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Pregnancy Jargon

Pregnancy Jargon

This stands for alphafetaprotein, a substance present in the blood of pregnant women. The level of AFP is tested in the early stages of pregnancy. Higher than usual levels may indicate the need for further tests.

This is short for albumin, a protein substance. Your urine is tested for albumin, as it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

A test for abnormalities in the foetus in which a sample of amniotic fluid is taken using a needle inserted into the uterus through the abdomen. It is usually done at about 14 weeks and carries 1% chance of miscarriage.

Amniotic Fluid
This is the fluid surrounding the baby in the womb, known as your "waters".

Before the birth.

Apgar Score
Assessment of your baby done by observation, usually at two and five minutes after the birth. It assesses breathing, colour, muscle tone, response to stimulation and heart rate and gives a mark of 0, 1 or 2 each. These are added up to give a score out of ten.

Antepartum hemorrhage - bleeding which occurs before the birth.


Baby Blues
This is a bout of tearfulness experienced around two to three days after the birth. Could be caused by "coming down" from the birth or by hormonal changes when your milk "comes in". Not to be confused with postnatal depression, which is a more serious condition.

Birth Plan
This is a plan of your preferences for the birth. It is written down following a discussion with your midwife and includes such things as induction, birth companions, pain relief and positions. The plan is kept with your notes.

Braxton Hicks Contractions
Contractions, which occur throughout the pregnancy but are not the contractions of labour. Unlike real contractions they do not increase in length, intensity and frequency. They tend to be short and come and go intermittently.

A baby lying in a breech position is bottom or feet down. Babies usually move into a head down position in the later stages of pregnancy to prepare for delivery.


Caesarian Section
This is when a baby is born by an operation. A surgeon makes an opening in your abdomen and then your uterus and lifts the baby out. You can have a Caesarian with a spinal anesthetic so that you remain awake or with a general anesthetic, where you will be unconscious. Reasons for a Caesarian include placenta praevia, multiple pregnancy, and illness in the mother, distress on the part of the baby or lack of progress in labour.

Short for cephalic - a baby lying head down in the womb.

The opening of the uterus.

The thick creamy milk substance you produce in pregnancy to feed your baby in the first few days after his or her birth. It is highly concentrated and rich in nutrients and antibodies.

The flexing and relaxing of the muscles of the uterus in labour. This pulls up the cervix and pushes down at the top of the uterus. With each contraction the muscles stay shorter than they were before leaving the cervix slightly more open and the baby pushed a little further down. They feel like a tightening across the tummy and often the back. They begin gently, build to a peak and then die away.

See umbilical cord

Cot Death
Sudden unexpected death in infancy. This is very rare and the risk can be reduced: place your baby on his or her back to sleep; don't smoke in pregnancy or near the baby once it is born; don't allow your baby to become too hot; place your baby at the foot of the cot so that he or she cant wiggle down under the covers; don't use a duvet or cot bumpers; don't take your baby into your bed if you are a smoker or have been drinking or taking drugs; seek medical advice if your baby has a high temperature, breathing difficulties or seems less responsive than usual.

The point during labour at which the baby's head can be seen completely at the vulva.

Chronic Villus Sampling
Optional test for abnormalities done after 10 weeks. Involves a fine needle going through your cervix or abdomen and into your womb. A sample of the chronic Villus, the tissue of the placenta, is taken. There is a 2-4% risk of miscarriage.


Drug given by injection as pain relief in labour.



See pre-eclampsia

Entopic Pregnancy
A pregnancy, which develops somewhere other than the uterus, usually, the fallopian tube. Such a pregnancy is normally terminated.

Estimated date of delivery

Name given to the fertilized egg once it has implanted itself into the womb lining and begun to grow. At about ten weeks the embryo becomes a foetus.

Means that the baby's head has passed the pelvic "brim" in readiness for birth. Appears as "eng" on your notes.

Brand name for "gas and air" which is breathed in through a mask to ease pain during labour.

Anesthetic drug injected into the epidural space at the side of the spinal cord to relieve pain in labour. Produces numbness in the lower half, which may make it difficult to push.

This is a deliberate cut made in perineum during labour to make more room for the baby to be born.



The term for the baby while it is still in the uterus.

Foetal heart. FHH on your notes means that your baby's heart beat has been head.


Guthrie Test
Test for PKU and other rare conditions carried out in first week of life. A drop of blood is taken from your baby's heel.



Hemoglobin. Measured to show the iron levels in the blood. If this is to low it may be a sign of anemia.

High blood pressure.



Physical process by which the baby leaves the uterus and is born. Labour can last anything between half an hour and three days.


Soft fine covering of hair all over the Foetus.

The position of the baby in the uterus.

Vaginal discharge after childbirth consisting of blood and other material. It changes in colour from red to brown and eventually to cream.


An inflammation of the breast, which can be accompanied by a red, patch, flue like symptoms or pain on breast-feeding.

The loss of a foetus before 24 weeks - also referred to as spontaneous abortion. Miscarriages tend to occur in the first three months of pregnancy and most have no clear cause. Having a miscarriage does not usually prejudice your chance of carrying your next pregnancy to full term.

Morning Sickness
A feeling of nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting which can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.

A woman who has had at least one pregnancy.


Nothing Abnormal Detected - means the midwife or doctor has found no problems.


Occipito Anterior/Posterior

The back of your baby's head is to the front or back. You may see LOA or ROA on your notes. This means left or right occipito anterior and describes whether the back of the head is to the left or right. LOA is usually the best position for labour.

Fluid retention, which causes swelling in ankles and fingers.



Doctor who specializes in babies and children.

When the doctor or midwife feels your baby by moving their hands over your stomach.

Perineal Stitches
Stitches inserted into the perineum after if has been torn or cut during labour. The stitches usually dissolve rather than having to be removed.

The skin between the vagina and anus.

Morphine related drug, which is used for pain relief in labour. Given by injection.

Pregnancy induced Hypertension.

PKU - Phenylketonuria
A very rare metabolic disorder checked for with the Guthrie test in the first week of life.

Your baby's life support system while in the womb. It is attached to the uterus on one side and to the baby by the umbilical cord on the other. It passes nutrients from the cord and filters out many hazards before they can reach the baby. It is expelled vaginally with a contraction after you have delivered your baby.

Placenta Praevia
When the placenta is low down, covering the cervix and blocking the baby's exit.

After the birth.

Postnatal depression
Feelings of depression and inadequacy in the weeks and months after childbirth. The causes are not known but are thought to be linked to the pressure of parenthood and hormonal changes. Your health visitor and doctor will be able to help you deal with PND.

Condition which affects one in ten pregnant women but only one in 100 seriously. When it is severe, labour may have to be induced. The signs are raised blood pressure in late pregnancy, protein in urine, severe oedema, headaches, pain below the ribs and poor growth in the baby.

The position of the baby with reference to which part will be born first.

Pre Term
A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

A woman pregnant for the first time.


The first movements of the baby you can feel.



Appears on your notes to show whether your blood group is Rhesus positive (Ph+) or negative (Rh-).

See ultrasound

Release of the mucus plug which seals the opening of the cervix - can signal the onset of labour.

When a baby dies in the uterus or at birth. This is a very uncommon occurrence, which can be caused by a serious abnormality or malfunction of the placenta.

Reddish stripes on abdomen, breasts and thighs, which can appear when the underlying tissues of the skin are stretched. After pregnancy they fade to silvery gray.

Sudden Unexpected Death
See cot death.



Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation - a form of pain relief used in labour. Consists of electrodes being fixed to your skin, which give out a slight electrical charge.

40 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period.


Umbilical Cord

Rope-like tube, which brings nutrients from your blood via the placenta to the baby and carries waste products away. It is "clamped" by the doctor or midwife after the birth. The bit that remains attached to your baby's abdomen withers and falls off in the first few days of the baby's life.

Known as a "scan: this is a test using high frequency sound waves to create a picture of your baby on a monitor. Used to check your baby's size, the way it is growing, whether there is more than one baby, the development of the baby's organs and bones and the way the baby is laying. It can also detect some abnormalities. You may be offered several scans throughout your pregnancy.

The womb


Vacuum Extraction

Suction method - also known as ventouse extraction - used to help extract a baby if there are complications during labour. Involves a cup being attached to your baby's head. The cup is connected to a vacuum pump by a tube. It enables the doctor to pull while you push.

See vacuum extraction.

Greasy substance covering your baby's body in the womb from about 17 weeks.

The crown of the baby's head.

Vitamin K
A vitamin K injection is offered routinely shortly after the birth to prevent a rare blood disorder, which can affect newborns. You must give your permission for it to be administered.

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