Pregnancy Terms

The following list includes the definitions of terms related to pregnancy, fetal development, pregnancy complications, and pregnancy testing along with various medical terms related to pregnancy.


Abortion: The termination of a pregnancy through the expulsion of the fetus from the uterus.

Abortion, spontaneous: Miscarriage that has not been induced artificially.

Afterbirth: The placenta and other tissues associated with fetal development that are expelled after the birth of an infant.

Albumin: A protein which if found in the urine of a pregnant woman can be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

Alpha fetoprotein: A substance produced by the fetus. High levels in a mother's blood can indicate a neural tube defect or multiple pregnancy.

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

Amniocentesis: A prenatal test in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is removed for analysis.

Amniotic fluid: The fluid that surrounds a developing fetus.

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

Anencephaly: A severe congenital defect in which the fetus has no brain.

Anesthesia: Medically induced loss of sensation. General anesthesia involves the entire body; local anesthesia involves only a particular area.

Anomaly: Malformation or abnormality of a body part.

Antibiotic: A drug used to combat infection.

Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system to destroy foreign substances.

Apgar scoring system: A method of evaluating a baby's health immediately after birth.

Apnea: A temporary involuntary cessation of breathing.

Areola: The pink or brown area of skin around the nipple of the breast.

Aspirate: To inhale liquid into the lungs, or to remove liquid from the lungs with a suction device.

Bilirubin: Pigment in the blood, urine, and bile that results from the normal breakdown of hemoglobin in the red blood cells.

Breech presentation: Fetal position in which the feet or buttocks of the baby are closest to the mother's cervix when labor begins.

Cervix: The lower portion of the uterus which extends into the vagina.

Cesarean section: Delivery of an infant through an incision in the abdominal and uterine walls.

Chloasma: Discoloration of the skin, often on the face.

Chorionic villi sampling: A prenatal test that scans for genetic abnormalities.

Chromosomes: The cellular structures that contain the genes.

Circumcision: Surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis.

Colostrum: The milk secreted shortly before and for a few days after childbirth.

Congenital: Present at birth.

Crowning: The point in labor when the head of the baby can be seen at the vagina.

Doppler: A machine that uses ultrasound to detect the fetal heart.

Down syndrome: A congenital birth defect that results in mental handicap.

Eclampsia: A serious complication of pregnancy, characterized by high blood pressure and edema. It is the more severe form of pre-eclampsia.

Ectopic pregnancy: Pregnancy in which the embryo begins to grow outside the uterus, often in one of the fallopian tubes.

Edema: Swelling, retention of fluid in body tissues.

Embryo: The name given to the fertilized ovum until eight weeks after conception.

Endometriosis: A medical condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in another area of the body such as the abdomen.

Epidural: A type of local anesthesia used to relieve pain during delivery.

Episiotomy: An incision made in the tissue around the vagina in order to ease the final stage of delivery.

Erythroblastosis fetalis: A form of anemia that develops in the Rh-positive infants of Rh-negative women.

Fallopian tubes: Tubes that extend from the ovaries to the uterus.

Fetoscopy: A technique by which a developing fetus can be examined directly for abnormalities.

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

Fontanels: The soft spots on a baby's skull, present at birth.

Fundus: The upper part of the uterus.

Gestational age: The duration of the pregnancy, measured from the first day of the last menstrual period.

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

Hemorrhage: Heavy bleeding.

Hormone: A substance released by glands to stimulate certain activity in the body.

Hydrocephalus: A congenital birth defect in which excessive fluid gathers in the baby's skull.

Induction: Artificial starting of labor.

Jaundice: Inability of the body to break down excess red blood cells.

Labia: The skin folds at the opening of the vagina.

Lactation: Production of milk by the breasts.

Lanugo: Fine hairs present on the body of a fetus.

Lightening: The time when the baby descends into the pelvic cavity in preparation for birth. Also known as engagement.

Linea nigra: A dark line that appears on the abdomen during pregnancy.

Lochia: The discharge of blood, mucus, and other fluids from the vagina after childbirth.

Meconium: The bowel contents of a baby at birth.

Miscarriage: Spontaneous ending of the pregnancy prior to 24 weeks' gestation.

Mucus: A sticky substance produced by glands.

Neonatal: Pertaining to a newborn infant.

Neural tube defects: Abnormalities in the spinal cord.

Obstetrician: A doctor who specializes in care of women during pregnancy and childbirth.

Ovulation: Release of the egg from the ovary.

Oxytocin: A hormone secreted during labor to stimulate contractions and milk production. It is sometimes administered in synthetic form to begin or speed labor.

Pediatrician: A doctor who specializes in the care of children.

Pelvic floor: The sling of muscles that holds the pelvic organs in place.

Perineum: The region between the anus and genitals.

Phenylketonuria (PKU) : An inherited congenital disorder that can lead to mental retardation.

Pitocin: The synthetic form of oxytocin.

Placenta: The structure through which the fetus receives nourishment and oxygen during gestation.

Placental abruption: Premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall.

Placenta previa: A condition in which the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix, hindering vaginal delivery.

Polyhydramnios: An excessive amount of amniotic fluid.

Postpartum: After birth.

Pre-eclampsia: A disorder of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, edema, and kidney malfunction.

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

Prolapse of the cord: A situation during or before labor in which the umbilical cord passes through the cervix before the fetus.

Pyelonephritis: An infection of the kidneys.

Quickening: The first fetal movements felt by the mother.

Rh factor: A group of antigens in the blood.

Rubella: Also called German measles. If contracted by woman during pregnancy, it can result in birth defects.

Show: The blood-stained mucus from the vagina, indicating that labor is about to begin.

Sonography: The use of ultrasound to form an image of the fetus.

Stillbirth: Delivery of a dead fetus after 28 weeks' gestation.

Striae: Streaks or "stretch marks" seen on the abdomen of a pregnant woman.

Toxemia of pregnancy: A serious disorder of pregnancy in which poisonous compounds are present in the bloodstream.

Toxoplasmosis: A disease caused by a parasite. It is carried by cat feces.

Transverse presentation: Position in which the fetus is lying at right angles to the cervix when labor begins.

Trimester: One-third of a pregnancy.

Tubal pregnancy: The most common form of ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg begins to develop in the fallopian tube.

Umbilical cord: The structure through which the fetus draws blood from the placenta.

Vernix: A white, waxy substance that covers the fetus in the uterus.

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