Terms and Definitions in Pregnancy
It is often difficult to understand all of the technical words and terms associated with pregnancy and fertility. The following should be helpful.
Glossary of Pregnancy and Fertility Terms
In the list below the double asterisk (**) appears before those words most frequently searched for by pregnant women:
allergen — a foreign substance to the body's immune system that may cause an allergic reaction.
allergies — disorders that involve an immune response in the body. Allergies are reactions to allergens such as plant pollen, other grasses and weeds, certain foods, rubber latex, insect bites, or certain drugs.
alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) — AFP is protein made by the fetus’ liver. During pregnancy, AFP crosses into the mother's blood.
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.
alveoli cells — tiny glands in the breast that produce milk.
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 also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do not develop properly).
amniotic fluid — clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy. It is contained in the amniotic sac.
amniotic sac — During pregnancy, the amniotic sac is formed within the uterus and encloses the fetus. This sac bursts normally during the birthing process, releasing the amniotic fluid. A popular term for the amniotic sac with the amniotic fluid is the bag of waters.
amputation — removal of part or all of a body part, except for organs in the body.
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.
aneurysm — a thin or weak spot in an artery that balloons out and can burst.
angina — a recurring pain or discomfort in the chest that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood. It is a common symptom of coronary heart disease.
anorexia nervosa — an eating disorder caused by a person having a distorted body image and not consuming the appropriate calorie intake resulting in severe weight loss.
anovulation — absence of ovulation.
antibiotics — drugs used to fight many infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.
antibodies — proteins made by certain white blood cells in response to a foreign substance (antigen). Antibodies neutralize or destroy antigens.
antidepressants — a name for a category of medications used to treat depression.
antihistamines — drugs that are used to prevent or relieve the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies by preventing the action of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body.
antimetabolites — anticancer drugs that can stop or slow down biochemical reactions in cells.
anxiety disorder — serious medical illness that fills people's lives with anxiety and fear. Some anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia (or social anxiety disorder), specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
APGAR score --- The first test given to your newborn, the APGAR, occurs right after your baby's birth in the delivery room or birthing room. The test was designed to quickly evaluate a newborn's physical condition to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care.
apnea — temporary interruption or cessation of breathing.
areola — the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.
arteries — blood vessels that carry oxygen and blood to the heart, brain and other parts of the body.
artherosclerosis — disease when fatty deposits clog the walls of the arteries.
arthritis — swelling, redness, heat and pain of the joints. There are over 100 types of arthritis.
assisted reproductive technology — technology that involves procedures that handle a woman's eggs and a man's sperm to help infertile couples conceive a child.
asthma — a chronic disease of the lungs. Symptoms include cough, wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, and trouble breathing.
atherosclerosis — a disease in which fatty material is deposited on the wall of the arteries. This fatty material causes the arteries to become narrow and it eventually restricts blood flow.
autoimmune — an immune response by the body against one of its own tissues, cells, or molecules.
autoimmune disease — disease caused by an immune response against foreign substances in the tissues of one's own body.
bacteria — microorganisms that can cause infections.
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.
benign — noncancerous
beta-blockers — a type of medication that reduces nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat slower and with less force. Blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard.
bile — a brown liquid made by the liver. It contains some substances that break up fat for digestion, while other substances are waste products.
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.
binge eating disorder — an eating disorder caused by a person being unable to control the need to overeat.
biopsy — removal of a small piece of tissue for testing or examination under a microscope.
birth center — A special place for women to give birth. They have all the required equipment for birthing, but are specially designed for a woman, her partner, and family. Birth centers may be free standing (separate from a hospital) or located within a hospital.
birth plan --- A birth plan is a list of your preferences for labor and delivery. While labor and delivery involve many variables that you can not predict, a birth plan can help you and your doctor or midwife to realize what is most important to you in preparing for the birth of your baby.
bladder — the organ in the human body that stores urine. It is found in the lower part of the abdomen.
blood — fluid in the body made up of plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to and waste materials away from all body tissues.
blood pregnancy tests --- blood tests can be taken slightly earlier than urine tests, but they do take a lot longer. Like urine tests, blood tests detect HCG to confirm a pregnancy.
blood transfusion — the transfer of blood or blood products from one person (donor) into another person's bloodstream (recipient).
**body image — how a person feels about how she or he looks.
bowels — also known as the intestine, which is a long tube-like organ in the human body that completes digestion or the breaking down of food. The small bowel is the small intestine and the large bowel is the large intestine.
braxton hicks contractions --- false labor, or practice contractions which may happen throughout the pregnancy. They do not dilate the cervix, therefore, they are safe and not dangerous.
breast shell — a round plastic shell that fits around the breast. It is used to correct inverted or flat nipples. Also referred to as breast shield or milk cup.
bronchitis — inflammation of the bronchi, airways in the lungs.
bulimia nervosa — an eating disorder caused by a person consuming an extreme amount of food all at once followed by self-induced vomiting or other purging
cancer — a group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
candida — a fungus, called Candida albicans, that causes yeast infections like thrush in the mouth and throat, and in intestines and other parts of the body.
cardiovascular diseases — disease of the heart and blood vessels.
cataplexy — a sudden loss of motor tone and strength.
cataracts — cloudy or thick areas in the lens of the eye.
celiac disease — a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the small intestine.
central agonists — a type of medicine used to treat high blood pressure.
cerebrovascular disease — disease of the blood vessels in the brain.
cervical cancer — happens when normal cells in the cervix change into cancer cells. Before the cells turn into cancer, abnormal cells develop on the cervix that can be found by a Pap test. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses, can cause abnormal changes on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is very common, and you can get it through sexual contact with another person who has HPV.
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) — a C-section is a procedure where the doctor makes a cut in the mother's abdomen and uterus and removes the baby. So, the baby is delivered through surgery instead of coming out of the vagina.
chemotherapy — treatment with anticancer drugs
chickenpox — a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which results in a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever.
chlamydia — a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Most people have no symptoms, but chlamydia can cause serious damage a women's reproductive organs. When a woman does have symptoms, they may include thin vaginal discharge and other symptoms similar to gonorrhea like burning when urinating. Long-term irritation may cause lower abdominal pain, inflammation of the pelvic organs, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
cleft lip and palate — congenital abnormalities (present at birth) that affect the upper lip and the hard and soft palate of the mouth.
cholesterol — a soft, waxy substance that is present in all parts of the body. It helps make cell membranes, some hormones, and vitamin D. The liver makes all the cholesterol a person's body needs, so eating too much from animal foods like meats and whole milk dairy products can make your cholesterol go up.
chorionic villus sampling (CVS) — If necessary this test is performed between 10 and 12 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate the same chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders as amniocentesis can. It also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida.
chronic — long lasting condition.
chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) — a complex disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts six months or longer, and does not improve with rest or is worsened by physical or mental activity. Other symptoms can include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or mental concentration, and insomnia. The cause is unknown.
cirrhosis — the result of chronic liver disease, where the liver is scarred and no longer functions properly.
coercion — To force someone to do something that they do not want to do.
colon cancer — cancer in the inner lining of the colon, or the part of the large intestine that serves to remove water from digested food and let the remaining material, or stool, move through it to leave the body.
colonoscopy — a diagnostic procedure in which a flexible tube with a light source in inserted into the colon (large intestine or large bowel) through the anus to view all sections of the colon for abnormalities.
colostrum — thick, yellowish fluid secreted from 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.
colposcopy — procedure that uses a special microscope (called a colposcope) to look into the vagina and to look very closely at the cervix
conception --- when the egg is available for fertilization and 350 million sperm is released inside or near the woman's vaginal area, about 200 sperm will reach the egg. Of those 200 sperm, only one will actually penetrate the egg, thus causing conception.
condom — a barrier method of birth control. There are both male and female condoms. The male condom is a sheath placed over an erect penis before sex that prevents pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm. A female condom also is a sheath, but is inserted into the vagina to block the passage of sperm.
congenital heart disease — abnormalities of the heart's structure and function caused by abnormal or disordered heart development before birth.
connective tissue — a type of body tissue that supports other tissues and binds them together. Connective tissue provides support in the breast.
constipation —constipation is infrequent or hard stools or difficulty passing stools.
contagious — transmitted by direct or indirect contact.
contraction --- when the uterus tightens so that the cervix thins and dilates, making way for the baby to go through the birth canal.
convulsion — also known as a seizure. An uncontrollable contraction of muscles that can result in sudden movement or loss of control.
coronary artery disease — also called coronary heart disease. It is the most common type of heart disease that results from atherosclerosis - the gradual buildup of plaques in the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that bring blood to the heart.
counselor — usually has a master's degree in Counseling and has completed a supervised internship.
cramping --- when women become pregnant they soon may feel repeated pains, similar to those during a menstrual cycle. During the second trimester, women can also feel cramping due to the stretching of the abdominal muscles.
cystic fibrosis (CF) — one of the most common serious genetic (inherited) diseases. One out of every 400 couples is at risk for having children with CF. CF causes the body to make abnormal secretions leading to mucous build-up. CF mucous build-up can impair organs such as the pancreas, the intestine and the lungs.
debilitating — impairs the vitality and strength of a person.
decongestants — medications that treat cough and stuffy nose by shrinking swollen membranes in the nose and making it easier to breath.
dehydration — excessive loss of body water that the body needs to carry on normal functions at an optimal level. Signs include increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worse on standing), and a darkening of the urine or a decrease in urination.
depression — term used to describe an emotional state involving sadness, lack of energy and low self-esteem.
diabetes — a disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), is the most common form of diabetes.
diabetic — see Diabetes
diaphragm — birth control device made of a thin flexible disk, usually made of rubber, that is designed to cover the cervix to prevent the entry of sperm during sexual intercourse.
diarrhea — passing frequent and loose stools that can be watery. Acute diarrhea goes away in a few weeks. Diarrhea becomes chronic when it lasts longer than 4 weeks.
disability — a physical or mental impairment that interferes with or prevents "normal" achievement in a particular function.
diuretics — a type of medication sometimes called "water pills" because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body.
DNAtest — a lab test in which a patient's DNA is tested. DNA is a molecule that has a person's genetic information and is found in every cell in a person's body.
doula --- A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical and informational support to the woman who is expecting, in labor or has recently given birth. The doula's role is help women have a safe, memorable and empowering birthing experience.
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.
ductules — small milk ducts in the breast leading to the mammary or lactiferous ducts.
eating disorder — eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, involve serious problems with eating. This could include an extreme decrease of food or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress and concern about body shape or weight.
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.
electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) — an external, noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
electrolyte imbalance — when the amounts of sodium and potassium in the body become too much or too little.
electronic fetal monitor --- an instrument used to record the heartbeat of the unborn baby, as well as the mother's contractions.
embryo — a period during pregnancy where the baby has rapid growth, and the main external features begin to take form.
endometrial cancer — cancer that develops from the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus (womb).
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.
endoscopy — a diagnostic procedure in which a thin, flexible tube is introduced through the mouth or rectum to view parts of the digestive tract.
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 — During labor a woman may be offered an epidural to help her with pain. In an epidural a needle is inserted into the epidural space at the end of the spine, to numb the lower body and reduce pain. This allows a woman to have more energy and strength for the end stage of labor, when it is time to push the baby out of the birth canal.
epilepsy — a physical disorder that involves recurrent seizures. It is caused by sudden changes in how the brain works.
episiotomy — Episiotomy is 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.
erectile dysfunction — inability to achieve and keep a penile erection.
esophagus — tube that connects the throat with the stomach.
estrogen — a group of female hormones that are 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.
fallopian tubes — part of the female reproductive system, these tubes carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus (or womb).
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — a federal regulation that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for adoption or foster care of a child.
fatigue — fatigue is a feeling of lack of energy, weariness or tiredness.
FASD --- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a clinical term for the effects alcohol can have on the developing fetus
fatty tissue — connective tissue that contains stored fat. Also referred to as adipose tissue. Fatty tissue in the breast protects the breast from injury.
feces — waste eliminated from the bowels.
fetus --- refers to the baby from 10 weeks of gestation to time of birth
fever — body temperature is raised above normal and is usually a sign of infection or illness.
fibroids --- tumors of the muscle wall in the uterus. They are non-cancerous, but can potentially cause miscarriages, trouble in the growth of the baby, and trouble in the delivery. Fibroids are also sometimes painful.
flat nipple — a nipple that cannot be compressed outward, does not protrude or become erect when stimulated or cold.
follicle — each month, an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid filled pocket called a follicle. This follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube.
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) — a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In women, it helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries.
forced prostitution — to make someone have sex for money, against their will.
galactosemia — a condition where the body is not able to process galactose (a sugar), which makes up half of the sugar (called lactose) found in milk. In newborns, the condition is found when first breastfeeding and can cause jaundice and other problems.
gastrointestinal — a term that refers to the stomach and the intestines or bowels.
GER (gastroesophageal reflux) — also called acid reflux, a condition where the contents of the stomach regurgitates (or backs up) into the esophagus (food pipe), causing discomfort.
gestation --- how far along the fetus is, determined by the beginning of the mother's last period. Babies are usually born at 40 weeks, but are considered full-term from weeks 37 to 42
gestational age ---- age of the baby from the time of the last menstrual period up to present time
gravidity - number of times a woman has been pregnant
infant - time of birth to 1 year of age
miscarriage: When circumstances cause the mother's body to react to a problem in the pregnancy. This may cause bleeding, cramping, and will ultimately cause the loss of the pregnancy.
ovulation: Occurs on an average of 14 days after the beginning of a woman's last period. A woman has a rise in her luteinizing hormone (LH) when the egg is available for fertilization. This is the most probable time frame to get pregnant.
glandular tissue — body tissue that produces and releases one or more substances for use in the body. Some glands produce fluids that affect tissues or organs. Others produce hormones or participate in blood production. In the breast, glandular tissue is involved in the production of milk.
goiter — enlargement of the thyroid gland that is not associated with inflammation or cancer.
gonorrhea — a sexually transmitted disease 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).
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, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), 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.
hepatitis C — a liver disease, caused by a virus, that makes the liver swells and stops it from working correctly.
high blood pressure — also known as hypertension. A cardiovascular disease which means the blood vessels become tight and constricted, forcing your heart to pump harder to move blood through your body. Blood pressure is considered high if it is greater than 140 over 90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).
HIV — see HIV/AIDS infection
HIV/AIDS infection — HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV infection can produce no symptoms for many years. When certain symptoms develop, a person has AIDS. AIDS is a syndrome, or group of diseases, that can be fatal. HIV/AIDS infection is life-long, there is no cure.
hormone — substance produced by one tissue and conveyed by the bloodstream to another to effect a function of the body, such as growth or metabolism.
hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — replaces the hormones that a woman's ovaries stop making at the time of menopause, easing symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
hypertension — see high blood pressure.
hysterectomy — surgery to remove the uterus.
immune system — a complex system in the body that recognizes and responds to potentially harmful substances, like infections, in order to protect the body.
incest — sexual intercourse between persons so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry; also: the statutory crime of such a relationship
indigestion — Indigestion is a common problem that causes a vague feeling of abdominal discomfort after meals. Symptoms also can include an uncomfortable fullness, belching, bloating, and nausea. It may be triggered by eating particular foods, after drinking wine or carbonated drinks, or by eating too fast or overeating.
induction --- Sometimes, if labor has not started on its own, your health care provider may start your labor so that you can deliver your baby vaginally. This is called "labor induction."
infertility — A condition in which a couple has problems conceiving, or getting pregnant, after one year of regular sexual intercourse without using any birth control methods. Infertility can be caused by a problem with the man or the woman, or both.
inflammation — used to describe an area on the body that is swollen, red, hot, and in pain.
inflammatory bowel disease — long-lasting problems that cause irritation and ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract. The most common disorders are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
inhaled medicines — administered by having the user breath in the substance.
insecticides — chemicals used to control or kill insects.
insomnia — not being able to sleep.
insulin — one of many hormones that helps the body turn the food we eat into energy and helps store energy to be used later. People with diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin, might need to inject themselves with insulin to help their bodies’ cells work properly.
interferon — a group of proteins with a carbohydrate component, which is produced by different cell types in response to an exposure of a virus, bacterium, or parasite, that prevents replication (of the virus, bacterium, or parasite) in newly infected cells.
interstitial cystitis — a long-lasting condition also known as painful bladder syndrome or frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. The wall of the bladder becomes inflamed or irritated, which affects the amount of urine the bladder can hold and causes scarring, stiffening, and bleeding in the bladder.
intestines — also known as the bowels, or the long, tube-like organ in the human body that completes digestion or the breaking down of food. They consist of the small intestine and the large intestine.
intimidation — To make someone fearful in order to make them do what another person wants them to do.
intrauterine device — a birth control small device that is placed inside a woman's uterus by a health care provider, which prevents pregnancy by changing the environment of the uterus (or womb).
intravenous analgesic — An analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. During labor, a woman can be given pain-relieving drugs intravenously (through a tube inserted into her vein).
inverted nipple — a nipple that retracts, rather than protrudes when the areola is compressed.
ischemia — decrease in the blood supply to a an organ, tissue, or other part caused by the narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels.
jaundice — a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. While not a disease, jaundice can signal a liver or gallbladder problem. Newborns can develop jaundice, which is only temporary and goes away.
kidney stones — hard mass developed from crystals that separate from the urine and build up on the inner surfaces of the kidney.
lactation — breastfeeding, or the secretion of breast milk.
lactiferous sinuses — enlarged portion of the mammary or milk duct where breast milk pools during breastfeeding. The sinuses are behind the areola and connect to the nipple.
lactose — a sugar found in milk and milk products like cheese, cream, and butter.
lamaze — a philosophy of giving birth developed by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze. 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. But Lamaze also teaches that breathing techniques are just one of the many things that help women in labor. Movement, positioning, labor support, massage, relaxation, hydrotherapy and the use of heat and cold are some others.
laxative — medicines that will make you have a bowel movement.
lead — a metal that can make infants and young children sick.
lesion — an infected or diseased area of skin.
let-down reflex, or milk-ejection reflex — A conditioned reflex ejecting milk from the alveoli through the ducts to the sinuses of the breast and the nipple.
libido — sexual drive.
local analgesic — An analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. Pain-relieving drugs can be given to a woman during labor and delivery locally through a needle inserted into a muscle (intra-muscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous).
luteal phase defect — problems with the uterine lining that can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have a successful pregnancy.
luteinizing hormone — a hormone that triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum (empty follicle) to make progesterone.
Lyme disease — a bacterial illness caused by a bacterium called a "spirochete" that is transmitted to humans from the bite of a deer tick. It can cause abnormalities in the skin, joints, heart and nervous system.
lymph — the almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph tissue in the breast helps remove waste.malignant — cancerous
**mammary ducts — ducts in the breast that carry milk to the lactiferous sinuses and the nipple.
mastitis — a condition that occurs mostly in breastfeeding women, causing a hard spot on the breast that can be sore or uncomfortable. It is caused by infection from bacteria that enters the breast through a break or crack in the skin on the nipple or by a plugged milk duct.
meningitis — infection which causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
menopause — the transition in a woman's life when production of the hormone estrogen in her body falls permanently to very low levels, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and menstrual periods stop for good.
menstruating — The blood flow from the uterus that happens about every 4 weeks in a woman.
midwife --- A midwife is a professional who focuses on the psychological aspects of how the mother-to-be feels about her pregnancy and the actual birth experience. They encourage women to trust their own instincts and seek the information they need to make their own valuable decisions about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. They assist in labor and child birth.
milk ducts — see mammary ducts.
milk sinuses — see lactiferous sinuses.
milk-ejection reflex — see let-down reflex.
miscarriage — an unplanned loss of a pregnancy. Also called a spontaneous abortion.
montgomery glands — also called Montgomery's glands or areolar glands. These small glands enlarge during pregnancy and breastfeeding and look somewhat like pimples on the areola. They secrete oils that lubricate the nipple.
multiple sclerosis — also called MS, a disorder of the brain and spinal cord that causes decreased nerve function associated with the formation of scars on the covering of nerve cells. Symptoms range from numbness to paralysis and blindness.
mumps — a sudden illness caused by the virus paramyxovirus. It is spread by direct contact as well as by airborne droplets and saliva. Since 1967 the mumps vaccine (MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella) has helped cases decline in the United States. Mumps in a child who has gone through adolescence tends to affect the ovary and the testes, which can lead to infertility.
nerve(s) — cells in the human body that are the building blocks of the nervous system (the system that records and transmits information chemically and electrically within a person). Nerve cells, or neurons, are made up of a nerve cell body and various extensions from the cell body that receive and transmit impulses from and to other nerves and muscles.
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. In anencephaly the skull and most or all of the brain does not develop. Encephalocele is a hernia of part of the brain and of the membranes covering it. Spina bifida is an opening in the column encasing the spinal cord.
nipple — the protruding part of the breast that extends and becomes firmer upon stimulation. In breastfeeding, milk travels from the milk sinuses through the nipple to the baby.
nipple shield — an artificial latex or silicone nipple used over the mother's nipple during nursing.
nurse-midwife — A nurse who has undergone special training and has received certification on birthing (labor and delivery). Nurse-midwifes can perform most of the same tasks as physicians and have emergency physician backup when they deliver a baby.
obese — being overweight.
obesity — being overweight.
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — An anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, such as cleaning, checking, counting, or hoarding. The person becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but very hard to stop. OCD can be mild or severe, but if severe and left untreated, can stop a person from being able to function at work, at school, or even in the home.
occupational therapy — therapy aimed to restore a person's basic skills, such as bathing and dressing.
oral medicines — administered by mouth.
osteoporosis — a bone disease that is characterized by progressive loss of bone density and thinning of bone tissue, causing bones to break easily.
ovarian cancer — cancer of the ovary or ovaries, which are organs in the female reproductive system that make eggs and hormones. Most ovarian cancers develop from the cells that cover the outer surface of the ovary, called epithelial cells.
ovarian reserve — health of the ovaries and eggs. It is an important factor in female fertility and decreases with age.
ovaries — part of a woman's reproductive system, the ovaries produce her eggs. Each month, through the process called ovulation, the ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tubes, where they travel to the uterus, or womb. If an egg is fertilized by a man's sperm, a woman becomes pregnant and the egg grows and develops inside the uterus. If the egg is not fertilize, the egg and the lining of the uterus is shed during a woman's monthly menstrual period.
ovulation — the release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.
ovulation method — a method used by couples trying to get pregnant, in which they have intercourse just before or after ovulation.
oxytocin — a hormone that increases during pregnancy and acts on the breast to help produce the milk-ejection reflex.
Oxytocin also causes uterine contractions.
panic disorder — An anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from sudden attacks of fear and panic. The attacks may occur without a known reason, but many times they are triggered by events or thoughts that produce fear in the person, such as taking an elevator or driving. Symptoms of the attacks include rapid heartbeat, chest sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling, and feeling anxious.
pap test — this test finds changes on the cervix. To do a Pap test, the doctor uses a small brush to take cells from the cervix.
Parkinson's disease — disease affecting the part of the brain associated with movement. Characterized by shaking and difficulty with movement coordination.
pelvic exam — during this exam, the doctor or nurse practitioner looks for redness, swelling, discharge, or sores on the outside and inside of the vagina. A Pap test tests for cell changes on the cervix. The doctor or nurse practitioner will also put two fingers inside the vagina and press on the abdomen with the other hand to check for cysts or growths on the ovaries and uterus. STD tests may also be done.
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) — an infection of the female reproductive organs that are above the cervix, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is the most common and serious problem caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). PID can cause ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and other serious problems.
peptic ulcers — a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum (beginning of the small intestine). Peptic ulcers are common -- one in 10 Americans develops an ulcer at some time in his or her life. One cause of peptic ulcer is bacterial infection, but some ulcers are caused by long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen. In a few cases, cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas can cause ulcers. Peptic ulcers are not caused by stress or eating spicy food.
Perinatal depression — depression that occurs during pregnancy or within a year after delivery
Peripartum depression — depression after pregnancy
peripheral neuropathy — classification of disorders that involve damaged or destroyed nerves. These disorders do not include the nerves of the brain or spinal cord.
peripheral vascular disease (also called peripheral arterial disease (PAD)— A common disorder in which the arteries supplying oxygen rich blood from the heart to a limb (typically one or both legs) are blocked. As a result, the organs do not get enough blood flow for normal function.
pesticides — any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, or repelling any pest. It also includes herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.
phobias — An anxiety disorder in which a person suffers from an unusual amount of fear of a certain activity or situation.
phototherapy — treatment with light. Prescription phototherapy exposes the baby's skin to special fluorescent lights. In mild cases of jaundice, exposing the baby's skin to sunlight (taking care to avoid sunburn) is sometimes recommended.
physical therapy — therapy aimed to restore movement, balance and coordination.
pituitary gland — a small gland in the head that makes hormones that control other glands and many body functions including growth.
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.
plaque — a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that accumulate in the walls of the arteries.
plugged (milk) duct — when the small milk ducts in the breast become blocked, or plugged. This is often caused by mastitis.
pneumonia — inflammation of the lungs. Causes of pneumonia include bacteria and viruses.
pneumonia — inflammation of the lungs caused by an infection.
pornography — Pictures, videos, and written material that openly shows sexual situations and causes sexual excitement.
postpartum depression (PPD) — a serious condition that requires treatment from a health care provider. With this condition, feelings of the baby blues (feeling sad, anxious, afraid, or confused after having a baby) do not go away or get worse.
post-traumatic stress disorder — A psychological condition that can happen when a person sees or experiences something traumatic, such as rape, murder, torture, or wartime combat. A person can have many symptoms including flashbacks (re-living the event), nightmares, fatigue, anxiety, and forgetfulness. A person can also withdraw from family and friends.
preeclampsia — 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.
prematurely — before the expected time.
placenta --- the tissue that connects the mother to the baby.
preterm --- counting from the first day of the woman's last period, preterm is before 37 weeks.
preterm infant --- infant delivered between 24-37 weeks
previable infant --- infant delivered prior to 24 weeks
primary lactase deficiency — when a person is born with the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose can't be digested because there is not enough of an enzyme, called lactase, in the body. Consuming milk and dairy products causes diarrhea, bloating, gas, and discomfort. This deficiency can also develop over time, as the amount of lactase in the body decreases with age.
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 if conception occurs. Progesterone also helps prepare the breasts for milk production and breastfeeding.
progestin — a hormone that works by causing changes in the uterus. When taken with the hormone estrogen, progestin works to prevent thickening of the lining of the uterus. This is helpful for women who are in menopause and are taking estrogen for their symptoms. Progestins also are prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle, treat unusual stopping of the menstrual periods, help a pregnancy occur or maintain a pregnancy, or treat unusual or heavy bleeding of the uterus. They also can be used to prevent pregnancy, help treat cancer of the breast, kidney, or uterus, and help treat loss of appetite and severe weight or muscle loss.
prolactin — a hormone that increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It stimulates the human breast to produce milk. Prolactin also helps inhibit ovulation.
prostate gland — a gland in a man's reproductive system. It makes and stores seminal fluid. This fluid is released to form part of semen.
psoriasis — a chronic (long-lasting) skin disease of scaling and inflammation that mostly affects adults. Psoriasis results in patches of thick, red (inflamed) skin covered with silvery scales. These patches usually itch or feel sore, and most often occur on the elbows, knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet, but they can occur on skin anywhere on the body.
psychiatrist — a doctor (M.D.) who treats mental illness. Psychiatrists must receive additional training and serve a supervised residency in their specialty. They can prescribe medications.
psychologist — A clinical psychologist is a professional who treats mental illness, emotional disturbance, and behavior problems. They use talk therapy as treatment, and cannot prescribe medication. A clinical psychologist will have a master's degree (M.A.) or doctorate (Ph.D.) in psychology, and possibly more training in a specific type of therapy.
psychotherapy — counseling or "talk" therapy with a qualified practitioner in which a person can explore difficult, and often painful, emotions and experiences, such as feelings of anxiety, depression, or trauma. It is a process that aims to help the patient become better at making positive choices in his or her life, and to become more self-sufficient. Psychotherapy can be given for an individual or in a group setting.
puberty — time when the body is changing from the body of a child to the body of an adult. This process begins earlier in girls than in boys, usually between ages 8 and 13, and lasts 2 to 4 years.
pudenal block — This procedure anesthetizes, or numbs, the area around the vulva to reduce pain during labor and delivery.
purging — forcing oneself to vomit.
quinine — a medication used to treat malaria (a disease caused by a parasite that lives part of its life in humans and part in mosquitoes).
radiation — treatment using radiation to destroy cancer cells.
radioactive drugs — drugs used to look at the internal organs of the body or to treat certain diseases like cancer.
remission — a period of time without symptoms of a chronic condition.
resistant — does not respond.
respite care — care and supervision usually provided by volunteer organizations that provides a person's caregiver some time of rest or relief.
rooting — a reflex that newborn babies have, along with the reflexes for sucking and swallowing. Rooting means turning the head to search for the nipple and milk.
rubella — also called German measles. Rubella virus causes rash, mild fever, and arthritis. If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.
schizophrenia — a brain disease that can cause loss of personality, agitation, catatonia (being in a statue-like state), confusion, psychosis (a disorder in which a person is not in touch with reality), unusual behavior, and withdrawal. The illness usually begins in early adulthood. No one knows the exact cause of schizophrenia, but a problem with a gene called COMT has been found to raise the risk of developing it.
sedative — a drug that calms a person and allows her or him to sleep.
seizures — uncontrollable contractions of muscles that can result in sudden movement or loss of control, also known as convulsions.
self-esteem — How you feel about yourself – how you feel about who you are, the way you act, and how you look. When a person does not think too highly of themselves, she is said to have low self-esteem.
semen — the fluid (which contains sperm) a male releases from his penis when he becomes sexually aroused or has an orgasm.
sexual harassment — Sexual advances (like touching, grabbing) or sexual comments (that can be offensive and/or joking) that are not wanted or appropriate. This can happen in the workplace and a person can feel like they have no control over it. They may decide not to deal with it because they fear they will lose their job or not get a raise or promotion.
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — diseases that are spread by sexual activity.
sickle cell anemia — a blood disorder passed down from parents to children. It involves problems in the red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth and move through blood vessels easily. Sickle cells are hard and have a curved edge. These cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. They block the organs from getting blood. Your body destroys sickle red cells quickly, but it can’t make new red blood cells fast enough-- a condition called anemia.
social worker — A licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) is trained in psychotherapy and helps people with many different mental health and daily living problems to improve overall functioning. Usually has a master's degree in social work (M.S.W.).
sodium — in reference to diet and food, the salt content of food is usually given in terms of "sodium." Having too much or too little sodium in a person's body can cause the body's cells to
not work properly.
speech therapy — therapy aimed to help a person with a speech or language disorder or problem to restore basic speech skills.
spermicides — chemical jellies, foams, creams, or suppositories, inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse that kill sperm.
Spina bifida — Spina bifida is the most common of all birth defects. Its name means "clef spine," or a failure of a fetal spine to close the right way when it is developing before birth. It occurs very early in pregnancy, roughly three to four weeks after conception, before most women know that they are pregnant. Any woman can have an affected pregnancy. Most women who bear a child with Spina bifida have no family history of it.
spotting --- looks like a brown or reddish tinted discharge. Should not be as heavy as a full period. This is when the endometrium (the uterus lining) has started to pull away from the uterus, anticipating a monthly period before realizing that there is a pregnancy.
stethoscope — instrument used by health care professionals to detect sounds produced in the body.
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.
stroke — sometimes called a "brain attack," is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, or bleeding in the brain. A person's speech, writing, balance, sensation, memory, thinking, attention, and learning are some of the areas that can be affected as a result of suffering a stroke.
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.
symptothermal method — a method of pregnancy planning or birth control that combines certain aspects of the calendar, the basal body temperature, and the cervical mucus methods. It takes into account all these factors as well as other symptoms a woman might have, such as slight cramping and breast tenderness.
synthetic — made in a lab and not from a natural source.
systemic lupus erythematosus — an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation and damage to the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and brain.
Tay-Sachs disease — a fatal genetic disorder in which harmful quantities of a fatty substance called ganglioside GM2 build up in the nerve cells in the brain and damage the cells. In children, this begins in the fetus early in pregnancy. By the time a child with Tay-Sachs is three or four years old, the nervous system is so badly affected that death usually results by age five.
term infant - infant delivered between 37-42 weeks
testicle (testis) — the male sex gland. There are a pair of testes behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testes make and store sperm, and make the male hormone testosterone.
thalassemia — a group of blood diseases, that are inherited, which affect a person's hemoglobin and cause anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the body.
thrush — a yeast infection, caused by the fungus Candida albicans, of the mouth and throat. It's hallmark is white patches in the mouth. It can also occur in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, and causes some types of diaper rash in infants.
thyroid — The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy.
tonsillitis — inflammation of the tonsils, which are lymph nodes in the back of the mouth at the top of the throat. Tonsils help to filter out bacteria and other microorganisms to prevent infection in the body. When they become overwhelmed by bacterial or viral infection they can become swollen and inflamed.
toxemia — see preeclampsia.
toxoplasmosis — an infection caused by the parasite named Toxoplasma gondii 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 litter 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.
transient ischemic attack (TIA) — a "mini-stroke" where there is a short-term reduction in blood flow to the brain usually resulting in temporary stoke symptoms. Does not cause damage to the brain, but puts a person at higher risk of having a full stroke.
trichomoniasis — a very common STD in both women and men that is caused by a parasite 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).
triple screen — 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 due to the extra chromosome #18. Ninety five percent of children with this condition die before their first birthday.
ultrasound — a painless, harmless test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures of the body on a screen. An ultrasound is also called sonography.
umbilical cord — connected to the placenta and provides the transfer of nutrients and waste between the woman and the fetus.
urethra — the tube that releases urine from the body.
urinalysis — a test that looks at urine to find out its content. Can be used to detect some types of diseases.
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.
urine pregnancy tests --- a pregnancy test that uses urine to find the hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, or HCG. Urine Pregnancy tests are taken two weeks after conception, or anytime after a woman misses a period. Most women can find these tests at their local drug store.
uterine 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.
uterine fibroids — common, benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus, or womb. Fibroids often cause no symptoms and need no treatment, and they usually shrink after menopause. But sometimes fibroids cause heavy bleeding or pain, and require treatment.
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.
viability - minimum age for fetus survival
viruses — small microscopic organisms that often cause disease.
voyeurism — looking at sexual acts or naked people, often without their knowledge.
vulva — opening to the vagina.
wheezing — breathing with difficulty, with a whistling noise. Wheezing is a symptom of asthma.
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 during 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.
There are a number local ways of referring to a pregnancy. The phrases "knocked up" and "lady-in-waiting" mean the woman is pregnant. The words "gone" or "along" may be used to represent gestational time, e.g. "she's really far gone," or "six months along." In the southern U.S., the metaphor of a water well is occasionally used to represent pregnancy (e.g. "drink out of the well," or to become pregnant), and a baby almost ready to be delivered is "on his/her road." Eastern Seaboard slang describes the woman as being "in a fix" or, occasionally, "preggers"; the Southern U.S. equivalent is "in the family way." An alternate term, not slang or colloquial, is "with child." "Having a bun in the oven" is another frequently used phrase to indicate that a woman is pregnant. In Australia, especially when the pregnancy is unplanned, the woman is said to be "up the duff."
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