Technical terms used during pregnancy

Technical terms used during pregnancy

Pregnant for the first time? Here is a valuable guide to understanding the technical terms used during pregnancy and leading up to the birth.

Accelerated ‘augmented’ labour

A way of speeding up the labour by administering hormones through a drip.


The placenta and membranes, which are delivered shortly after the baby.


A protein produced by all developing babies and present in the mother’s blood. High or low levels of this protein may indicate fetal abnormalities.


The removal of a small sample of amniotic fluid from the womb, which can then be tested for abnormalities such as chromosomal disorders like Down’s syndrome or spina bifida.

Amniotic fluid

The fluid surrounding the fetus in the womb.

Apgar score

A score between 0 and 10 to show the baby’s condition at birth. Points are given for breathing, heart rate, skin colour, movements and reflexes.

ARM (Artificial Rupture of the Membranes)

The intentional breaking of the waters, done if it does not happen naturally during labour.


An antioxidant found in breast milk, is a substance which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Orange in colour, it is found in fruits such as apricots and persimmons, in carrots and pumpkin, and in many green vegetables. It gives a yellowish colour to milk.

Vitamin A is fat-soluble vitamin found in cream, butter, cheese and regular milk, but not in low-fat milk.

Human milk and infant formulas contain both beta-carotene and vitamin A.

Braxton Hicks contractions

‘Practice’ contractions of the womb, which begin from 16 weeks of pregnancy. Some of these may be completely painless and not noticed by the mother.

Breaking of the waters

The bag of fluid that surrounds the baby breaks before or during labour. It may be felt as a flood, or as a trickle of fluid.

Breech delivery

The baby is born bottom first, rather than head first.

Breech presentation

The baby’s bottom is lowest in the womb.

Caesarean section

The baby is delivered surgically, through the wall of the abdomen.


A vitamin-like nutrient made in the body. It plays an important role in fat metabolism. Breast milk and formula provide carnitine. Meats are a food source.

Cephalic presentation

The baby’s head is lowest in the womb.


The neck of the womb.


A natural amine closely related to the vitamin B complex. It can be made in the human body though not always in optimum amounts. Breast milk and formulas contain choline. Rich food sources include egg yolk, liver, meats, milk, legumes and whole grain cereals.

Chorionic villus sampling

A few cells are taken from the edge of the placenta and tested for signs of certain inherited disorders.


The muscles of the womb contract, opening up the cervix to allow the baby to pass through at birth.

Dilated cervix – fully dilated

The neck of the womb is gradually opened. Once the cervix is fully dilated the baby can pass through.


The baby’s head has moved down into the pelvis, ready for birth.


A local anaesthetic given as an injection into the epidural space near the spinal cord, giving complete pain relief in labour.


A small cut is made in the perineum to widen the vaginal opening and prevent a tear.

Fetal distress

A term used when there is some indication that the baby may not be receiving enough oxygen during labour.

Fetus (foetus)

An unborn baby, from the end of week 12 until birth.


The soft spots on the top of the baby’s head, where the bones of the skull have not yet joined together.

Forceps delivery

During birth, the baby is helped out using forceps, to assist in the delivery.


The upper part of the uterus.


The period of development of the unborn baby, from conception to birth.


High blood pressure (hypotension is low blood pressure).


Bringing on labour artificially, by inserting pessaries or a gel around the cervix or giving hormones through a drip, or also by Artificial Rupture of Membranes.

Kick chart

A record kept by the mother of the movements of her unborn baby.


The time immediately before and during childbirth.


Lactose (milk sugar) is the sugar naturally occurring in milks. Plants do not contain lactose. Breast milk is rich in lactose, cow’s and goat’s milk contain less. It is less sweet than cane sugar or fruit sugar. Milk sugar is not just a source of energy. Lactose aids absorption of calcium and its breakdown helps increase beneficial bacteria in the intestines, preventing growth of harmful ones like E.coli. Breast milk, cow and goat milk formulas have similar lactose levels. There is none in soy-based milks. Special lactose-free formulas are available for babies who have lactose intolerance.


The branch of medicine that deals with pregnancy, labour and childbirth (70% of all births are delivered by midwives).


Swelling, commonly of the fingers or ankles during pregnancy, caused by fluid retention.

Pelvic floor

A hammock of muscles, which supports the bowel, bladder and womb.


An analgesic (remedy given to relieve pain), given by injection during labour.


The area between the vagina and the rectum (back passage).


The organ that joins the mother to her unborn baby in the womb. Acts as a barrier, passing essential nutrients from mother to fetus and filtering waste products back to the mother.


A condition of pregnancy in which both hypertension (raised blood pressure) and proteinuria (protein in the urine) are present.

Premature labour

Labour that begins before the 37th completed week of pregnancy (normal pregnancies last 40-42 weeks).


The first recognisable movements of the fetus, usually occurring around weeks 16 to 20.

Rhesus factor

Blood is either rhesus positive or negative. When a mother is rhesus negative mother and baby will have their blood checked following delivery.


German measles. A viral infection, which in pregnant women can cause serious defects in the baby.

Rupture of membranes

Breaking of the waters.


The plug of thick, sometimes blood-stained mucus that blocks the neck of the womb during pregnancy passes out of the vagina before or during the early stages of labour.


An amino acid with many functions in the body, particularly for infants. The body makes its own taurine, but newborn infants have limited ability to do so. Human milk is high in taurine so it is added to infant formulas to copy this. It is found in meats but not plants.


An infection which, during pregnancy can cause serious defects to the unborn child. It is contracted from cat faeces.


Any period of three months during pregnancy.

Ultrasound (ultrasonic) scan

A test normally carried out at around 18-20 weeks, in which a moving image of the baby is shown on a screen. The growth and development of the baby can be checked and an estimate made of the baby’s age.

Umbilical cord

A cord of three blood vessels that link the fetus to the placenta. All nutrients to and waste products from the fetus pass through the umbilical cord.

About Eleanor Harris

Hi, there. It's my blog about nutritional solutions. I post the most helpful content in this topic ❤️ I got master degree 4 years ago at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Now i work for Danone as Nutrition Executive

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