Screening test—Test to determine if a problem may be present. If a problem may be present, a diagnostic test may be done to determine if the problem actually is present. See diagnostic test.

Seizure—Sudden onset of a convulsion.

Septate uterus—Uterus is divided into two cavities by a membrane (septum).

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)—Infection transmitted through sexual contact or sexual intercourse.

Sickle-cell disease—Anemia caused by abnormal red blood cells shaped like a sickle or cylinder.

Sickle-cell trait—Presence of the trait for sickle-cell anemia. Not sickle-cell disease.

Sickle crisis—Painful episode caused by sickle-cell disease.

Silent labor—Painless dilatation of the cervix.

Skin tag—Flap or extra buildup of skin.

Sodium—Element found in many foods, particularly salt. Consumption of too much sodium may cause fluid retention and lead to swelling.

Sonogram or sonography—See ultrasound.

Sperm motility—Spontaneous movement of sperm; ability of sperm to swim or move.

Spina bifida—Birth defect in which membranes of the spinal cord and the spinal cord itself protrude outside the body. Can cause paralysis and other problems.

Spinal anesthesia—Anesthesia given in the spinal canal.

Spontaneous miscarriage—Loss of pregnancy during first 20 weeks of gestation.

Stasis—Decreased flow.

Station—Estimation of baby’s descent into birth canal in preparation for birth.

Stillbirth—Death of a fetus before birth, usually defined as after 20 weeks of gestation.

Stress test—Test in which mild uterine contractions are induced; fetal heart rate in response to contractions is noted.

Stretch marks—Stretched areas of skin; often found on abdomen, breasts, buttocks and legs.

Superovulation—Ovulation of a larger than normal number of eggs, usually from administration of fertility drugs.

Supplementation—Nutrients that are added to a normal diet.

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Tay-Sachs disease—Inherited disease of the central nervous system. Most common form affects babies, who appear healthy at birth and seem to develop normally for the first few months of life. Then development slows, and symptoms begin to appear.

Teratology—Study of abnormal fetal development.

Term—Baby is considered “term” when born after 38 weeks. Also called full term.

Thrombophilia—Disorder that causes blood to clot when and where it shouldn’t.

Torsion—Twisting or rotation.

Trait—Refers to a characteristic of a person, such as blue eyes.

Transition—Phase after active labor during which the cervix fully dilates. Contractions are strongest during this stage.

Trimester—Division of pregnancy into three equal periods of about 13 weeks each.

Triple-screen test—Measurement of three blood components—alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin and unconjugated estriol—to help identify problems.

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Ultrasound—Noninvasive test that shows picture of a fetus inside womb. Sound waves bounce off fetus to create picture.

Umbilical cord—Cord that connects placenta to the developing baby. Brings oxygenated blood and nutrients from mother through placenta to baby, and removes waste products and carbon dioxide from baby.

Unicornuate uterus—Only one side of the uterus is developed; the other side is undeveloped or absent.

Urinalysis and urine cultures—Tests for infections and to determine levels of sugar and protein in urine.

Uterine didelphys—Uterine abnormality in which a woman has a double uterus with a double cervix and double vagina.

Uterine rupture—Splitting open of the uterus during labor or delivery. Occurs most often in the area of a surgical scar, such as previous Cesarean delivery or uterine surgery.

Uterus—Organ the embryo/fetus grows in. Also called a womb.

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Vacuum extractor—Device sometimes used to provide traction on the fetal head during delivery; used to help deliver a baby.

Vagina—Birth canal.

Varicose veins—Dilated or enlarged blood vessels (veins).

Vasa previa—Condition in which blood vessels of the umbilical cord cross the interior opening of the cervix. When the cervix dilates or membranes rupture, unprotected vessels can tear and baby bleeds to death. Or vessels can become compressed, which shuts off blood and oxygen to the baby.

Vena cava—Major vein in the body that empties into the right atrium of the heart. Returns unoxygenated blood to the heart for transport to the lungs.

Venereal warts—See condyloma acuminatum.

Vernix—Fatty substance that covers fetal skin inside the uterus.

Vertex—Head first.

Villi—Projection from mucous membrane. Important in exchange of nutrients from maternal blood to placenta and fetus.

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Weight check—Weight is checked at every prenatal visit; gaining too much weight or not gaining enough weight can indicate problems.

Womb—See uterus.

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Yeast infection—See monilial vulvovaginitis

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Zygote—Cell that results from union of sperm and egg at fertilization.

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