Pregnancy Glossary

Pregnancy Glossary

Abdomen. —The region of the body between the lower rib margin and the pubic bone; the lower front half of the body. Sometimes called the belly, or, incorrectly, stomach.

Abortion. —The medical term for early miscarriage. Abortion also refers to illegal miscarriage.

Afterbirth. —The placenta and membranes, which pass out of the uterus after the baby is born.

Aftercare. —Medical and nursing care of the mother after birth of the baby. Sometimes called “postnatal” or “postpartum” care.

Albumin. —A normal body substance found in the blood which occasionally gets into the urine if the kidneys are not working right.

Anemia. —A condition of the blood in which there is either not enough hemoglobin or not enough red blood cells.

Anesthetic. —A type of medicine which is used to prevent feeling pain. There are two kinds, general anesthetics and local anesthetics. General anesthetics, such as gas or ether, are used to put a person to sleep; local anesthetics are injected beneath the skin or into the spinal canal to deaden special areas of the body.

Bag of waters. —The bag of membranes, enclosing the baby in the uterus, which is attached to the placenta and is filled with fluid.

Bladder. —The organ in which the urine is collected as it drains down from the kidneys, and from which it passes out of the body.

Blood pressure. —The pressure of the blood in the arteries caused by the pumping of the heart and movement of blood in the blood vessels.

Breech baby. —A baby born feet or buttocks first.

Bunting. —An outer wrap for a small baby which consists of a hood attached to a small blanket.

Catheterization. —Passing a small tube through the urethra into the bladder to draw out the urine.

Cervix. —The lower end of the uterus.

Cesarean birth. —Birth of a baby by an abdominal operation.

Colostrum. —The thin watery fluid which begins to seep from the nipples about the fourth month of pregnancy, and which serves to nourish the baby after birth until the milk begins to form.

Conception. —The union of the male and female sex cells.

Confinement. —The birth of the baby.

Constipation. —Failure of the bowels to pass feces (waste products) out of the body, or difficult passage of hard bowel movements.

Contraction. —The tightening of a muscle.

Convalescence. —The period of recovery after childbirth, an operation, or an illness.

Delivery. —Birth of the baby.

Episiotomy. —A small cut made in the vaginal entrance at the birth of the baby to allow him to be born without tearing the skin of the entrance.

Fallopian tubes. —The two small tubes leading from the uterus to the ovaries.

Fertilization. —The entrance of the male cell into the female cell and its union with the female nucleus.

Fontanelle. —The soft spot on the top of the baby’s head where the skull bones have not yet grown together.

Forceps. —An obstetrical instrument which helps to lift out the baby’s head.

Hemoglobin. —The red coloring matter of the blood which is concerned with carrying oxygen.

Involution. —The return of the uterus to normal size after the birth of the baby.

Kidneys. —The two organs located deep in the body on either side of the backbone near the waistline in which the urine is formed.

Labor. —The period at the birth of the baby which is marked by regular contractions of the uterus, opening of the cervix, and changes in the birth canal so that the baby can pass through.

Lanolin. —A purified animal fat similar to cold cream.

Leucorrhea. —Whitish vaginal discharge.

“Lightening.”—The settling of the baby lower down in the abdomen toward the end of pregnancy.

Lochia. —The discharge of blood and tissue from the uterus after the birth of the baby.

Maternity care. —The care of a mother during the prenatal period, at delivery of the baby, and after his birth.

Menstruation. —The regular monthly flow of blood which occurs in the nonpregnant woman during the childbearing years—approximately from 13 to 45 years of age. Sometimes called the “monthlies” or the “period.”

Minerals. —Certain elements such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, which are present in foods and in body cells.

Miscarriage. —Birth of the baby during the early part of pregnancy, before it has reached an age when it could possibly live outside the mother’s body.

Morning sickness. —The feeling of nausea or discomfort which sometimes comes during the first 3 months of pregnancy. So-called because it is more often noticed in the morning.

Mucous membrane. —The thin membrane lining the mouth, the nose, the inside of the digestive tract, and the vagina.

Mucus. —The colorless sticky material secreted by glands in certain parts of the mucous membrane to keep it moist.

Nausea. —A feeling of discomfort in the stomach which often leads to vomiting.

Obstetrician. —A doctor who specializes in the care of pregnant women and the delivery of babies.

Ovaries. —The two small, internal oval-shaped organs which produce the female cells.

Ovum. —The female sex cell. (Plural—Ova.)

Oxygen. —A gas which is present in the air and which is absorbed by the blood from the air we breathe. It is necessary for the proper functioning of the body cells.

Pelvic examination. —Internal examination of the uterus and ovaries done by the doctor.

Pelvic measurements. —Measurements made by the doctor of the size of the birth canal.

Pelvic organs. —The organs of a woman’s body which are in the hollow of the pelvic bones. These are the uterus, vagina, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.

Pelvis. —The circle of bone forming the support of the trunk, and to which the leg bones are attached.

Placenta. —The organ at the end of the umbilical cord which is attached to the lining of the uterus and through which the baby gets nourishment.

Postpartum examination. —Examination of the pelvic organs to see that they are returning to normal after the birth of the baby.

Pregnancy. —The period of time from conception to birth or miscarriage.

Prenatal care. —Medical care and supervision before the birth of the baby.

Pubic bone. —The front bone of the pelvis.

Rectum. —The lower end of the bowel.

“Show.”—The small amount of mucus and blood which appears during the early part of labor.

Spermatozoon. —The male sex cell. (Plural—Spermatozoa.)

Sphincter muscle. —A circular muscle at the end of the bowel which controls the emptying of the bowel.

Stethoscope. —The instrument through which a doctor can hear heart beats, breath sounds, and other internal noises.

Umbilical cord. —The round cord which is attached to the baby’s abdomen and connected at the other end to the placenta. It contains the blood vessels that carry the baby’s blood to and from the placenta.

Urethra. —The short passage between the bladder and the outside of the body.

Urination. —Passing urine out of the body through the urethra.

Urine. —Water solution of waste products which is filtered through the kidneys and passes out of the body through the bladder and urethra.

Uterus. —The organ of the woman’s reproductive system in which the baby grows. Sometimes called the womb.

Vagina. —The passageway between the outside of the body and the lower end of the uterus. Sometimes called the birth canal.

Vaginal douche. —Irrigation of the vagina with water or a solution of medicine.

Vernix. —The white, creamy covering over the baby’s skin during the last part of pregnancy.

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