A type of medication that works to either provide a total loss of sensation to a particular area, or leaves a patient completely unconscious, in order to alleviate any pain.
These are mild contractions or cramps that signal your uterus’ return to its non-pregnant size and shape. Some women report that these pains are more painful with each subsequent child. They are caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin during breastfeeding. They typically occur in the days immediately following the birth.
The sac filled with amniotic fluid in which the developing baby grows. Sometimes, the membranes which make up the sac rupture naturally as labour begins. For many women, though, the sac remains intact until the end of the first stage of labour. The membranes may also be broken by a midwife or doctor to speed up labour. This is also often done if an induction is involved.
If the baby is in this position, it means that its spine faces the front of the pelvis..
The APGAR test is used shortly after birth in order to assess a newborn baby’s health. It assesses five basic indicators of health: activity level, pulse, grimace (response to stimulation), appearance and respiration. The baby is given a score of 0, 1 or 2 on each indicator and the scores are added up to give an overall ‘Apgar score’ out of a possible ten. Do not panic if the score is low. Subsequent testing may reveal that there is nothing to worry about.
The baby blues is a mild, and quite common depression – experienced by many women in the days following birth. Symptoms may include weepiness, mood swings, anxiety and/or unhappiness and are caused by the sudden shift in hormones. In some cases, this is a precursor to real post natal depression. If you are suffering postnatal depression, seek further advice/support.
This is more commonly referred to as the vagina and is the passage between the cervix and the outside world through which the baby travels on the way to being born.
A homier alternative to a hospital room – equipped to care for women experiencing a low-risk pregnancy. Birth here is usually attended by midwives or doulas and many centres have doctors on call in case of emergency.
Any defect that is present at birth - caused by abnormal genes or non-genetic prenatal events.
In about 3-4 percent of pregnancies, the baby approaches full-term by presenting in breech position – meaning it is bottom down, rather than head down.
This is when the baby’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvic opening. The reasons behind it vary – either because the baby is disproportionately large, the baby is not in the best position for birth resulting in a larger head diameter than normal, the mother’s pelvis is small, or as a result of other abnormalities of the birth canal. Cephalopelvic disproportion is a common cause of obstructed labour and often results in delivery by caesarean section.
This is the opening of the uterus, from which the baby emerges.
A cesarean section (‘c-section’) is the delivery of a baby via a surgical incision to your abdomen. The most common method is via a transverse (or ‘bikini’) incision, along the top of the pubic hairline. These days, vertical (‘classical’) incisions are less common but may be required in certain circumstances.
This is sometimes known as a ‘planned cesarean’ or ‘scheduled cesarean’, and means that it is a cesarean section delivery which has been scheduled at some point during the pregnancy, before labour has begun. Planned c-sections are sometimes chosen for reasons of multiple gestation, breech positioning, a previous c-section delivery, or other complications.
Before breasts produce breast milk proper, there is colostrum – a fatty, protein-rich liquid, teeming with antibodies that help protect the baby against infection and gets the immune system off to a solid start. Although most women only produce colostrum a few days before and after childbirth; some women produce small amounts of it from late in the second trimester. Although it is not high in volume, it offers your baby all it needs for its first few days of life.
A tightening of the uterus. When you are in labour, the force of the contractions help the baby progress down the birth canal. Read more on coping with contractions.
Premature expulsion of the umbilical cord in labor before the fetus is delivered. Women who experience this should seek urgent medical attention
This is when the baby’s head appears at the vaginal opening, shortly before delivery.
Delivery Room (Delivery Suite)
A room in a hospital or birth centre that is equipped for childbirth.
Dilation, or dilatation, is the name given to the gradual opening of the cervix during labour. If your cervix is around 10cm, it means that you fully dilated and ready to have the baby.
A professional labor assistant - usually a woman - who provides emotional, physical and sometimes spiritual support to the mother during labour and birth. Engaging a doula.
For many women, this is the preferred pain relief option – in which anesthetic is injected into the dural space, which is the outer meningeal layer of the spinal cord. An epidural works to decrease or completely eliminate pain by numbing the lower body - enabling the woman to save her strength for pushing. The downsides are that it can completely numb the lower body – leaving it difficult to feel the contractions when it is time to push the baby out.
A surgical incision made to the perineum during the birthing process to enlarge the vaginal opening.
During labour, your doctor, midwife or birth attendant will check for signs of distress Any warning signs, such as slowed heartbeat or absence of foetal movement is monitored. If your baby’s life is in danger, the baby should be delivered immediately.
FontanelleThese are soft spots on a baby’s head that allow the soft, bony plates of the skull to flex in order for the baby’s head to be delivered safely through the birth canal. By the time your baby has its second birthday, these fontanelles should have hardened completely.
Large tongs which are occasionally used to help assist the delivery of a baby.
If a baby is born anywhere between 38-42 weeks gestation, it is considered full-term.
This is a birth abnormality in which a boy’s urethra, through which urine and semen pass, opens on the underside of the penis rather than at the end. It is almost always correctable with surgery.
A common condition in newborns, jaundice refers to the yellow color of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by excess bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. It is common for a baby to show the beginnings of jaundice around the second or third day and often starts disappearing when the baby is around seven-10 days old. Although a specialised light treatment may help, rest assured it will go away naturally.
The onset of regular, progressive contractions until the birth of a baby.
Usually refers to the mother’s partner, but may also be a doula, midwife or friend, who emotionally, physically and sometimes spiritually supports the mother during labour.
This fine downy hair covers a foetus in utero as early as 15 weeks gestation and usually starts to disappear sometime before birth. It is sometimes till noticeable on some areas of newborns.
Shortly after birth, your midwife will encourage you to feed your new baby. Latching on is the term used when a baby is attached properly to the breast for feeding. Your baby should be feeding from the breast and not just sucking on the end of your nipple. A midwife or lactation consultant can help you to understand the difference if you are not sure.
The vaginal discharge of mucus, blood, and tissue. This may continue for up to six weeks after the birth of your baby.
This dark, sticky substance is released from a newborn’s intestines with its first bowel movement. If meconium is visible in the amniotic fluid prior to delivery, it can be a sign that the foetus is in distress.
Another name for the sac filled with amniotic fluid in which your developing baby grows. In some cases, the membranes which make up the sac rupture naturally as labour begins, but usually – especially in the case of first babies - remain intact until the end of the first stage of labour. The membranes may be broken by a midwife or doctor to speed up labour and this is often done during an induction if your baby is overdue.
A person who has completed training to care for women during their childbearing years and attend to low-risk pregnancies and births.
During labor, molding occurs where the baby’s skull sutures overlap and the head shape changes to negotiate the journey through the mother's pelvis. Babies may be born with ‘cone heads’ – this is temporary.
The name given to the reaction of a newborn who is startled by a sudden loud noise – arched back, extended feet, legs, arms and hands.
Generally refers to childbirth without pain relief (anesthesia or analgesia) but may alternatively be used to describe a vaginal delivery rather than a cesarean birth.
The first four weeks after birth.
A specialist doctor or surgeon who deals only with pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate post/neo-natal period.
A specialist doctor who deals only with babies and children.
The period just before, during and immediately after birth.
Baby blues are one thing experienced by a lot of women – postnatal depression is more serious and may require specialist care and counseling. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any concerns.
When the umbilical cord slips through the cervix or into the vaginal canal. The cord may actually stick out from the vagina, or the mother may just feel that there is something there. The mother should get on her hands and knees to relieve pressure on the cord and seek urgent medical assistance.
The area between the vagina and the anus. The perineum is stretched during a vaginal delivery, and may be cut during the birth of a baby in a procedure known as an episiotomy.
The placenta is often called the ‘tree of life’. The placenta is a vital link between you and the burgeoning fetus, providing your growing baby with nourishment and oxygen, while disposing of waste and protecting against dangerous toxins. These will be processed and excreted by the mother. Shortly after the birth of the baby, the placenta also needs to be delivered.
The part of the fetus that enters the birth canal first. Some presentations include variations of cephalic (head), breech (bottom, legs or feet) or shoulder.
Transition is the phase of labour just before the pushing stage. During transition, contractions become very strong, and often their duration and frequency are less predictable.
This is the lifeline for your baby – connecting the fetus at its abdomen and the placenta, and giving passage to the umbilical blood vessels. The placenta transports oxygen and nutrients from the placenta to the baby. There are normally three vessels in the umbilical cord, two arteries and one vein.
- Pregnancy glossary
- Labour terms
- Writing a birth plan
- First stage labour
- Second stage labour
- Third stage labour
This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for during your pregnancy.
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