Glossary of Terms Tips

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How is the due date calculated?

Due Date

Technically speaking, the due date is calculated by subtracting 3 months from the 1st day of your last period and then adding 7 days.

What is the areola?


The pink or brown circular area of skin surrounding the nipple of the breast.

What is meant by the baby´s presentation?


The position of the head of the fetus in relation to the cervix.

What is the mucous plug?

Mucous Plug

An accumulation of mucus in the cervical canal that serves to seal off the uterus during pregnancy.

What is a linea nigra?

Linea Nigra

A dark line that develops on the skin in the middle of the abdomen of some pregnant women.

What is dilation?


The enlarging of the cervical opening during labor, measured in centimeters.

What is anemia?


A condition in which the number or volume of red blood cells in the blood is abnormally low. Red blood cells are the oxygen-carrying component of blood.

What is amniotic fluid?

Amniotic fluid

The liquid tht fills the amniotic sac and surrounds and protects the developing baby. This fluid contains cells shed by the baby.

What is spina bifida?

Spina Bifida

Failure of the spinal column to close completely in the fetus.

What is the pelvis?


The bony structure in the mother through which the baby passes during delivery.

What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

A condition that can develop in the unborn baby of a mother who drinks alcohol during pregnancy. It is associated with physical abnormalities and mental retardation of the baby.

What is a transverse presentation?

Transverse Presentation

A fetal position in which the fetus is lying perpendicular to the mother's body (i.e. sideways). Usually the shoulder of the fetus is closest to the cervix.

What is toxemia?


A serious disorder of pregnancy (encompassing preeclampsia and eclampsia) characterized by high blood pressure, edema, and kidney malfunction in the pregnant woman.

What is Rh incompatibility?

Rh Incompatibility

A condition in which an Rh-negative mother who has developed antibodies to the Rh factor (often from previously giving birth to an Rh-positive baby) becomes pregnant with an Rh-positive baby. This condition can lead to a form of anemia in the baby.

What is cephalic?


The baby is head down. Also referred to as vertex.

What is engagement?


The presenting part of the baby has settled into the pelvis, called zero station.

What is vernix caseosa?

Vernix caseosa

A protective, cream cheeselike substance that covers thae skin of the fetus and may be present at birth, especially in the skin folds, or in a premature baby. It does not need to be cleaned off, but should be rubbed into the baby's skin to protect it from the dryness of it's new environment.

What is Alpha-fetoprotein?


A substance formed in the fetus and excreted in the amniotic fluid. High levels may indicate a neural tube defect in the baby, a multiple pregnancy, or a miscalculated due date.

What is caudal anesthesia?

Caudal Anesthesia

A form of regional anesthesia used for vaginal deliveries. It is achieved by injecting an anesthetic into an area of the lower spinal column.

What is Placenta Previa?

Placenta Previa

A condition in which the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix, often causing vaginal bleeding.

What is an episiotomy?


An incision made in the tissues around the vagina druing the second stage of labor.

What is edema?


Swelling, excessive accumulation of fluid.

What is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti

Separation of the muscles in the middle of the abdomen.

What is the afterbirth?


The placenta and other tissues associated with fetal development, that are expelled after the delivery of the baby.

What is the placenta?


The structure that develops within the uterus during pregnancy through which the baby receives nourishment and oxygen and eliminates waste products. It also produces hormones that regulate changes in the mother's body during pregnancy and childbirth.

What are Braxton Hicks contractions?

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Uterine contractions, felt as a tightening in the abdominal area, that occur before labor.

What is rubella?


A highly contagious viral infection, characterized by fever, a widespread pink rash, and enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck. Although generally a minor disease, it can cause serious side effects in the fetus if contractd by a woman during pregnancy.

What is the Rh factor?

Rh Factor

A group of substances in the blood that stimulate the production of antibodies. Persons who have the Rh factor are termed Rh positive; those who lack it are called Rh negative.

What is the fontanel?


A soft, membrane-covered space on a baby's head where skull bone has not yet grown; allows for easier passage of the baby's head through the vaginal canal during delivery by allowing the skull plates to mold.

What is eclampsia?


A potentially fatal complication in which the pregnant woman develops high blood pressure, seizures and edema and has protein in her urine.

What is lanugo?


The fine hair on the body of the fetus; it is sometimes present on the forehead, shoulders and back of a newborn infant, especially one that was born prematurely.

What is meant by the baby´s "lie?"


The position of your baby in your uterus.

What is pre-eclampsia?


A disorder of pregnancy, characterized by elevated blood pressure, edema, and kidney malfunction, that may precede the development of eclampsia.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch Marks

Streaks that develop on the abdomen, breasts, hips and thighs of a pregnant woman due to stretching of the skin.

What are sutures?


Long, thin spaces between the bones of the developing baby's skull that allow the bones to slide over one another during delivery.

What is a ripe cervix?


The cervix has begun to soften, indicating that you are near labor.

What is oxytocin?


A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland during labor to stimulate uterine contractions. It is also released during breastfeeding to stimulate milk secretion.

What is a hormone?


A chemical secreted in one part of the body and transported to another, where it regulates certain vital functions.

What is the cervix?


The lower portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina.

What is meant by the baby´s presenting part?

Presenting part

The part of the baby resting over the cervix.

What are fallopian tubes?

Fallopian Tubes

Two tubes, one extending on each side of the uterus, through which an egg passes after it is released from the ovary.

What is effacement?


Softening, thinning and shortening of the cervix that takes place preceding and in the early stages of labor.

What is the fundus?


The top portion of the uterus.

What is an embryo?


The developing baby from the time the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall until eight weeks after conception.

What is anesthesia?


The loss of sensation that is medically induced to permit a painless surgical procedure. General anesthesia involves the entire body and produces loss of consciousness; regional and local anesthesia involve loss of sensation only in specific parts of the body.

What are identical twins?

Identical Twins

Two babies resulting from the fertilization of one egg; they are alike in all physical traits.

What is the umbilical cord?

Umbilical Cord

The structure through which fetal blood flows to and from the placenta to obtain oxygen and nutrients and eliminate the fetal waste.

What is the vagina?


The muscular canal extending from the vulva to the uterus.

What is meant by the baby´s position?


The way the fetus is facing in relation to the mother's back.

What is a miscarriage?


Spontaneous expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it is capable of living outside the uterus.

What is a fetus?


The developing baby from the eighth week after conception until birth.

What are forceps?


Long tong-like instrument sometimes used to assist delivery of the baby's head.

What does posterior mean?


The back of the baby's head faces toward the mother's tailbone, usually causing more back pain during labor and/or delivery.

What is progesterone?


A hormone produced by the ovaries and placenta.

What is chloasma?


A patchy, brownish discoloration of the skin of the mother's face during pregnancy.

What is amniocentesis?


A prenatal diagnostic technique in which a needle is inserted through the mother's abdominal wall and into the uterus in order to remove a sample of amniotic fluid. The fluid is then analyzed to determine if certain abnormalities are present in the fetus.

What is the vulva?


The external female genital organs surrounding the openings of the vagina and urethra.

What is a cephalic presentation?

Cephalic presentation

The baby's head is nearest the cervix (head down.)

What is transition?


The period in the first stage of labor during which the cervix dilates from approximately seven to ten centimeters.

What is parity?


The number of births a woman has had, noted on her chart along with "gravida"; G2 P1 means a currently pregnant woman has had one previous pregnancy resulting in a birth.

What is toxoplasmosis?


A disease that is transmitted either through contact with the feces of infected animals (especially cats) or through the consumption of undercooked, infected meat. Infection of a pregnant woman can cause fetal death or birth defects, especially mental retardation and blindness.

What is meant by a premature baby?


Refers to birth that occurs before the thirty-seventh week of pregnancy.

What is an analgesic?


A drug that inhibits the perception of pain.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose Veins

Swollen, distended veins, usually in the legs, but may also occur during pregnancy in the vaginal area.

What is lightening?


The descent of the baby into the pelvis; may occur before or during labor. Also called the baby "dropping."

What is labor?


Progressive contractions of the uterus that lead to effacement and dilation of the uterus and the descent of the baby through the pelvic and vaginal canals.

What is hCG?

hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)

A hormone produced by the placenta that stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. It is this hormone tested for in the urine when taking a home pregnancy test.

What are fraternal twins?

Fraternal twins

Two babies resulting from the fertilization of two separate eggs, carried at the same time. The may or may not be of the same sex and generally have no more in common physically than do siblings resulting from separate pregnancies.

What is a fetal monitor?

Fetal monitor

An electronic device using ultrasound technology to record the baby's heart rate and the mother's uterine contractions during labor. May be internal (inserted into the baby's scalp) or external (via belts worn over the mother's abdomen.)

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic Pregnancy

A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants outide the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. It is incompatible with continued development and life of the fetus, and can be life-threatening to the mother if not treated.

What is bloody show?

Bloody Show

Blood-tinged mucus that is released from the cervix before or during labor.

What does "gravida" stand for on my chart?


The total number of pregnancies a woman has had. Gravida 1 (or G1) on your chart means this is your first pregnancy. Noted on chart with "parity."

What is a breech presentation?

Breech presentation

The baby's feet or buttocks, rather than the baby's head, are nearest the cervix.

What is quickening?


The first fetal movements felt by the mother, usually occurring between the sixteenth and twentieth weeks after the last menstrual period.

What is descent?


Baby dropping down into the pelvis.

What is a trimester?


One of the three traditional divisions of pregnancy, each lasting approximately three months.

What is the uterus?


The hollow, muscular organ of the female in which the fertilized egg implants and develops; womb.

What is stillbirth?


Delivery of a dead baby after the twenty-eighth week after conception.

What is RhO (D) Immune Globulin?

RhO (D) Immune Globulin

A substance injected into an Rh-negative woman shortly after she delivers an Rh-positive baby that destroys any Rh-positive blood cells that may have entered her body, thus preventing the development of antibodies against Rh-postive blood.

What is a doppler?


An instrument used to listen to fetal heartbeat; operates by ultrasound.

What is colostrum?


The yellow liquid secreted by the breasts during pregnancy and for a few days after childbirth, until milk production begins. It is sticky and rich in protein.

What is a cesarean section?

Cesarean Section

Delivery of the baby through a cut made in the abdominal and uterine walls of the mother.

What are spider nevi?

Spider nevi/Spider veins

Minute broken blood vessels that appear under the skin.

What is the birth canal?

Birth canal


What is estrogen?


A hormone produced by the ovaries and the placenta during pregnancy.

What does station mean?


How far down the baby's presenting part is in the pelvis. Station zero is the middle of the pelvis. A negative number indicates that the baby is still higher, while a positive number means the baby's head has made its way through the pelvic inlet.

What is syphilis?


An infectious venereal disease that may be transmitted through sexual contact or from mother to baby.

What does anterior mean?


The bakc of baby's head faces forward toward the mother's pubic bone.

What is an epidural?


A form of regional anesthesia used in both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. It is administerd by injection of an anesthetic into a space outside the covering of the spinal cord.

What is a spinal?

Spinal Anesthesia

A form of regional anesthesia used in vaginal and cesarean births; administered by injecting an anesthetic into the fluid-filled canal surrounding the spinal cord.

What is meant by floating?


The baby's presenting part is above the pelvic inlet.

What is a placental abruption?

Placental Abruption

Premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall.

What is surfactant?


A substance produced by the fetal lungs that prevents them from collapsing at birth; sometimes lacking in sufficient quantity in premature babies.

What is ultrasound?


The use of high-frequency sound waves to locate and produce an image of the fetus and placenta.

What is ovulation?


The release of an egg from the ovary.

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