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2-2. Definitions--Common Obstetric Terms

Abortion -- the termination of pregnancy before the fetus reaches the stage of viability which is usually less than 21 to 22 weeks gestation (or less than 600 gm in weight).

Afterbirth -- placenta, membrane, and umbilical cord which are expelled after the infant is delivered.

After pains -- pain due to contractions of the uterus after the placenta has been expelled, following childbirth.

Amniotic fluid -- approximately one liter of fluid in a sac which surrounds the fetus. This fluid protects and cushions the fetus during its development.

Amniotic sac (bag of waters) -- thin bag which totally encloses the fetus during the development in the uterus.

Amniotomy -- artificial rupture of the amniotic sac membranes; also, a method of inducing contractions.

Analgesic -- medication which lessens the normal perception of pain.

Anesthesia -- medication that causes partial or total loss of sensation with or without loss of consciousness.

Apgar scoring -- rating system for newborn babies, measuring the baby's general condition on a scale from 1 to 10.

Bloody show -- small amount of blood-tinged discharge due to rupture of small capillaries in the cervix.

Breech -- birth with baby's buttocks or feet coming first.

Catherization -- emptying the bladder by insertion of a small pliable tube through the urethra.

C-section (cesarean section) -- delivery of the baby and the placenta through an incision made into the abdominal wall of the uterus.

Cephalic delivery -- in normal circumstances, presentation of the head first.

Cervix -- neck of the uterus; "mouth of the womb" which dilates and effaces during labor (dilates to 10 centimeters to accommodate the head of the baby passing through the cervix during the birth process).

Colostrum -- thin, yellowish fluid preceding breast milk; usually present by the second day after the birth of the baby. Sugar content of this fluid is the same as breast milk. Colostrum contains as much or more protein material and salts as breast milk but less fat. Colostrum carries protective antibodies.

Contractions -- also called labor, the term contractions refers to the muscles of the uterus contracting rhythmically and forcefully just before birth. Terms associated with contractions are as follows:

Intensity -- strength of the muscle contractions.

Duration -- length of time from start to end of the contraction.

Frequency -- time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction.

Braxton Hicks contractions -- also called false labor, this refers to irregular uterine contractions occurring after the 28th week of pregnancy; felt mainly in the abdomen; changes in the woman's activity will usually cause these contractions to go away.

Crowning -- appearance of the baby's head at the vaginal opening.

Dilation (or dilatation) -- opening of the cervix. The cervix opens from 1 to 10 centimeters during the birth process.

Effacement -- shortening and thinning of the cervix. During childbirth, the cervix becomes a part of the body of the uterus. Measurements are from 0 to 100 percent.

Episiotomy -- incision through perineum, enlarging the vaginal outlet.

Engagement -- refers to the entrance of the presenting part into the pelvis.

Fetus -- developing baby; the developing offspring in the uterus from the second month of pregnancy to birth.

Multigravida -- a woman who has been pregnant two or more times.

Perineum -- area between the vaginal opening and the anus.

Placenta -- also called afterbirth, a special organ of pregnancy which nourishes the fetus. It is expelled following the birth of the baby.

Placenta abruptio -- premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall, this separation resulting in bleeding from the separation site.

Placenta previa -- placenta that is implanted in the lower uterine segment, possibly totally or partially covering the opening of the cervix.

Prenatal -- refers to the period of time prior to the birth of the baby.

Presenting part -- also called presentation, this is the part of the baby that will deliver first.

Primigravida -- a woman having her first pregnancy.

Primipara -- a woman who has produced one infant of 500 grams or 20 weeks gestation, regardless of whether the infant delivered dead or alive.

Prolapsed cord -- the umbilical cord appears in the vaginal orifice before the head of the infant.

Puerperium -- the time period following the delivery until about six weeks.

Quickening -- feeling of life within the uterus. This is usually noticed during the 16th to the 19th week of gestation.

ROM -- rupture of membranes.

Station -- the location of the presenting part in relation to the level of the ischial spines (midpelvis). Measures from -5 to +5.

Umbilical cord -- cord connecting the baby and the placenta; cord contains blood vessels, usually 19 blood vessels.

Uterus -- also called womb, a pear-shaped muscular organ which holds and nourishes the developing fetus.

Vagina -- also called birth canal, a muscular tube that connects the uterus to the external genitalia; the passage for normal delivery of the fetus.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015