Medical Terms to Know

Blood Pregnancy Tests: Blood tests can be taken slightly earlier than urine tests, but they do take a lot longer. Like urine tests, blood tests detect HCG to confirm a pregnancy.

Cramping: When women become pregnant they soon may feel repeated pains, similar to those during a menstrual cycle. During the second trimester, women can also feel cramping due to the stretching of the abdominal muscles.

Endometrium: The lining of the uterus, where the embryo gets its nutrients.

Electronic Fetal Monitor: An instrument used to record the heartbeat of the unborn baby, as well as the mother’s contractions.

Fibroids: Tumors of the muscle wall in the uterus. They are non-cancerous, but can potentially cause miscarriages, trouble in the growth of the baby, and trouble in the delivery. Fibroids are also sometimes painful.

Gestation: How far along the fetus is, determined by the beginning of the mother’s last period. Babies are usually born at 40 weeks, but considered full-term from 37 weeks, and extends to 42 weeks.

Miscarriage: When circumstances cause the mother’s body to react to a problem in the pregnancy. This may cause bleeding, cramping, and will ultimately cause the loss of the pregnancy.

Ovulation: Occurs two weeks, or an average of 14 days, after the beginning of a woman’s last period. A woman has a rise in her luteinizing hormone (LH) when the egg is available for fertilization. This is the most probable time frame to get pregnant.

Placenta: The tissue that connects the mother to the baby.

Preterm: Counting from the first day of the woman’s last period, preterm is before 40 weeks.

Trimester: The amount of time that pregnancy is broken down into. There are three trimesters in a pregnancy, each being three months.

Ultrasound: Sometimes referred to as a sonogram. Uses sound waves to detect and watch the unborn baby. Usually an ultrasound can give an accurate answer to the gestation of the baby.

Urine Pregnancy Tests: A pregnancy test that uses urine to find the hormone called Human Chorionic Gondaotrophin, or HCG. Urine Pregnancy tests are taken two weeks after conception, or anytime after a woman misses a period. Most women can find these test an their local drug store.

Conception: When the egg is available for fertilization and 350 million sperm is released inside or near the woman’s vaginal area, about 200 sperm will reach the egg. Of those 200 sperm, only one will actually penetrate the egg, thus causing conception.

Contraction: When the uterus tightens so that the cervix thins and dilates, making way for the baby to go through the birth canal.

Braxton-Hicks contractions: False labor, or practice contractions which may happen throughout the pregnancy. They do not dilate the cervix, therefore, they are safe and not dangerous.

Cesarean: Commonly referred to as “C-section”. A surgical procedure in delivering the baby. Epidural (pain medicine) is given at this time, and an incision is made in the very low part of the woman’s abdomen.

Spotting: Looks like a brown or reddish tinted discharge. Should not be as heavy as a full period. This is when the endometrium (the uterus lining) has started to pull away from the uterus, anticipating a monthly period before realizing that there is a pregnancy.

“Bloody show”: A light reddish or brown colored mucus that is released from the cervical area. This is just a sign of labor preparation.

Amniotic fluid: This is a liquid of mostly water that surrounds the baby and protects it while it’s in the uterus. When a woman’s water breaks it is the amniotic fluid that is released, in preparation for the baby’s birth.

Amniocentesis: This is one form of pre-natal testing. An ultrasound helps to determine what position the baby is in, and as it is watched, a long hollow needle takes some of the fluid and tests it for any abnormalities.

“In breech”: When the baby is in the position of bottom first, instead of head first for birth.

“How to Tell When Labor Begins,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 1999.
“Labor Induction,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2001.
“Cesarean Birth,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 1999.
“Routine Tests in Pregnancy,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2000.
“Pre-Natal Tests,” The Nemours Foundation. 2000.
“Menstruation,” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2000.

Last updated: 11/2006