Pregnancy Dictionary

by | Jun 11, 2020

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Whether you are trying, already expecting or have recently become a parent, you will probably want as much information as you can to help you along your journey. Here is an A to Z list of useful pregnancy and baby-related terms to help you.

Antenatal classes are either one-on-one or group classes that teach expectant parents about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and baby care. These are an important part of preparing for your new baby and help with making informed decisions along the way. Ask your primary caregiver how to find a childbirth educator in your area.

Breastfeeding is well known as the best way for a baby to start its life. Did you know that human breastmilk contains at least 400 nutrients, as well as hormones and disease-fighting compounds? Its nutritional make-up even adjusts to your baby’s needs as they grow. Breastfeeding improves cognitive development and decreases the likelihood of illness in the first year of life. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. If you struggle, find a lactation consultant who can come to your home to help.

Contractions are the periodic tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles and are necessary for baby to be born. While you are pregnant you will experience mild, painless contractions called Braxton Hicks contractions – these are practice contractions for labour. In labour, your contractions will increase in frequency and duration.

Cradle cap is a common skin condition and is a baby’s form of dandruff. Wash your baby’s hair daily with a mild shampoo. If the scales are severe, apply some mineral oil to your baby’s head a couple of hours before washing and then loosen with a soft hairbrush. The cause of cradle cap is not clear, but it will disappear after a few weeks or months.

Colic is a bit of a mystery. The term applies to uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby and is referred to by the rule of threes. A baby with colic will cry inconsolably for at least three hours, three days or more for a week for at least three weeks, and the crying often occurs at the same time of day. Colic is not as common as people think but can be difficult to deal with emotionally, so make sure you have plenty of support. It usually begins around two to three weeks of age and ends around three or four months old.

Doulas are often non-medical women who take care of a pregnant woman’s emotional and pain management needs during birth. Some doulas specialise in birth, while others focus on postnatal care. Today, there are even bereavement doulas available for families that have lost a baby. A doula is your go-to person throughout your journey.

Epidurals are a regional anaesthetic administered into the epidural space in the spine. This form of anaesthetic is used during labour. It numbs the body from the waist down and is an effective form of pain relief.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9. Many antenatal vitamins include the daily recommended amount, but it is advised that a woman start taking it beforehand, in preparation for pregnancy. Folic acid is necessary to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar (glucose) that develops during pregnancy and generally disappears after giving birth. It usually occurs in the second or third trimester.

Hiccups are common for babies and are caused by sudden contractions of the diaphragm. During feeds, always remember to burp your baby. This may prevent hiccups from occurring.

Immunisation is the administering of vaccines. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect against infection or disease. You will be given a clinic card once your baby is born with the ages and specifics regarding each vaccine.

Jaundice is common in infants and is caused by excess bilirubin, a yellow pigment of red blood cells. Premature babies are more likely to get jaundice due to an immature liver failing to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. A blood test will be done to confirm diagnosis and treatment is usually phototherapy. In severe cases a transfusion may be necessary.

Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, making urinary incontinence less likely after pregnancy and childbirth. This can be achieved by contracting the pelvic muscles and holding them for a few seconds at a time.

Let down reflex or milk ejection reflex occurs during breastfeeding, when your baby triggers tiny nerves in the nipple. Hormones are then released and the let down reflex makes the milk available to your baby. The length of the feed and baby’s activity at the breast determines the amount of let down reflexes during a feed.

Midwives are becoming more popular again for antenatal care and birth. If you are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy (without health complications), you will be able to deliver your baby using a midwife and have a back-up gynaecologist in case of emergencies.

Nausea is common in early pregnancy and can sometimes be debilitating. Some women experience vomiting as a result of nausea. It is difficult to live with and although it is often referred to as morning sickness, it may last throughout the day. Make sure that you eat something small before even getting out of bed in the morning and avoid becoming hungry at any time as this will exacerbate the nausea.

Oxytocin is a very important hormone and neurotransmitter that is involved in childbirth and breastfeeding and is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. It is often referred to as the love hormone as it is associated with empathy, trust and relationship building.

Paediatricians are doctors that specialise in the care of babies and children.

Questions are abundant during pregnancy and once your baby is born. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Reflux is a very common condition in infancy and is caused by stomach acid flowing back from the stomach into the oesophagus. Poor eating, vomiting or poor sleeping habits may indicate a diagnosis. Silent reflux is trickier to diagnose because of the absence of vomiting. Try elevating your baby while sleeping or holding baby upright as often as possible. If all else fails, seek medical assistance.

Screen time is a natural part of our daily lives; however, research shows that babies younger than 18-24 months old should not be exposed to screens. This has lasting negative effects on language development, reading skills and short-term memory.

Tongue ties are a condition present at birth that restricts the tongue’s range of movement. This may interfere with breastfeeding, speech and other oral activities.

Umbilical cord care is necessary after your baby is born for the stump to dry and fall off. This requires using surgical spirits or a graze and wound powder at every nappy change and bath time.

VBAC is the term given for a vaginal birth after a caesarean. Depending on the reason for your previous caesarean and your risk factors, it may be possible to have a trial labour and possibly deliver your next baby vaginally.

Wedges of all kinds are available nowadays to create a comfortable, safe place for your baby to sleep. They can be put into any cot, pram etc. The elevated type is particularly useful for babies suffering with reflux.

Xtra support
is a must when you have an infant. There is so much to be done and your focus needs to be on your newborn. That saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is true!

Yoyo hormones
are inevitable during pregnancy and breastfeeding. With the expulsion of the placenta at birth, pregnancy hormones start being replaced with breastfeeding hormones. Make sure you have good support and be gentle with yourself.

Zinc is essential for normal
immune function, especially during pregnancy because it may prevent maternal infections that cause premature birth. It also assists in healing wounds.