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Medical Terminology


Pregnancy Terms Glossary

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Medical terms

  
Pregnant women can sometimes become overwhelmed with all the medical terminology. Here are some of the more common words, terms and abreiviations you may come across when you read your notes, or may hear people talking about.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



Abortion:

Any pregnancy that ended before 24 weeks. A miscarriage is sometimes termed a 'spontaneous abortion'.

Abruptio Placenta:

Partial or complete separation of the placenta from the uterus before delivery. It happens in 0.8 - 1.0% of all pregnancies and has a high recurrence rate. Contractions are usually present. Bleeding is also present in approximately 80% of patients. Factors that have been associated with abruption include maternal hypertension, advanced maternal age, maternal smoking, cocaine use, and blunt external maternal trauma

Abdominal circumference (AC):

The distance around fetal abdomen. The abdominal circumference is measured by sonogram from outer skin surface to outer skin surface at the level where the umbilical vein enters the liver.

AFP (Alpha-fetaprotein):

A protein produced by the fetal liver and yolk sac that can be detected in the blood of pregnant women. Alpha-fetoprotein levels rise gradually throughout most of pregnancy and level off near term. Levels apparently higher or lower than normal may indicate the need for further tests. High levels of alpha-fetoprotein are associated with a more advanced pregnancy than expected, multiple pregnancy, fetal death (including a vanished twin), an opening in the spine (spina bifida), an opening in the head (anencephaly), or an opening in the abdominal wall (gastroschisis). Low levels may be associated with Down syndrome, trisomy 18, and some cases of Turner syndrome.

AH:

Assisted Hatching - Used in IVF treatment - The early embryo has a protein shell surrounding it, the zona pellucidae. The embryo must break out of this shell (hatch) before attaching itself to the uterine wall. Assisted hatching involves creating a gap in this outer shell (either chemically or mechanically) to potentially aid in attachment.

ALB:

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

Amniocentesis:

This is one form of pre-natal testing. An ultrasound helps to determine what position the baby is in, and as it is watched, a long hollow needle takes some of the fluid and tests it for any abnormalities.

Amniotic Fluid:

This is a liquid that surrounds the baby and protects it while it’s in the uterus. Amniotic fluid is nearly all fetal urine with a small amount of fluid contributed by the lungs. When a woman’s water breaks it is the amniotic fluid that is released, in preparation for the baby’s birth.

Antenatal:

Before the birth.

Antenatal steroids:

Steroids (either betamethasone or dexamethasone) given to help the fetal lungs and other organs mature more rapidly. Antenatal steroids are given when preterm delivery is anticipated between 24 and 34 weeks' gestation with intact membranes, and at 24 to 32 weeks' with ruptured membranes.

Anti-D antibody (Rh sensitization, Rh disease):

A protein made by the immune system that binds to a molecule called the D antigen found on the surface of red blood cells. The D antigen is part of the Rhesus blood group system which consists of several antigens. The antibody hastens removal of the D antigen (and the foreign blood cells) from the body. Anti-D antibody is capable of crossing the placenta and causing SEVERE anemia in the fetus and hemolytic disease of the newborn.

Apgar Score:

An assessment of the physical condition of an infant after birth created by Dr. Virginia Apgar. The score is based on a combination of the heartbeat, respiration, skin color, irritability, and muscle tone. The scores are added up to give a total score between 0 and 10 at one minute after birth. The assessment is repeated at five minutes after birth.

APH:

Antepartum haemorrhage bleeding before birth.

Arrest of descent:

No fetal descent after 1 hour during active labor.

Arrest of dilatation:

No cervical change after 2 hours during active labor.

ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies):

Collection procedures which use technology to achieve fertilization and pregnancy. Common examples include IVF, GIFT, ET, ED, FET and GS, to just name a few.

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Bicornuate Uterus:

An abnormality of the uterus that occurs before birth. A partial or complete vertical division of the body of the uterus. Bicornuate means "two-horned".

Blood Pregnancy Tests:

Blood tests can be taken slightly earlier than urine tests, but they do take a lot longer. Like urine tests, blood tests detect hCG to confirm a pregnancy.

“Bloody show”:

A light reddish or brown colored mucus that is released from the cervical area. This is just a sign of labor preparation.

BR:

Breech presentation. A baby who is lying bottom or feet down in the uterus (the position of most babies until later pregnancy).

Braxton Hicks contractions: False labor, or practice contractions which may happen throughout the pregnancy. They do not dilate the cervix, therefore, they are safe and not dangerous.

Breech:

When the baby is in the position of bottom first, instead of head first for birth.

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CEPH:

cephalic. The position of a baby who is lying head down in the uterus.

Cesarean:

Commonly referred to as “C-section”. A surgical procedure in delivering the baby. Epidural (pain medicine) is given at this time, and an incision is made in the very low part of the woman’s abdomen.

Clomid:

Brand name oral medication used to induce ovulation.

Clomiphene citrate:

Generic name for Clomid and Serophene. Used to induce ovulation.

Contraction: When the uterus tightens so that the cervix thins and dilates, making way for the baby to go through the birth canal.

Conception:

When the egg is available for fertilization and 350 million sperm is released inside or near the woman’s vaginal area, about 200 sperm will reach the egg. Of those 200 sperm, only one will actually penetrate the egg, thus causing conception.

Cramping:

When women become pregnant they soon may feel repeated pains, similar to those during a menstrual cycle. During the second trimester, women can also feel cramping due to the stretching of the abdominal muscles.

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Diaphragm:

Muscle which lies across the top of the stomach, under the lungs (active in pushing baby out).

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Ectopic Pregnancy:

a pregnancy which develops somewhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. The pregnancy must be terminated, as it is dangerous to the mother.

EDD:

Expected Date of Delivery. Also known as Due Date or EDC

Endometrium:

The lining of the uterus, where the embryo gets its nutrients.

Electronic Fetal Monitor:

An instrument used to record the heartbeat of the unborn baby, as well as the mother’s contractions.

ENG:

Engaged. Means that the largest diameter of the baby's head has passed the pelvic 'brim'.

Episiotomy:

A cut made in the perineum (the skin between the vagina and the anus) to enable the baby to be born more quickly.

Estrogen:

Hormone responsible for producing an environment suitable for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition of the early embryo.

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FASDs:

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. One of the most severe effects of drinking during pregnancy is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is one of the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects. If a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be born with FAS, a lifelong condition that causes physical and mental disabilities.

FET:

Frozen embryo transfer. Embryos cryopreserved from a fresh ivf cycle are thawed and then transferred into the uterus.

Fetus:

Medical term for the baby before it is born, ie when still in the uterus.

FH:

Fetal heart. You may see 'FH heard' or 'FHH' on your notes. It means your baby's heartbeat has been heard.

Fibroids:

Tumors of the muscle wall in the uterus. They are non-cancerous, but can potentially cause miscarriages, trouble in the growth of the baby, and trouble in the delivery. Fibroids are also sometimes painful.

FM:

Fetal movement. You may see 'FM felt' or 'FMF' on your notes. It means your baby has been felt to move.

FSH:

Follicle-stimulating hormone, stimulates the growth and maturation of follicles in the ovary.

Fundus:

The top of the uterus. The fundal height is the length between the top of the uterus and the pubic bone. This helps date the pregnancy and assess the growth of the baby.

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Gestation:

How far along the fetus is, determined by the beginning of the mother’s last period. Babies are usually born at 40 weeks, but considered full-term from 37 weeks, and extends to 42 weeks.

GIFT :

Gamete intrafallopian transfer - A laparoscope is used to place the unfertilized eggs and sperm (gametes) into the woman's fallopian tubes through small incisions in her abdomen.

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HB:

Haemoglobin. An indication of iron levels in the blood. If this is too low, this may indicate anaemia.

HCG:

Human Chorionic Gondaotrophin hormone, detected by pregnancy tests after conception.

HPT:

Home Pregnancy Tests detect the pregnancy hormone hCG in pregnant womens urine.

Hypertension:

High blood pressure.

Hypotension:

Low blood pressure.

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ICSI:

A single isolated sperm is drawn up into a specially designed pipette. The pipette is inserted into the egg's center (the cytoplasm) and the sperm is released. This fertilization technique is used in couples with male factor infertility.

IUI:

Intrauterine insemination, sperm is placed within the uterine cavity at the time of ovulation.

IVF:

In vitro fertilization.

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LH:

Luteinizing hormone level rises when the egg is available for fertilization.

LH:

Luteinizing hormone, acts with FSH to cause ovulation of mature follicles.

LIE:

The position of the baby in the uterus. You may see 'Long Lie' or 'LL' which means longitudinal lie (the baby is straight up and down in the uterus).

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Miscarriage:

When circumstances cause the mother’s body to react to a problem in the pregnancy. This may cause bleeding, cramping, and will ultimately cause the loss of the pregnancy.

Monozygotic:

Identical twins occur when a single egg is fertilised to form one zygote (monozygotic) which then divides into two separate embryos.

Multigravida:

A woman who has had at least one pregnancy.

Multipara:

Sometimes called 'multip'. A woman who has given birth at least once before. A 'grand multipara' is a woman who has had at least four babies.

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NAD:

'Nothing abnormal detected', written when the doctor or midwife finds no problems.

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OHSS:

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. OHSS is a medical complication that may occur after gonadotropin use as with IVF.

Occipito Anterior:

The back of the baby's head is towards your front. You may see 'LOA' or 'ROA' on your notes, which mean 'left (or right) occipito anterior'. This describes whether the back of the head is towards the left or the right. LOA is usually the best position for a shorter labour and an easier birth.

Occipito Posterior:

The back of the baby's head is towards your back. 'LOP' and 'ROP' describe the position as left or right.

Oedema:

Fluid retention, which causes swelling in your ankles, fingers and elsewhere.

Ovulation:

Occurs two weeks, or an average of 14 days, before the beginning of a woman’s period. A woman has a rise in her luteinizing hormone (LH) when the egg is available for fertilization. This is the most probable time frame to get pregnant.

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Palpation:

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

Perineum:

The area of skin between the vagina and anus.

PIH:

Pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Placenta:

The tissue that connects the mother to the baby.

Placenta Praevia:

(also known as low lying placenta) is a complication of pregnancy, when the placenta is in the lower area of the uterus and covers part or all of the cervix.

Postnatal:

After the birth.

Presentation:

The position of the baby, with reference to the 'presenting part', that is the body part which will be born first (usually the vertex, or the back of the head).

Preterm:

Counting from the first day of the woman’s last period, preterm is before 40 weeks.

Primigravida:

A woman pregnant for the first time.

Primipara:

Sometimes called 'prim' or a 'primip'. A woman giving birth for the first time.

Progesterone:

Steroid hormone normally produced by the ovary after ovulation and by the placenta during pregnancy.

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Quickening:

The first movements of the baby you can feel.

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Singleton:

A fetus alone in the womb is called a singleton.

Sonogram:

Also referred to as a ultrasound. Uses sound waves to detect and watch the unborn baby. Sonogram can be used to give an accurate answer to the gestation of the baby.

Spotting:

Looks like a brown or reddish tinted discharge. Should not be as heavy as a full period. This is when the endometrium (the uterus lining) has started to pull away from the uterus, anticipating a monthly period before realizing that there is a pregnancy.

Suture:

The spaces between the bones in the baby's head.

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Term:

40 weeks (or thereabouts) from the first day of the last menstrual period.

Tubal Ligation:

a sterilization procedure in which the uterine (Fallopian) tubes are tied and cut.

TTC:

Trying To Conceive.

Trimester:

The word trimester means 'three months'. The amount of time that pregnancy is broken down into, three periods of three months each.

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Ultrasound:

Sometimes referred to as a sonogram. Uses sound waves to detect and watch the unborn baby. Usually an ultrasound can give an accurate answer to the gestation of the baby.

Urine Pregnancy Tests:

A pregnancy test that uses urine to find the hormone called Human Chorionic Gondaotrophin, or HCG. Urine Pregnancy tests are taken two weeks after conception, or anytime after a woman misses a period. Most women can find these test an their local drug store.

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VE:

Vaginal examination.

Ventouse:

Vacuum extraction.

VX:

Vertex. The crown of the baby's head.

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(ZIFT) - Zygote intrafallopian transfer:

The woman's eggs are fertilized in the laboratory and then a laparoscope is used to help transfer the fertilized eggs (zygotes) into her fallopian tubes.

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