Congratulations! If you’re here you or your partner may be recently pregnant, you’re supporting someone who is, or you’re just curious about the ins and outs of pregnancy – pun intended.
No matter what brought you here, welcome. This A-Z guide breaks down common terms you’ll see relating to pregnancy, labor, and birth.
Let’s dive in!
A is for Amniotic Fluid: This fluid surrounds your baby and keeps them safe in the amniotic sac. It also helps to regulate their temperature, gives them something to move in, and helps them to develop their lungs.
B is for Braxton Hicks: Sometimes called practice contractions, Braxton Hicks are contractions of the uterine muscle that become more intense and frequent towards the end of your pregnancy. They don’t, however, cause your cervix to dilate.
C is for Cesarean: A C-section, or belly birth, is a birth that is done by a surgical procedure by making incisions in the abdomen and uterus.
D is for Dilation: During labor, the cervix effaces (becomes softer), and dilates, or opens. This is done naturally through your body’s hormones or is augmented or started with medication and cervical dilators. You are considered “fully dilated” when you are at ten centimeters dilation, which is about the size of your average bagel.
E is for Epidural: An epidural is a pain relief option that can be given during labor, and often before a c-section. This medication is given via a catheter tube that is inserted into the back near the spinal nerves. This allows people to stay awake and alert during labor, but you may not be able to walk or move much temporarily. It’s common to still feel pressure with an epidural, but not usually pain.
F is for Foley Balloon: A foley balloon or bulb is a method used to help induce, or start, labor. A device called a Foley catheter is inserted into the cervix and is filled with air or sterile water. When inflated, the pressure the balloon puts on the cervix helps it to dilate and triggers labor hormones.
G is for Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that shows up in people who did not previously have the disorder before becoming pregnant. Gestational diabetes affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing it to be too high. It is managed by monitoring blood sugar levels, a nutritious diet, exercise, and in some cases through medication.
H is for High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure during pregnancy is sometimes referred to as preeclampsia. Usually happening in late pregnancy, preeclampsia is also marked by swelling of the extremities and the presence of protein in the urine. In rare cases, preeclampsia can turn into eclampsia – a life-threatening condition. The only cure for preeclampsia is to give birth.
I is for Induction: An induction is the process of starting labor through methods outside of the pregnant person naturally doing it on their own. Induction may involve the use of a Foley balloon, a cervical ripening medication, or natural methods like the ingestion of castor oil.
J is for Jaundice: When a baby has jaundice, they have an excess of bilirubin that causes their skin or whites of their eyes to yellow by the third or fourth day after birth. Bilirubin is a yellow compound that is formed by the liver when it breaks down hemoglobin and excretes bile.
K is for Kegels: Kegels are an exercise that helps to maintain the tone of the pelvic floor muscles, decrease bladder leakage, improve blood circulation in the pelvic area, support your pelvic organs and uterus, and decrease the severity of hemorrhoids. Kegels are safe to do in pregnancy, you may want to wait until your second trimester to start. They can also help you prepare for labor.
L is for Lightening: Also known as engagement or dropping, lightening happens about two weeks before you give birth when the baby descends deeper into the pelvis. This may relieve pressure on the diaphragm, which can make breathing and eating easier.
M is for Meconium: Meconium is your baby’s first poop – sort of. This collection of digestive enzymes and residue from swallowed amniotic fluid looks like a sticky, greenish-black substance. In some cases, the baby passes meconium during labor, but before birth, which can put them at risk for inhaling it, which can cause meconium aspiration syndrome.
N is for Non-Stress Test: This is a simple and common test that is performed after twenty-eight weeks of pregnancy to assess the health of the baby. It’s called a non-stress test because it puts no stress on your baby.
O is for Oxytocin: This powerful hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. It helps to stimulate uterine contractions to start and promote labor progress. Oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone”.
P is for Placenta: This organ that develops during pregnancy produces and exchanges waste products, oxygen, and nutrients between you and your baby. You deliver the placenta shortly after giving birth to your baby.
Q is for Quickening: This magical moment is when you first feel your baby’s movements during the second trimester.
R is for Rupture of Membranes: ROM, or breaking the bag of waters is the gentle leakage or gush of amniotic fluid as the amniotic sac breaks in preparation for birth. This may happen before or during labor, right at the birth, some babies are even born in their amniotic sac with the fluids intact, called “en caul”.
S is for Station: You might hear this often during labor. Station is the location of the top of your baby’s head within your pelvis. It measures how far down your baby is, and gives your providers an idea of when you’ll be ready to push.
T is for Transition: This is the final phase of the first stage of labor, as your body gets ready to push. Your cervix is nearing full dilation and your baby is descending into the birth canal. Transition can be incredibly intense, and it’s not uncommon for people to experience nausea and vomiting – which is often a sign the baby is coming soon!
U is for Uterus: The uterus, of course, is not only a reproductive organ, but your baby’s home as it develops.
V is for VBAC: A vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, is when someone is able to deliver their baby vaginally after a prior cesarean section.
W is for Wharton’s Jelly: Wharton’s Jelly is a jelly-like substance that provides protection and insulation to the vessels inside the umbilical cord.
Y is for Yeast Infections: The fluctuations and changes that your body goes through during pregnancy make you much more likely to develop a yeast infection than you would when not pregnant.
Z is for Zygote: When a sperm meets an egg and fertilizes it, it forms what’s known as a zygote.
We hope this guide helped give you more information on navigating pregnancy and labor. You can learn more by clicking through the pregnancy section of Intimina’s blog, where we cover topics like hypnobirthing, surrogacy, birth photographers, and more!
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.