Pregnancy Speak: A Glossary of Terms

by | Feb 21, 2023

Placenta? Folic acid? Induction? Skin-to-skin? If these terms have you silently scratching your head as you wade through the ocean of digital information, you’re not alone. We’ve prepared a short glossary of terms if you need to get up to speed. 

Pregnancy Glossary:

  • Amniocentesis: A tiny sample of amniotic fluid is taken from your uterus. Your Obstetrician will then send this for testing. Amniocentesis is usually done during the second trimester of pregnancy to check for fetal chromosomal abnormalities or genetic disorders.
  • Baby Blues: You may have heard this one a few times. It’s more common than you may realise, believe it or not. Think about it, having a child is a life-altering experience. Baby blues refers to a typical experience of mood swings, tearfulness, and anxiety many women have after giving birth. Typically it goes away a few weeks after delivery. (Please note that if it does not and your thoughts are particularly dangerous or troubling, you can get help from a registered psychologist or counsellor).
  • Cervix: “The lower, narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina.” During pregnancy, the cervix helps to keep the baby inside the uterus.
  • Contractions: Strong, rhythmic muscle contractions during labour help open the cervix and push the baby out of the uterus.
  • Due Date: The estimated delivery date is calculated based on the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. A full-term pregnancy is typically around 40 weeks.
  • Foetus: The developing baby in the uterus.
  • Labour: Giving birth usually involves contractions and cervix opening. This is when “waters break.” You’ll know when you’re in labour and when the baby will appear.
  • Placenta: This significant organ develops during pregnancy and provides the foetus with oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. The placenta also helps to remove waste from the fetus.
  • Trimester: Three months of pregnancy, with the first trimester being from week 1 to week 12, the second trimester being from week 13 to week 28, and the third trimester being from week 29 to the end of pregnancy.


Birth Glossary:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions: False labour pains that may occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. These contractions are usually irregular and do not result in cervical dilation. They can be pretty powerful, but generally, they disappear as quickly as they arrive. It’s almost like a dress rehearsal for the real deal. 
  • Delivery: Giving birth may involve vaginal or cesarean delivery (a C-section).
  • Dilation: The process of the cervix opening during labour.
  • Episiotomy: This one sounds eina but is helpful for many women. It is a surgical cut made in the perineum. This is the area between the vagina and the anus. The cut is made during childbirth to widen the opening of the vagina and prevent tearing (you definitely don’t want to tear). Episiotomies are not routine and are only done in certain situations, such as when the baby’s head is too large to fit through the vaginal opening or if the baby is in distress.
  • Induction: The process of artificially starting labour. Often, this is done when the baby is overdue or if a health risk is involved.  
  • Perineum: The area of skin and muscle between the vagina and anus.
  • Paediatrician: A doctor specialising in children’s medical care, including newborns and infants.
  • Postpartum: The period following childbirth, during which the mother’s body recovers from the physical effects of pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Umbilical Cord: The baby’s lifeline to the placenta carries oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream to the baby and carries waste away from the baby. The umbilical cord is cut shortly after birth.
  • Early labour: The beginning of labour, during which the cervix dilates and thins out. This stage can last for several hours or even days.
  • Active labour: The cervix dilates from 6 to 10 centimetres, and contractions become more frequent and intense.
  • Transitional labour: The final stage of labour, during which the cervix dilates from 8 to 10 centimetres and the baby’s head descends into the pelvis.
  • Cesarean delivery: A surgical procedure. This involves delivering the baby via an incision in the abdomen and uterus. This procedure may be necessary if there are complications during labour or the baby is in a breech position.
  • Vaginal delivery: The delivery of a baby through the vagina.
  • Newborn: A baby who is less than four weeks old.
  • Infant: A baby who is less than one year old.