Pregnancy Glossary: 122 of the Top Pregnancy Terms Pregnant Parents Need to Know by 30Seconds Pregnancy

Pregnancy Glossary: 122 of the Top Pregnancy Terms Pregnant Parents Need to Know

Labia? Vernix? Apgar? Episiotomy? Lightening (no, not the weather kind)? What?! Don't let all those pregnancy terms confuse you. Here's a comprehensive list of definitions for those pregnancy words your doctor may say during your prenatal visits:

1. Afterbirth: The placenta and other fetal membranes discharged out of the uterus after the birth of an infant.

2. Albumin: A water-soluble protein made by your liver. It helps to keep fluid in your bloodstream and carry substances through your body.

3. Alpha fetoprotein: A protein produced in the liver of the fetus. High levels in a mother's blood may indicate brain or spinal cord defects, multiple fetuses, a miscalculated due date or chromosomal disorders.

4. Amino acid: The building block of protein which is used by the body to build muscle and other tissue.

5. Amniocentesis: A test performed under ultrasound guidance to determine chromosomal and genetic disorders and certain birth defects. The test involves inserting a needle through the abdomen and uterine wall into the amniotic sac to remove a sampling of amniotic fluid for analyzing.

6. Amniotic fluid: The fluid that surrounds a developing fetus. It helps develops the baby’s lungs and provide a safe environment for the baby.

7. Amniotic sac: The fluid-filled sac in which the fetus and amniotic fluid are contained during pregnancy.

8. Anencephaly: A serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull that occurs during embryonic development.

9. Anesthesia: The use of medication to reduce or block pain, cause sleepiness or cause the feeling of being relaxed. General anesthesia involves the entire body; regional or local anesthesia involves only a particular area.

10. Anomaly: Malformation or abnormality of a body part. During an anomaly scan, the sonographer checks to ensure that the fetus is developing normally.

11. Antibiotic: A medicine used to combat infection.

12. Antibody: A protective protein produced by the immune system in response to a foreign substance.

13.  Apgar scoring system: A zero to 10 scoring system to evaluate a baby's physical condition immediately after birth.

14. Apnea: A temporary cessation of breathing.

15. Areola: The pigmented skin around the nipple of the breast.

16. Aspirate: To inhale liquid into the lungs, or to remove liquid from the lungs by suction.

17. Bilirubin: Orange-yellow pigment in the blood, urine and bile that results from the normal breakdown of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. High levels could mean liver cells are not releasing the bilirubin – eventually resulting in jaundice.

18. Blastocyst: A thin-walled structure early in embryonic development that contains a cluster of cells called the inner mass from which the embryo arises. The outer cells give rise to the placenta and other tissues and the inner mass cells gives rise to the tissues of her body.

19. Braxton-Hicks contractions: Painless contractions during pregnancy when the abdominal muscles tighten briefly but the cervix does not dilate.

20. Breech birth: Abnormal delivery presentation in which the feet or buttocks of the baby come into the birth canal first, before the baby's head.

21. Cervix: A narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus. It connects the body of the uterus to the vagina.

22. Cesarean section: Surgical delivery of an infant through an incision in the lower abdomen and uterus.

23. Chloasma: Brown or gray-brown discoloration of the skin also known as melasma. Melasma can be due to hormonal changes or from sun exposure. Patches of chloasma appear most often on the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin and often fades on its own after pregnancy.

24. Chorionic villi sampling: Prenatal testing where a sample of tissue taken from the villi of the chorion (which is the fetal part of the placenta) is sent for testing. The test is usually done between weeks 10 and 13 of pregnancy. Chorionic villus sampling can reveal whether a baby has a chromosomal condition such as Down syndrome or other genetic condition.

25. Chromosomes: A cellular structure that carries genetic information in the form of genes.

26. Circumcision: Surgical removal of the foreskin, the skin that covers the tip of the penis.

27. Colostrum: Pre-milk fluid in the breasts that nourishes the baby until the breast milk becomes available.

28. Congenital: A disease or condition present at birth.

29. Crowning: When the baby’s head begins to show through the vaginal opening.

30. Doppler fetal monitor: A hand ultrasound transducer used to detect the fetal heart.

31. Doula: A woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family in the postpartum period as well. 

32. Down syndrome: A genetic disorder caused when abnormal cell division results in extra genetic material from chromosome 21.

33. Eclampsia: Seizures that may occur during a woman's pregnancy or shortly after giving birth.

34. Ectoderm: The outermost layer of cells of an embryo in early development, or the parts derived from this, which include the epidermis and nerve tissue.

35. Ectopic pregnancy: A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus often in one of the fallopian tubes.

36. Edema: Swelling caused by excess fluid. Edema can affect any part of the body but may be more noticeable in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs.

37. Embryo: The fetus is first called an embryo during the first 12 weeks after conception.

38. Endoderm: In early development, the innermost layer of cells or tissue of an embryo or the parts derived from this, which include the lining of the gut and associated structures.

39. Endometriosis: A disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

40. Epiblast: The outermost layer of an embryo before it differentiates into ectoderm and mesoderm.

41. Epidural: A method of pain relief during labor. Medications are injected just outside the spinal cord, causing decreased sensation to the nerves.

42. Episiotomy: An incision made to widen the opening of the vagina to allow the baby to pass through.

43. Erythroblastosis fetalis: When a woman is pregnant, it’s possible that her baby’s blood type will be incompatible with her own. This can cause erythroblastosis fetalis, where the mother’s white blood cells attack the baby’s red blood cells. This is also known as Hemolytic disease of the newborn.

44. Estrogen: A group of various steroid hormones that are formed from androgens and promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body. They are secreted in the body by the ovaries, adipose tissue, placenta and testes as well. These hormones are also produced artificially for use in oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy progesterone, a steroid hormone that prepares the uterus for pregnancy, promotes the development of mammary glands and also is imported to maintain a pregnancy.

45. Fallopian tubes: Tubes through which the female's eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus.

46. Fetoscopy: A technique that utilizes a small camera or scope to examine and perform procedures on the fetus during pregnancy.

47. Fetus: The name given to the baby in the womb from 12 weeks until birth.

48. First trimester: The first trimester begins on the first day of your last period and lasts until the end of week 12.

49. Fontanels: The space between the bones of the skull in an infant or fetus. This is often referred to as the “soft spot” on the baby’s skull. 

50. Gestational age: The common term used during pregnancy to describe how far along the pregnancy is. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual cycle to the current date.

51. Gynecologist: A physician who specializes in the health of the female reproductive system.

52. Hemorrhage: Heavy bleeding or abnormal flow of blood.

53. Hormone: Special chemical messengers in the body that are created in the endocrine glands and help to send messages to other parts of the body.

54. Hydrocephalus: A buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain.

55. Hypoblast: This is a tissue type that forms from the inner cell mass

56: Implantation: At between six and 12 days of pregnancy, the embryo attaches to the uterus.

57. Induction: When your health-care provider uses medications or other methods to bring on labor in an effort to have a vaginal birth.

58. Jaundice: A condition of yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, arising from excess of the pigment bilirubin.

59. Labia: The inner and outer folds of the vulva.

60. Lactation: The process of milk production.

61. Lanugo: Unpigmented hair that covers the body of some newborns.

62. Leukorrhea: A very normal whitish or yellowish discharge of mucus from the vagina.

63. Lightening: The process of the baby lowering into the pelvis just before labor begins.

64. Linea nigra: A dark line that develops along the abdomen during pregnancy.

65. LMP (last menstrual cycle): It is most common for pregnancies to be accurately dated in weeks starting from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period (LMP). If her ovulation occurs on day 14 of her cycle, conception takes place about two weeks after her LMP.

66. Due date (EDD): The estimated due date (EDD or EDC) is the date that spontaneous onset of labor is most likely to occur. The due date may be estimated by adding 280 days (9 months and 7 days) to the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). This is the method used by "pregnancy wheels."

67. Lochia: The normal discharge of blood, mucus and other fluids after childbirth.

68. Meconium: The black, sticky substance forming the first feces of a newborn.

69. Mesoderm: The middle layer of an embryo in early development, between the endoderm and ectoderm.

70. Midwife: A nurse midwife is a professionally trained health professional who is specifically trained to care for women during pregnancy, childbirth, in the postpartum period and in all aspects of reproductive health.

71. Miscarriage: When a pregnancy ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation.

72. Morning sickness: “Morning sickness” refers to the nauseous feeling you may experience during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is a result of the increased hormones in your body. Morning sickness can be accompanied with vomiting and feeling lightheaded. 

73. Morula: A solid ball of cells resulting from division of a fertilized ovum, and from which a blastula is formed.

74. Mucus: A slippery substance produced by many lining tissues in the body.

75. Myelin: A mixture of proteins and phospholipids forming a whitish insulating sheath around many nerve fibers, increasing the speed at which impulses are conducted.

76. Natural childbirth: Childbirth with minimal medical or technological intervention, usually involving special breathing and relaxation techniques.

77. Neonatal: Relating to a newborn infant.

78. Neural tube defects: Birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord.

79. Obstetrician: A doctor who specializes in health of women during pregnancy and childbirth and in the postpartum period.

80. Ovulation: Release of the egg from the ovaries.

81. Oxytocin: A peptide hormone produced in the brain responsible for signaling contractions during childbirth.

82. Pediatrician: A doctor who specializes in the care of infants, children and adolescents.

83. Pelvic floor: The layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis.

84. Perineum: The area between the anus and genitals.

85. Phenylketonuria (PKU): An inherited disorder that can lead to a brain damage, intellectual disability, behavioral symptoms or seizures.

86. Pitocin: A brand name medication, which is a synthetic form of oxytocin, and is used to cause or strengthen labor contractions during childbirth.

87. Placenta: The organ in the uterus that nourishes the fetus through the umbilical cord.

88. Placental abruption: A serious pregnancy complication in which the placenta detaches from the uterus.

89. Placenta previa: A condition in which the placenta covers the cervix.

90. Polyhydramnios: A medical condition describing an excess of amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac.

91. Postpartum: Following birth.

92. Preeclampsia: A condition that only occurs during pregnancy which may be characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organs, most commonly the liver, kidney or central nervous system.

93. Prenatal: The period of time before birth, during or relating to pregnancy.

94. Presentation: The position of the fetus in relation to the cervix before labor begins.

95: Preterm birth: A birth that occurs between 20 weeks and 37 weeks of pregnancy.

96. Preterm labor: Regular contractions of the uterus that result in changes to the cervix before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

97. Prolapse of the cord: A complication during or before labor in which the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby.

98. Pyelonephritis: An infection of the kidneys due to a bacterial infection.

99. Quickening: The first fetal movements felt by the mother and are often described as flutters. 

100. Relaxin: A hormone secreted by the ovaries and placenta that helps to relax the ligaments in the pelvis and may also cause the cervix to soften and dilate in preparation for labor.

101. Rh factor: A type of protein on the surface of red blood cells.

102. Rubella: A contagious viral infection preventable by vaccine and best known by its distinctive red rash. Also called German measles.

103. Second trimester: The spans from approximately week 13 to week 27 of pregnancy is called the "honeymoon period" for good reason: Typically, nausea subsides, emotions may even out.

104. Sonography: The non-invasive medical procedure that uses the echoes of high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to create an image (sonogram) of internal organs or body structures.

105. Sperm: A sperm is the male sex cell which may combine with the female sex cell (ovum) to fertilize it and form a zygote.

106. Stillbirth: The birth of an infant that has died in the womb after surviving through at least the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.

107. Stretch marks: Streaks or stripes on the skin associated with the rapid stretching of skin and weight changes during pregnancy. 

108. Third trimester: Time period extending from the 28th week of gestation until delivery. 

109. Toxemia of pregnancy: Blood poisoning by toxins from a local bacterial infection. Another term for preeclampsia.

110. Toxoplasmosis: Infection usually occurs by eating under-cooked contaminated meat, exposure from infected cat feces or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy.

111. Transverse presentation: Position in which the baby has his head to one of his mother's sides. This is normal before 26 weeks. By 29 to 30 weeks it is expected for the baby to be head down or at least breech. 

112. Trimester: A period during pregnancy of three months (there are three trimesters during pregnancy).

113. Tubal pregnancy: A fertilized egg begins to develop in the fallopian tube.

114. Umbilical cord: The cord-like structure containing blood vessels and attaching a fetus to the placenta during gestation.

115. Uterus: Female reproductive organ (also called the womb) located between the bladder and rectum that holds the baby until delivery.

116. Vagina: The muscular canal in females that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external orifice of the genital canal.

117. Vernix: A white, sticky, naturally-occurring substance covering the skin of a baby at birth. 

118. Vulva: A woman's external sex organs.

119. Water birth: A birth in which the mother spends the final stages of labor in a birthing pool, with delivery taking place either in or out of the water.

120. Womb: The organ in the lower body of a woman where offspring are conceived and in which they gestate before birth. Also known as the uterus.

121. Yolk sac: A membranous sac attached to the embryo form by cells of the hypoblast.

122. Zygote: A diploid cell resulting from the fusion of two haploid gametes – a fertilized ovum.

Reviewed by our Health Lead Dr. Shayna Mancusoa board-certified OB-GYN who practices in Chicago, Ill.  

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Elisa Schmitz
What a comprehensive list of pregnancy terms. So helpful!
Julie Rose
Wow, this is awesome. 💗
Such a helpful resource!

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