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 A-Z de los téerminos del embarazo
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Building Blocks
to Better Babies


A-Z de los términos del embarazo


Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Abruptio placenta:  a complication in pregnancy where there is an abnormal separation of the placenta from the uterus (after 20 weeks gestation and prior to birth). 


Afterpains:  the contractions felt by a breastfeeding mother.


Alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP):  this blood test measures the levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein in the mother’s blood.  Abnormal levels can indicate a brain or spinal cord defect, the presence of twins, a miscalculated due date, or an increased risk of Down syndrome.


Amenorrhea:  when a woman does not have periods either ever (after age 16) or they stop as a result of pregnancy, too much exercise, extreme obesity or not enough body fat, or emotional distress.


Amniocentesis:  if necessary, this test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, or genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and others.  It can also detect the baby’s sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do no not develop properly).


Amniotic fluid:  clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy.


Anemia:  when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs) becomes reduced, causing fatigue that can be severe.


Anesthesia:  drugs or substances that cause loss of feeling or awareness.  Local anesthetics cause loss of feeling in a part of the body.  General anesthetics put the person to sleep.


Antibiotics:  drugs used to fight many infections caused by bacteria.  Some antibiotics are effective against only certain types of bacteria; others can effectively fight a wide range of bacteria.  Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.


Antibody:  a protein produced by white blood cells to fight bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.


APGAR score:  a method used to quickly assess the health of newborn children immediately after childbirth.  The test is generally done at one and five minutes after birth, and may be repeated later if the score is and remains low. Scores below 3 are generally regarded as critically low, 4 to 7 fairly low, and over 7 generally normal.  A low score on the one-minute test may show that the neonate requires medical attention but is not necessarily an indication that there will be long-term problems, particularly if there is an improvement by the stage of the five-minute test.

Areola:  the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.


Bacterial Vaginosis (BV):  the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, which happens when the normal bacteria (germs) in the vagina get out of balance, such as from douching or from sexual contact.  Symptoms include vaginal discharge that can be white, gray, or thin and have an odor; burning or pain when urinating; or itching around the outside of the vagina.  There also may be no symptoms.


Bilirubin:  when the hemoglobin in a person’s blood breaks down, causing a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.  It is a temporary condition in newborn infants.

Birth defect:  a problem that happens while the baby is developing in the mother’s body.  It may affect how the body looks, works or both.  It can be found before birth, at birth, or anytime after birth.  Birth defects can vary from mild to severe.


Bloody show:  a small amount of blood or blood-tinged mucus that passes through the vagina near the end of pregnancy. 


Bradley method:  a method of childbirth that believes that with adequate preparation and education along with help from a loving, supportive coach, most women can give birth naturally - without drugs or surgery. The Bradley Method emphasizes measures that can be taken to stay healthy and low-risk to help avoid complications that may lead to medical intervention.


Breastfeeding:  the feeding of an infant or young child with milk from a woman’s breast.  Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk.


Breech presentation:  refers to the position of the baby in the uterus such that it will be delivered buttocks first as opposed to the normal head first position.


Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Cephalopelvic disproportion:  a complication of childbirth when the head of the baby is too large for the pelvis.


Cervix:  the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb).  The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.


Cesarean (C-section):  procedure where the baby is delivered through an abdominal incision.


Chlamydia:  a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Most people have no symptoms, but Chlamydia can cause serious damage to a woman’s reproductive organs.  Symptoms of Chlamydia include thin vaginal discharge and burning when urinating.  Long-term irritation may cause lower abdominal pain, inflammation of the pelvic organs, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).


Circumcision:  a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin from the penis of a newborn male infant. 


Cleft lip and palate:  congenital abnormalities (present at birth) that affect the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth.  Features range from a small notch in the lip to a complete “groove” extending into the roof of the mouth and nose.  These features may occur separately or together.  A cleft lip and/or palate can cause problems for the affected infant with regard to feeding and learning to speak.


Colostrum:  thick, yellowish fluid secreted from the breast during pregnancy, and the first few days after childbirth before the onset of mature breast milk.  Also called “first milk,” it provides nutrients and protection against infectious diseases.


Contractions:  during the birthing process, a woman’s uterus tightens, or contracts.  Contractions can be strong and regular (meaning that they can happen every 5 minutes, every 3 minutes, and so on) during labor until the baby is delivered.  Women can have contractions before labor starts; these are not regular and do not progress, or increase in intensity or duration.


Cord prolapse: when the umbilical cord presents itself outside of the uterus while the fetus is still inside.  It is considered an obstetric emergency during pregnancy or labor that endangers the life of the baby.


Cystic fibrosis:  one of the most common serious genetic (inherited) diseases.  Cystic fibrosis causes the body to make abnormal secretions leading to mucous build-up.  Cystic fibrosis mucous build-up can impair organs such as the pancreas, the intestine and the lungs.


Diabetes:  a disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal.  Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.


Dilation:  the opening of the cervix during childbirth.


D&C:  abbreviation that stands for Dilation and Curettage.  This refers to the dilation (opening) of the cervix and surgical removal of the contents of the uterus. 


Doula:  a non-medical assistant who provides physical, emotional and informational support in prenatal care, during childbirth and during the postpartum period.


Down syndrome:  Down syndrome is the most frequent genetic cause for mild to moderate mental retardation and related medical problems.  It is caused by a chromosomal abnormality.  For an unknown reason, a change in cell growth results in 47 instead of the usual 46 chromosomes.  The extra chromosome usually causes mental and physical abnormalities.

Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Ectopic Pregnancy:  a pregnancy that is not in the uterus.  It happens when a fertilized egg settles and grows in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus.  Most happen in the fallopian tube, but can happen in the ovary, cervix, or abdominal cavity.


Effacement:  the shortening, or thinning, of the cervix before or during early labor.


Endometriosis:  a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other areas of the body, usually inside the abdominal cavity, but acts as if it were inside the uterus.  Blood shed monthly from the misplaced tissue has no place to go, and tissues surrounding the area of endometriosis may become inflamed or swollen.  This can produce scar tissue.  Symptoms include painful menstrual cramps that can be felt in the abdomen or lower back, or pain during or after sexual activity, irregular bleeding, and infertility.


Endometrium:  The lining of the uterus.


Engorgement:  condition in which breasts become overly full of milk.  Engorged breasts may feel swollen, hard, and painful.  Engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts.


Epidural:  a type of anesthesia offered to women in labor.  A needle is inserted into the epidural space at the end of the spine and medication is given to numb the lower body and reduce pain.


Episiotomy:  a procedure where an incision is made in the perineum (area between the vagina and the anus) to make the vaginal opening larger in order to prevent the area from tearing during delivery.


Estrogen:  a group of female hormones that is responsible for the development of breasts and other secondary sex characteristics in women.  Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and other body tissues.  Estrogen, along with progesterone, is important in preparing a woman’s body for pregnancy.


Fetal alcohol syndrome:  one of the most severe effects of drinking during pregnancy.  Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS) is one of the leading known preventable causes of mental retardation and birth defects.  If a woman drinks alcohol during her pregnancy, her baby can be born with FAS, a lifelong condition that causes physical and mental disabilities.  FAS is characterized by abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies, and central nervous system problems.  FAS is a permanent condition.


Fetal distress:  when the fetus, during the labor process, shows signs of stress (not handling the labor process well). One possible sign of fetal distress is a decreased fetal heart rate.  Another sign may be meconium in the amniotic fluid. 


Fontanelles:  soft spots on a baby's head which, during birth, enable the soft bony plates of the skull to flex, allowing the head to pass through the birth canal. Fontanelles are usually completely hardened by a child's second birthday.


Fraternal twin:  a non-identical twin.  Usually occurs when two fertilized eggs are implanted in the uterine wall at the same time.  Fraternal twins have an extremely small chance of having the exact same chromosome profile. Like any other siblings, fraternal twins may look very similar, particularly given that they are the same age. However, fraternal twins may also look very different from each other. They may be different sexes or the same sex. The same holds true for brothers and sisters from the same parents, meaning that fraternal twins are simply brothers and/or sisters who happen to have the same age.


Fundal height:  a measure of the size of the uterus used to assess fetal growth and development. It is measured from the top of the pubic bone to the top of the uterus in centimeters. It should match the fetus’ gestational age in weeks within 1 to 3 cm, e.g., a pregnant woman's uterus at 22 weeks should measure 19 to 25 cm.


Genital herpes:  An STD caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2).


Gestational age:  the age of an embryo or fetus (or newborn infant) from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP) to the current date.


Gonorrhea:  a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that often has no symptoms.  However, some women have pain or burning when urinating; yellowish and sometimes bloody vaginal discharge; bleeding between menstrual periods; heavy bleeding with periods; or pain when having sex.  Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Hemorrhoids:  veins around the anus or lower rectum that are swollen and inflamed.


Hepatitis B:  a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver.  The virus can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.  You get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person: for instance, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person.  A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.


Hernia:  a protusion of a tissue, structure, or part of an organ through the muscular tissue or the membrane by which it is normally contained.


High blood pressure:  also known as hypertension.  Blood pressure is considered high when it is greater than 140/90.


Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG):  a hormone produced in pregnancy.  Pregnancy tests (urine and blood) measure the levels of this hormone to indicate the presence or absence of an implanted embryo.


HIV:  the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).  HIV infection can produce no symptoms for many years.  When certain symptoms develop, as person has AIDS.  HIV infection is life-long, there is no cure. 


Hyperemesis:  a severe form of morning sickness, with unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids.

Hypertension:  also known as high blood pressure.  Blood pressure readings of greater than 140/90 are considered high (hypertension).


Identical twin:  a single egg is fertilized to form one zygote which then divides into two separate embryos.   Although their traits and physical appearances are not exactly the same due to environmental conditions both in and outside the womb, they do have the same DNA.


Incompetent cervix:  a circumstance where a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to dilate (widen) and efface (thin) before her pregnancy has reached term.


Induced labor:  starting labor in a pregnant woman using artificial means (as opposed to labor occurring naturally/on its own).  One way to induce labor is with the use of a medication such as Pitocin. 


Jaundice:  it is the yellow color seen in the skin of many newborns.  Jaundice happens when a chemical called Bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood.  If not treated, high levels of Bilirubin can cause brain damage.


Kegels:  exercises designed to strengthen and give voluntary control over the pubococcygeus muscles (muscles that help with urinary control and childbirth) .


Labor:  culmination of a pregnancy or gestation period with the delivery of one or more newborn infants from the mother’s uterus.


Lactation consultant:  a professional who is trained to help mothers who want to breastfeed their babies.


Lamaze:  a type of childbirth education.  The goal of Lamaze classes is to increase women’s confidence in their ability to give birth.  Lamaze classes teach women simple coping strategies for labor, including focused breathing.  Lamaze also teaches about other things that may help a woman in labor, such as movement, positioning, labor support, massage, relaxation, water therapy and the use of heat and cold.


Large for gestational age:  a baby whose birth weight lies above the 90th percentile for that gestational age.


Linea nigra:  refers to the dark vertical line that appears on the abdomen during pregnancy..


Local anesthetic / analgesic:  an analgesic is a drug that relieves pain.  Pain-relieving drugs can be given to a woman during labor and delivery through a needle inserted into a muscle or under the skin.  A local anesthetic prevents the recipient from feeling pain in a targeted area.


Lochia:  a postpartum vaginal discharge, containing blood, mucous, and placental tissue.  Lochia discharge typically continues for 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth.

Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Meconium:  the first stool of an infant composed of materials ingested during the time the infant spends in the uterus. 


Menses (menstruation):  the blood flow from the uterus that happens about every 4 weeks in a woman.


Miscarriage:  an unplanned loss of a pregnancy.  Also called a spontaneous abortion.


Mittelschmerz:  lower abdominal and pelvic pain that occurs roughly midway through a woman's menstrual cycle. The pain can appear suddenly and usually subsides within hours.  It is also known as “ovulation pain” or “midcycle pain.”


Multigravida:  a woman who has been pregnant more than one time.


Natural birth:  a childbirth philosophy that attempts to minimize medical intervention, particularly the use of anesthetic medications and surgical interventions such as episiotomies, forceps, and caesarean sections. 


Neonatal:  relating to the first 28 days of an infants life.


Neural tube defect:  a major birth defect caused by abnormal development of the neural tube, or the structure in an embryo which develops into the brain and spinal cord.  Neural tube defects are among the most common birth defects that cause infant death and serious disability.  The most common neural tube defects are anencephaly, spina bifida, and encephalocele. 


Obstetrician:  a medical doctor that specializes in the care of a woman during her pregnancy, childbirth and for a short amount of time after childbirth.


Ovaries:  part of a woman’s reproductive system, the ovaries produce her eggs.  Each month the ovaries release eggs.  If an egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm, a woman becomes pregnant.  If the egg is not fertilized, the egg and the lining of the uterus are shed during a woman’s monthly menstrual period.


Ovulation:  When the ovaries release an egg, about once each month, as part of the menstrual cycle.

Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Placenta:  during pregnancy, a temporary organ joining the mother and fetus.  The placenta transfers oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus, and permits the release of carbon dioxide and waste products from the fetus.  The placenta is expelled during the birth process with the fetal membranes.


Placenta previa:  the implantation of the placenta over or near the top of the cervix.


Preconception:  before a woman gets pregnant.


Pre-eclampsia:  also known as Toxemia, it is a condition that can occur in a woman in the second half of her pregnancy that can cause serious problems for both her and the baby.  It causes high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blood changes and other problems.


Pregnancy test:  a urine or blood test given to a woman to determine whether or not she is pregnant.


Premature rupture of membranes (PROM):  a condition which occurs in pregnancy when the amniotic sac ruptures before the onset of labor.


Preterm labor:  labor that occurs before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.


Primigravida:  a woman who is pregnant for the first time or has been pregnant one time.


Progesterone:  a female hormone produced by the ovaries.  Progesterone, along with estrogen, prepares the uterus (womb) for a possible pregnancy each month and supports the fertilized egg is conception occurs.  Progesterone also helps prepare the breasts for milk production and breastfeeding.


Prolapsed cord:  it is when the umbilical cord presents itself outside of the uterus while the fetus is still inside.  Cord prolapse is an obstetric emergency during pregnancy or labor that endangers the life of the baby.


Quickening:  the initial motion of the fetus in the womb as it is perceived or felt by a pregnant woman.  The first natural sensation of quickening may feel like a light tapping, or the fluttering of a butterfly. These sensations eventually become stronger and more regular as the pregnancy progresses. Sometimes, the first movements are misattributed to gas or hunger pangs.


Small for gestational age (SGA):  a baby whose birth weight lies below the 10th percentile for that gestational age.


Sperm:  Cell found in semen that can get a woman pregnant.


Spina bifida:  a birth defect in which there is a failure of a fetal spine to close the right way when it is developing before birth.  It occurs very early in pregnancy, roughly 3-4 weeks after conception, before most women know that they are pregnant.  Most women who bear a child with Spina bifida have no family history of it.


Spontaneous abortion:  an unplanned loss of a pregnancy.  Also called a miscarriage.


Stillbirth:  when a fetus dies during birth, or when the fetus dies during the late stages of pregnancy when it would have been otherwise expected to survive.


Stretch marks:  red, pink, or purple streaks in the skin. Most often they appear on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and breasts. These scars are caused by the stretching of the skin, and usually appear in the second half of pregnancy.



Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS):  the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation.  Because most cases of SIDS occur when a baby is sleeping in a crib, SIDS is also commonly known as crib death.  Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 1 and 4 months of age.


Syphilis:  a sexually transmitted disease which may or may not have symptoms.  Symptoms in the first stages can include painless sores on the genitals, anus, or mouth and enlarged lymph nodes in the area around the sore.  Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics.  If left untreated, syphilis can cause permanent physical damage and even death.

Terms: A-B C-D E-G H-L M-O P-S T-Y

Threatened miscarriage:  describes any bleeding seen during pregnancy, prior to viability, which has yet to be assessed further.


Toxemia:  also known as pre-eclampsia, it is a condition that can occur in a woman in the second half of her pregnancy that can cause serious problems for both her and the baby.  It causes high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blood changes and other problems.


Toxoplasmosis:  an infection caused by a parasite that can invade tissues and damage the brain, especially in a fetus and in a newborn baby.  Can be contracted by touching the hands to the mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat’s littler box, or anything that came into contact with cat feces; or by eating raw or partly cooked meat, or touching the hands to the mouth after touching raw or undercooked meat.  Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph glands, and muscle aches and pains.


Trichomoniasis:  a very common sexually transmitted disease in both women and men that is passed from one person to another during sexual contact.  It also can be passed through contact with damp, moist objects such as towels or wet clothing.  Symptoms include yellow, green, or gray vaginal discharge (often foamy) with a strong odor; discomfort during sex and when urinating; irritation and itching of the genital area; or lower abdominal pain (rare).


Trimester:  a typical pregnancy is 9 months long.  Pregnancy is divided into three time periods, or trimesters, that are each about three months in duration – the first, second, and third trimesters.


Triple screen:  a blood test that indicates if there’s an increased risk of a birth defect, or a condition like Down syndrome, in the fetus.  This test can also show twins.


Trisomy 18:  a condition in which a baby is conceived with three copies instead of the normal two copies of chromosome #18.  Children with this condition have multiple malformations and mental retardation.  Some of the problems include:  low birth weight, small head, small jaw, malformations of the heart and kidneys, clenched fists with abnormal finger positioning, and malformed feet.  The mental retardation is severe. 


Tubal pregnancy:  a complication of pregnancy in which the fertilized ovum implants itself in the Fallopian tube.


Ultrasound:  a painless, harmless test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures of the body on a screen.  Also called sonography.


Umbilical cord:  connected to the placenta and provides the transfer of nutrients and waste between the woman and the fetus.


Urinary tract infection:  an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, or organs that collect and store urine and release it from your body (the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra).  An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the urethra (opening to the urinary tract) and begin to multiply.


Uterus:  a woman’s womb, or the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman’s lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum. 


Vaccine:  medicine that protects the body from the disease.


Vagina:  the muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body.  Its walls are lined with mucus membranes and tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.


VBAC:  vaginal birth after previous cesarean section.


Vernix:  the waxy or “cheesy” white substance that coats the skin of newborn humans.


Vulva:  opening to the vagina.


Yeast infections:  a common infection in women caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida.  It is normal to have some yeast in your vagina, but sometimes it can overgrow because of hormonal changes in your body, such as pregnancy, or from taking certain medications, such as antibiotics.  Symptoms include itching, burning, and irritation of the vagina; pain when urinating or with intercourse; and cottage cheese-looking vaginal discharge.



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