Join Us as We Share the 21st Century Pregnancy Terms

The list of pregnancy terms to get through your first pregnancy

By Lucilia Pires
Join Us as We Share the 21st Century Pregnancy Terms

Now that you are pregnant, you are likely to hear words and expression you’ve never heard before. In order to help you navigate the murky waters of pregnancy terms (some slightly more obscure than others), we’ve compiled a list to help you get through your first pregnancy without fearing you’ve contracted a terrible disease. We’ll avoid the really plain ones, like fetus, miscarriage or pregnancy tests, and stick to the ones which are common but more obscure and likely to cause apprehension.

The A-Z common terms of pregnancy and childbirth with definitions

1. Abruptio Placenta:

Partial or complete separation of the placenta from the uterus before delivery. It is somewhat frequent and can be dangerous for the baby. Usual symptoms are contractions and bleeding. If you experience this go to the hospital ASAP.  Women who are older, have high blood pressure, smoke, use cocaine are more at risk.

2. Amniocentesis:

It’s a pre-natal test to detect abnormalities in the fetus. While performing an ultrasound, a long needle is inserted into the amniotic sac to remove some amniotic fluid for testing.

3. Amniotic Sac:

The amniotic sac is the lining that surrounds the fetus in the uterus and contains amniotic fluid. The amniotic sac and the amniotic fluid surround the baby while in uterus and protect it throughout the pregnancy.

4. Braxton Hicks (Contractions):

False labor contractions which may occur during pregnancy. They are perfectly safe, but see your doctor if they are too intense and accompanied by blooding.

5. Breech:

Breech presentation means the baby has not turned around and is lying bottom or feet down in the uterus. This presentation can cause some problems during labor and requires specialist care.

6. Cesarean or C-Section:

This is a surgical procedure to deliver the baby. You are given an epidural (pain medicine administered to the spine that numbs only a specific area) and the doctor makes an incision in the very low part of the women’s abdomen. This is usually required if you have some complication during labor, such as an abruptio placenta. It has a longer and more painful recovery period than normal delivery

7. Dizygotic Twins:

Twins that develop from two eggs fertilized by two different sperm and that implant in the uterus at the same time. These are the most common type of twins, resulting from either the fact that the woman carries a gene that allows for two eggs to ovulate simultaneously, or more currently from fertility treatments that can cause women to ovulate more than normally (hyperovulation), or due to assisted fertility treatments, namely intrauterine fertilization (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) when multiple fertilized eggs are implanted in the uterus.

8. Ectopic Pregnancy:

A pregnancy that develops somewhere other than the uterus, normally in the fallopian tube. This pregnancy is dangerous for the mother and must be terminated asap.


9. Episiotomy:

A cut made in the skin between the vagina and the anus to allow for a quicker delivery.

10. Fetus:

Medical term for the baby still in the uterus, before being born.

11. Gestation:

It is measured from the mother’s last menstrual period and lasts around 40 weeks. Babies born from 37 weeks onwards are considered full-term, and this gestation period can go up to 42 weeks. If gestation period is longer than 42 weeks, go and see your doctor.

12. Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin :

The Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG) hormone is the hormone detected by drugstore bought pregnancy tests in the urine of pregnant women.

13. Intrauterine Pregnancy (IUP):

This medical term means that the fertilized egg is implanted and developing within the uterus, the only viable place for a pregnancy to develop and reach full term.

14. Monozygotic twins:

When a single egg is fertilized to form one zygote (mono-zygotic) that then separates into two embryos, leading to identical twins, or monozygotic twins.

15. Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing :

This test is used to screen the fetus for any genetic or chromosomal abnormality, such as Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13, among others. It is a test of the mother’s blood, that analyses fragments of the fetal DNA (called cell-free DNA) present in the blood of pregnant women. Women need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant in order to ensure test efficiency in determining any genetic disorders in the unborn baby. This is not a generic screening test, and it is only recommended for high risk pregnancies, when women are past the age of 35, have had other tests (blood and ultrasound) that might suggest a genetic disorder, such as aneuploidy (an embryo that develops with too many or too few chromosomes), or a prior history of birthing or miscarrying a child due to a genetic abnormality.

16. Placenta:

Placenta is the organ that develops during pregnancy to provide nutrients and oxygen to the fetus, and to remove any waste byproducts. It is attached to the mother’s uterine lining and connected to the baby via the umbilical cord. The placenta acts as an interface between the mother’s blood and the baby’s circulatory system, receiving the blood from the mother, metabolizing its nutrients and oxygen, and releasing them into fetal circulation. Mother and baby are connected via the placenta, but do not share the same blood supply, and that protects the baby from any maternal infections or diseases.

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17. Premature Baby:

Any baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered premature. Roughly 1 out of 10 babies in the United States is premature, though the majority tends to be born between week 34-36, the late premature stage. These babies usually do not require much medical assistance and are not usually at risk for medical complications, but it all depends on the reason for the premature labor. Moderately premature babies born between 32 and 34 weeks have a higher risk of medical complications, and the same goes for very premature babies, born before 32 weeks.

The most critical cases are extremely premature babies, born at or before 25 weeks, that are at extremely high risk of medical complications, need intensive care, and may not survive at all. Prematurity is an issue because the babies aren’t fully developed by the time they are born as their respiratory, circulatory, digestive and metabolic systems will only be fully functioning at around 35-36 weeks. Unfortunately, premature babies, especially the very and the extremely premature, risk many different short- and long-term health issues, some even life-threatening.

18. Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes:

PPROM is the breaking down of the amniotic sac that surrounds the baby before the completion of the normal 37 weeks of pregnancy, and before labor is initiated. If it occurs after 37 weeks, without labor being initiated, it is called premature rupture of membranes. In any case, the doctor will likely induce labor and deliver the baby immediately if the pregnancy is between 34 and 37 weeks. This condition accounts for 30%-40% of all preterm deliveries, as the baby cannot survive long in the womb without the amniotic fluid.


19. Progesterone:

A female hormone that regulates menstrual cycle, prepares uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg, and maintains a healthy pregnancy. It is produced by the ovaries after ovulation and by the placenta during pregnancy.

20. Prolactin:

Hormone produced by the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain. This hormone is usually produced during pregnancy and after delivery and helps breast development and milk production.

21. Quickening:

The first movements of the fetus you can feel, occurring usually at around 15-17 weeks. You feel sort of a flutter, or a tickle, not a clear kick as you do in later stages of the pregnancy.

22. Rupture of the Membranes:

Usually occurring at 37+ weeks during labor, the amniotic sac bursts and you feel water gushing out. It is commonly referred to as water breaking.

23. Sonogram or Ultrasound:

This non-invasive test uses sound waves to detect the fetus. It is a 2-D black and white visual image of the unborn baby. Using this non-invasive method, the doctor can determine how far along you are and if the baby’s development is occurring within normal parameters. Modern technologies also allow for 3D and 4D ultrasounds, that are usually more expensive.


24. Trisomy:

This is a condition where there are 3 copies of a chromosome in a cell rather than the usual pair. The chromosome is the unit of genetic information within a cell. Humans usually have 23 pairs, for a total of 46 of chromosomes. With trisomy, one of the pairs will have an additional chromosome, for a total of 47 chromosomes. This is a type of aneuploidy, where you have an abnormal number of chromosomes. Trisomy can occur with any of the pairs of chromosomes, and can cause miscarriage or congenital anomalies, such as physical or intellectual abnormalities. One of the risk factors for this condition is advanced maternal age.

25. Umbilical Cord:

The umbilical cord is the connection between the fetus and the placenta. The umbilical cord enters the fetus through the abdomen, but it is not connected to the mother’s circulatory system, but rather to the placenta, an organ that only develops when there’s a pregnancy. It generally contains two arteries and a vein, that takes the freshly oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the placenta to the fetus, while the arteries remove the poor, deoxygenated blood from the fetus into the placenta.


26. Uterus:

The uterus is a female sex organ responsible for housing and nourishing a developing fetus. It is composed of 3 distinct layers: 1) the perimetrium: the outer layer thin shield of tissue; 2) the myometrium , the middle layer which is thicker and muscular; and 3) the endometrium, the inner lining where the egg is implanted.

Every menstrual cycle, the endometrium develops a thick lining of blood and tissue, readying itself to receive a fertilized egg. If no pregnancy occurs, this inner lining is expelled during menstruations, and the uterus prepares for a new cycle of regrowth.

27. Vacuum Extraction or Ventouse:

Vacuum extraction, also known as “ventouse” is a birth assistance method by means of a vacuum device. It can be used in the second stage of labor, when progress is not optimum. It can be an alternative to forceps delivery, or caesarian section, when the mother is too exhausted to continue pushing and the baby is not coming out, a suction cup is placed on the baby’s head to allow for traction to assist in the baby’s delivery.

28. Zygote:

The zygote is the single-cell result of an egg fertilized by a sperm. It is the first cell of the human body. The zygote has a mix of the male 23 chromosomes and the female 23 chromosomes, making it a unique cell with 46 chromosomes, responsible for the DNA of any individual. With natural conception, this zygote develops in the fallopian tubes, where it completes the first cell division around 24 to 30 hours after fertilization. 4 days after, the zygote becomes a blastocyst, and initiates its journey to the uterus.

Pregnancy is a world of its own, full of mystery and amazement, so if you have any doubts or questions talk to your doctor, doula or midwife, as they are sure to put your mind at rest and prepare you to your big day.


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