Glossary of Terms

Your pregnancy and delivery

Amniocentesis. Also called an amnio. Test of the amniotic fluid to detect birth defects or genetic problems.

Anemia. A decrease in the number of red blood cells, usually due to a shortage of iron. The condition causes such symptoms as fatigue, weakness, breathlessness or fainting spells.

Apgar test. Done on babies at birth to check heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflexes and skin color.

Back labor. Intense lower back pain during birth.

Bloody show. Bleeding from your vagina at the beginning of labor.

Braxton-Hicks contractions. Also called “false labor.” Unlike true labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions aren’t painful and don’t get stronger and closer over time.

Breech baby. When the baby’s bottom or feet, rather than the head, face the mother’s cervix as labor nears.

Carpal tunnel syndrome. Numbness, tingling and pain in the hand caused by the compression of a nerve in the wrist. Usually goes away after delivery.

Cervix. The narrow, lower end of the uterus. During labor, the cervix softens, thins and opens to allow the baby to leave the uterus.

Cesarean delivery. Surgical procedure to deliver a baby through a cut in the abdomen and uterus. Also called a C-section.

Contractions. The strong, rhythmic tightening of the uterus during labor.

Crowning. Point during labor when baby’s head has reached the external vaginal opening and can be seen from the outside.

Depression. Feelings that include sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, loss of energy and thoughts of death or suicide.

Doppler. Ultrasound that measures fetal blood flow in the umbilical cord and certain blood vessels.

Edema. Swelling in the ankles and feet caused by fluids in the tissues.

Effacement. Term referring to the thinning of the cervix.

Embryo and fetus. Terms used to describe stages of development before birth.

Engagement. Also called lightening or dropping. When the baby descends into the pelvic cavity in preparation for birth.

Epidural. Anesthesia given at the base of the spine to numb the lower body and reduce pain.

Episiotomy. An incision made between the rectum and vagina to make room for the emergence of the baby’s head.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Legislation requiring up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees (of companies with more than 50 employees) to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

Fetal monitoring. Tracking a fetus’s heartbeat and a woman’s uterine contractions during labor.

Folic acid. A and B vitamins found in prenatal vitamins and green, leafy vegetables that helps prevent serious birth defects.

Fundal height. The distance between the top of a pregnant woman’s uterus (fundus) to her pubic bone. The fundal height is measured to determine fetal age.

Gestational diabetes. A condition that develops during pregnancy when a woman’s blood sugar levels become too high. Usually disappears after pregnancy.

Glucose challenge test. Usually done within weeks 26–28 to detect elevated levels of glucose.

Hemorrhoids. Swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum.

Hepatitis B. A serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver.

High-risk pregnancy. A pregnancy that is likely to have problems.

Induced labor. Labor started by medical intervention.

Jaundice. Yellow eyes and skin caused by buildup of bilirubin in the liver.

Kegel exercises. Simple exercises to increase circulation in the rectal area and strengthen the muscles around the anus, vagina and urethra to resolve urinary or bowel incontinence and hemorrhoids.

Lactation. The production of breast milk beginning between two and seven days after a woman gives birth.

Lanugo. The fine, temporary hair covering a fetus from about 26 weeks.

Listeriosis. An illness caused by bacteria found in certain foods, including unpasteurized milk products, undercooked meats, fish, shellfish, poultry, deli meats and unwashed vegetables.

Low birth weight. Weight at birth of less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Babies with low birth weight are at increased risk for serious health problems as newborns, lasting disabilities and even death.

Miscarriage. The spontaneous and involuntary loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.

Morning sickness. Nausea and vomiting triggered by food and smell aversions. Usually begins at four to eight weeks into the pregnancy and subsides by week 14 or 16.

Newborn screening. Blood and hearing tests babies get before leaving the hospital.

Pap test. A routine medical test to check for abnormalities in the cells of a woman’s cervix.

Pasteurized. A food or drink that’s been heated to kill bad germs. Milk and juice often are pasteurized.

Placenta. A pancake-shaped organ that develops in the uterus and provides nutrients and oxygen for the fetus and eliminates its waste products.

Preeclampsia. A serious condition of pregnancy marked by high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Can be fatal.

Premature baby. A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Prenatal vitamin. A vitamin made specifically for pregnant women to support fetal development.

Preterm labor. Labor that occurs after 20 weeks but before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes caused by smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs and poor prenatal care.

Quickening. Time during the fourth month of pregnancy when the baby begins moving.

Reflux (acid reflux, heartburn). A burning sensation that often extends from the bottom of the breastbone to the lower throat.

Rh incompatibility. A very serious but treatable condition in which a baby’s blood type and Rh factor are incompatible with the mother’s.

Sciatica. A tingling or numbness down the backs of the legs from pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Stages of labor. Labor is divided into three stages. Stage 1 begins at the onset of contractions and ends when the cervix is completely dilated. Stage 2 is the delivery of the baby. Stage 3 is delivery of the placenta.

Toxoplasmosis. A dangerous parasitic infection spread by cats and contaminated food.

Ultrasound. A test that uses sound waves to produce images of your baby.

Uterus. The hollow, pear-shaped, muscular organ in which a baby grows.

Vaginal discharge. An odorless or mild-smelling milky discharge causing itching or burning.

Varicose veins. Swollen veins that bulge near the surface of the skin.

Yeast infection. An odorless, whitish discharge that can cause itching or burning.

When you and your baby come home

After pains. Postpartum cramping triggered by contractions of the uterus.

Baby blues. Mild depression that follows childbirth. Usually the result of hormonal imbalance.

Breast pump. An electric or manual pump used to collect breast milk and relieve engorgement.

Circumcision. Surgical removal of the foreskin, a double-layered sleeve of skin and tissue that covers the head of the penis.

Colic. Continuous crying that continues for more than three hours at least three days a week for three months. Usually occurs in infants between three weeks and three months of age.

Colostrum. The protein-rich, sticky, yellow fluid leaked by the breasts before the production of true milk.

Contraception. Methods to prevent becoming pregnant.

Cradle cap. A condition in which a baby’s scalp has flaky, dry skin that looks like dandruff, or even thick, oily, yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches.

Developmental milestones. Skills that identify particular levels of development.

Developmental screenings. Examinations and screening tests for age-appropriate reflexes and behaviors.

Diaper rash. Irritated and red skin in your baby’s diaper area, often caused by prolonged exposure to wetness.

Diarrhea. Loose, watery stools. Call your baby’s doctor if your infant has not eaten any food in three hours and has had more than three watery stools in 24 hours or more than seven loose stools and/or episodes of vomiting in 24 hours.

Engorgement. Overfull, swollen and tender breasts after childbirth.

Expressing breast milk. Removing breast milk from the breasts.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). A set of physical and mental birth defects resulting from drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Symptoms include brain damage, facial deformities, heart, liver and kidney defects and vision and hearing problems.

Growth curve. The progress of a baby’s physical development.

Immunizations/Vaccinations. A series of vaccines, often by injection, which make a child resistant to certain bacteria or viruses. See pages 140-141 for the well-child checkup and immunizations/vaccination chart. Vaccinations prevent the following diseases:

  • Hepatitis B. A virus that infects the liver.
  • Rotavirus. Most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children. It is one of several viruses that cause infections often called stomach flu, despite having no relation to influenza.
  • Diphtheria. A highly contagious upper respiratory tract illness.
  • Tetanus. An infection characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. This infection generally occurs through wound contamination and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound.
  • Pertussis. A highly contagious bacterial disease also known as “whooping cough.”
  • Haemophilus Influenzae Type B. Lives in the body without causing disease, but causes problems when other factors create an opportunity like viral infections.
  • Pneumococcal. Causes blood infections, pneumonia, and meningitis, mostly in young children. Although pneumococcal meningitis is relatively rare (less than 1 case per 100,000 people each year), it is fatal in about 1 of 10 cases in children.
  • Polio. A contagious viral illness that in its most severe form causes paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
  • Influenza. A viral disease commonly referred to as the “flu.” The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness, fatigue and general discomfort. Typically, influenza is transmitted through the air by coughs or sneezes, creating aerosols containing the virus.
  • Measles. An infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus that is highly contagious; 90% of people sharing living space with an infected person will catch it.
  • Mumps. A contagious viral disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, testicular swelling and rash.
  • Rubella. A common childhood, airborne infection. Symptoms include a rash on the face that spreads all over the body.
  • Varicella. An extremely contagious viral infection, also known as chickenpox, causes extremely itchy blisters all over the body.
  • Hepatitis A. An acute infectious disease of the liver. Symptoms include fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, appetite loss, jaundice, bile and clay-colored feces.
  • Meningococcal. A bacterial infection that can result in death if untreated.

Mastitis. Infection of a milk duct in the breast.

Nasal aspirator. A bulb-type syringe used to clear nasal congestion.

Postpartum depression. More severe than the baby blues; characterized by crying, irritability, sleep problems, restlessness, feelings of hopelessness and the inability to care for the baby. Many women suffering from postpartum depression need professional treatment.

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS). A serious condition caused by trauma to the brain from being shaken. About half the babies who have SBS die.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The sudden, unexplained death of an infant in the first year of life. See “Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” in the “Taking Care of Baby” section of this book.

Thrush. A yeast infection that looks like cottage cheese or milk curds on the sides, roof and sometimes the tongue of a baby’s mouth.

Umbilical cord. The flexible cord of tissue connecting the fetus to the placenta that brings oxygen and nutrients from the expectant mother to the fetus and removes waste products.

Vernix. A greasy, white substance that protects the fetus in utero.

Well-child checkups. Scheduled doctor visits to check for normal, healthy development. This is also when immunizations will be given. See pages 140-141 for the well-child checkup and immunizations/vaccination chart.

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