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Pregnancy & Obstetric Terminology

‘Parity’? This isn’t feeling like much of a party to me!

Finding out you are expecting is super exciting but this also might be your first time stepping into the realm of a hospital care and with prolonged periods of time alongside healthcare professionals you’ll likely be hearing dozens of long-sounding words used to describe your pregnancy.

We’ve broken down some of the words you may see or hear on your journey through the maternity care system:

  • Gravida (G) – The number of pregnancies you have had in total including miscarriages and terminations. If you have previous pregnancies that you would like to remain confidential you can ask your healthcare provider to not document these in your handheld notes.
  • Parity (P) – The number of babies you have given birth too.
  • Uterus – the strong muscle that your baby grows inside also known as your womb. Your uterus is an incredible muscle that grows as your baby grows. It starts off behind your public bone and by 36 weeks will be just under your bust line.
  • Gestation – the number of weeks pregnant you are.
  • Full Term – 37 weeks gestation to 40 weeks gestation.
  • Post Dates – after 40 weeks gestation.
  • Premature – Prior to 37 weeks gestation.
  • MSUMid Stream Urine; the urine sample you give to the midwife at each appointment. It is recommended that you let the first few seconds of urine flow into the toilet and catch the rest in the sample pot. This helps to clear the normal and expected bacteria at the start of the urine flow from the urethra. Hence the term ‘mid’ stream urine. The midwife will be checking for protein, sugar and infection in your sample.
  • BPBlood Pressure; the measurement of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as two figures. A normal range of blood pressure is 90/60mmHg – 120/80mmHg.
  • FH – Fundal Height; the measurement of your abdomen from the top of the uterus known as the fundus to the top of your symphysis pubis (your pubic bone). The measurement is in centimetres and should correlate to the number of weeks gestation, with a leeway of 2cm on either side.
  • Fetus – your unborn baby.
  • Cervix– the neck of the uterus that shortens and softens so that it can dilate when you are in labour. It is approximately 3cm long and a thick tube of muscle when you are not in labour. Your mucous plug sits inside the cervix during your pregnancy as an additional barrier against infection.
  • Cephalic – Baby is head down in the uterus.
  • Breech – Baby is bottom down in the uterus.
  • Transverse–  Baby is lying across your abdomen in the uterus.
  • Engaged – Baby’s head has started to move down into the pelvis to prepare for birth.

Scan Terminology

When you attend your obstetric scans at 12 weeks and 20 weeks you will usually receive a scan report and these too may include some terminology that you are not familiar with.

  • Nuchal Translucency – the measurement of the fluid filled space at the back of the fetal neck in the first trimester scan. This measurement is taken as part of the screening for Downs Syndrome.
  • Trisomy – a baby receives 23 chromosomes from the sperm and 23 chromosomes from the egg, these pair up which creates 46 chromosomes in each cell of their body. A trisomy is when one of those pairs has three chromosomes instead on two. This means the baby has 47 chromosomes per cell. In the case of Trisomy 21 (also known as Downs Syndrome) the extra chromosome in pair 21.
  • AC’ Abdominal Circumference – the measurement around your baby’s tummy.
  • ‘FL’ Femur Length -the measurement of the long thigh bone of the leg
  • ‘OFC’ Occipital Frontal Circumference: the circular measurement from the most prominent part at the back of the baby’s head (occiput) to the forehead (frontal bone). It’s the largest circumference of the head.
  • BPD ‘Bi-Parietal Diameter’ – every human has one parietal bone on each side of their head. Imagine taking a string and placing one end just above your right ear and the other end above your left ear with the string resting on the top of your head. This would give you a good idea of your biparietal diameter.
  • The sonographer will take the combination of the AC, FL, OFC and BPD to give an EFW – Estimated Fetal Weight from the scan.
  • Amniotic Fluid – sometimes shortened to ‘AF’ is the water that your baby is floating around in, in your uterus. Incredibly this fluid is created by your baby swallowing, and inhaling the fluid and then peeing it back out! It helps your developing baby to move freely inside your uterus and this allows for good bone growth, helps the lungs to develop, prevents pressure on the umbilical cord, keeps a constant temperature around baby and helps protect baby from outside injury through cushioning against sudden blows or movements.
  • Oligohydramnios – Too little amniotic fluid around the baby.
  • Polyhydramnios – Too much fluid around the baby.
  • Placental Location – where your placenta has implanted in the uterus. It can be anterior (the front, fundal (at the top) or posterior (at the back). Occasionally some women may experience a ‘low lying’ placenta meaning it is in the lower section of the uterus and near to the internal opening of cervix. If the placenta is partly or fully covering the cervix this is known as a placenta praevia and you will be given further scans to assess whether the placenta moves up and away from the cervix as your uterus grows during the pregnancy.

Common Terms used in more Complex Pregnancies

  • PET – Pre eclampsia. A significant disorder that is characterised by the onset of high blood pressure, severe frontal headaches, blurred vision, swelling to face, hands or feet (sometimes referred to as oedema), protein in your urine and pain just under the ribs. It usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy but for some women may occur earlier. It lead to serious complications for mother and baby so if you spot any of the above symptoms please seek advice and care from your maternity unit as a matter of urgency.
  • OC – Obstetric Cholestasis sometimes also known as Intrahepatic Cholestasis of pregnancy. Characterised by itching to the palms of hands and soles of the feet (but can be all over the body in some cases), it is a pregnancy disorder of the liver where the bile acids do not flow properly and build up in your body. If you spot this symptom of itching please see advice from your maternity unit as a matter of urgency as it can have serious complications for mother and baby. The maternity team will monitor your condition through blood tests including LFT (Liver Function Test) and BA (Bile Acids).
  • GDM – Gestational Diabetes is high blood sugar which develops in pregnancy and resolves once the baby is born. It can happen at any stage of pregnancy but most commonly in the second and third Trimester. It happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin (a hormone which helps control blood sugar levels) to meet the extra demands in pregnancy.

With the pregnancy dictionary behind you, all that’s left to do now is sign up to our FREE Baby Care Workshop!