Labor and Birth Terms Every Woman Should Know

Almost every woman knows what happens or is likely to happen to her body while pregnant, during labor and after childbirth. But how sound is your knowledge of these birth terms that you are sure to hear at least a hundred times in our life time? Here are some terms you should get familiar with:

  • Amniotic Fluid: This protective liquid, consisting mostly of water, fills in the sac surrounding the fetus.
  • APGAR Test or Score: A measurement of the newborn’s response to birth and life outside the womb. The ratings, APGAR, are based on Appearance (color), Pulse (heartbeat), Grimace (reflex), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration (breathing). The scores, which are taken at 1 & 5 minutes following birth, range from a high 10 to a low 1.
  • Breech Presentation: Where the fetus is positioned head up to be born buttocks first or with one or both feet first. This occurs in less than five percent of all births.
  • Cephalopelvic Disproportion: The baby is too large to safely pass through the mother’s pelvis.
  • Cervidil: A medication used to ripen the cervix where induction is needed.
  • Colostrum: Baby’s first food, this is a thin white fluid discharged from the breasts at the beginning of milk production, and usually noticeable during the last couple of week of pregnancy.
  • Complete Breech: The baby’s buttocks are presenting at the cervix, but the legs are folded “Indian style,” making vaginal delivery difficult or almost impossible.
  • Contraction: The regular tightening of the uterus, working to dilate and efface the cervix and to push the baby down the birth canal.
  • Crowned/Crowning: The baby’s head is pushing through the fully dilated cervix and ready to pass into the birth canal.
  • Dilation: The extent at which the cervix has opened in preparation for childbirth. It is measured in centimeters, with full dilation being 10 centimeters.
  • Effacement: This refers to the thinning of the cervix in preparation for birth, and is expressed in percentages. You’ll be 100% effaced when you begin pushing.
  • Engaged: The baby’s presenting part (usually the head) has settled into the pelvic cavity, which usually happens during the last month of pregnancy.
  • Epidural: A common method of administering anesthesia during labor. It is inserted through a catheter threaded through a needle inserted into the dura space near the spinal cord.
  • Episiotomy: An incision made during childbirth to the perineum, the muscle between the vagina and rectum, to widen the vaginal opening for an emergency delivery.
  • Fetal Distress: Condition when the baby is not receiving enough oxygen or is experiencing some other complication.
  • Frank Breech: The baby’s buttocks are presenting at the cervix and the baby’s legs are extended straight up to the baby’s head.
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“Labor and Birth Terms Every Woman Should Know”

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