13 Cringeworthy Pregnancy Terms That Will Shock You

Picture this: you eagerly sign yourself up for a pre-natal course thinking it will be a fun and informative way to anticipate the arrival of your baby. You and your partner arrive nice and early, walk into the learning space to see terms like anal bulging and bloody show scrawled on the blackboard. True story. Even if you’re not a newbie when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, these words would be enough to send anybody running for cover!

If you tend to fear the unknown, it’s time to face the ominous-sounding pregnancy terminology head on and remove the mystery. Even if you’re the type that prefers to keep your head in the sand, it won’t hurt for you to have some working knowledge of the terminology likely to be tossed around in your immediate circle of pregnant friends and your doctor or midwife.

Continue reading for 13 ominous pregnancy terms and their explanations. Yes, they may be cringe-inducing at first, but once they are laid bare for your comprehension, you’ll see there’s really nothing all that ominous about them!

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13 Stripping or Sweeping Membranes

The process of stripping membranes (sometimes referred to as sweeping) is usually done to start labor. It actually sounds a lot harsher than it is. Your health care provider can strip your membranes in their office during a typical pelvic exam.

Basically, what they will do is use their finger to gently separate the bag of water from the side of your uterus near your cervix. It will probably feel like an aggressive internal exam and will be over in seconds. Once the bag is separated, hormones are released that soften your cervix and prepare your uterus for contractions.

In about 50 percent of women, having their membranes stripped will bring on active labor within 24 to 48 hours. In other cases, membrane stripping may result in mild contractions and not much else. So, it is possible to have your membranes stripped more than once if labor has still not actively begun. It is also possible to go into labor without having your membranes stripped whatsoever.

12 Breaking Waters

The term breaking waters can be extremely misleading as it does not always manifest itself as a full-on gush. The waters refer to the bag of membranes full of amniotic fluid that protect the fetus while in utero. If they are to break naturally, it will typically occur near the end of your pregnancy and signify the beginning of labor. If and when it happens, your best bet is to contact your doctor or midwife and let them decide the next course of action.

If your healthcare professional decides to break your waters for you, while similar to having your membranes stripped (or swept), the procedure is typically more invasive. Rather than simply separating the bag from the amniotic fluid using their fingers, your healthcare provider will probably use an instrument called an amnio hook. Usually made of plastic or metal, an amnio hook resembles a crochet hook. It will be used to snag a piece of the amniotic sac and rupture it.

This procedure is most often performed in order to induce labor or else help it along once it’s already begun.

11 Effacement

Rest assured if you hear this term, it has nothing to do with your face or that of your unborn baby. It is a word used to refer to the process of your cervix readying itself for delivery of your baby. As your baby drops and prepares to enter the world, your cervix will soften, shorten as well as grow thinner--this is the process of effacement.

You may also hear the terms cervical thinning or ripening of the cervix bandied about by your healthcare providers. They also refer to the effacement process.

10 Mucus Plug

It’s exactly what it sounds like, and yes it’s disgusting but chalk it up to another pregnancy milestone. Not only do you have a new life in your womb, but also a thick plug of mucus blocking the opening to your cervix. This basically seals off your uterus during pregnancy to protect your baby from infection.

As you head toward the end of your pregnancy, the mucus plug may come out in one solid clump or you may not even notice as you lose a bit of it at a time. Either way, it’s safe to assume that watching for snot to come out of your vagina is not high up on your to-do list!

9 Bloody Show

Bloody show refers to the blood-tinged mucus you will pass near the end of your pregnancy signifying your cervix opening and preparing for labor. Don’t be alarmed, it’s normal for this to occur around the 39th week of pregnancy.

If you do notice bloody show in your underwear, it doesn’t mean your baby’s arrival is imminent. You may still be a few days away from actual labor and delivery, or you could go into active labor within the next several hours. So basically, if you notice bloody show you can pack your bags, but don’t necessarily head to the hospital. The first real predictor of labor will most likely be contractions.

When you do experience bloody show, keep an eye on the discharge. If it’s pink- or brown-tinged, that is completely normal but heavy and/or bright red bleeding can be a sign of complications. If this is the case, you will require immediate medical attention.

8 Placenta Previa

If you are diagnosed as having placenta previa, this means your placenta is lying low in your uterus, next to or covering your cervix. Normally, the placenta is located near the top of the uterus and supplies your unborn baby with nutrients through the umbilical cord.

If placenta previa is caught early on in your pregnancy, it’s probably not a big problem. However, if it remains close to the cervix when you are further along, it can cause bleeding and lead to other complications and you may be required to deliver early.

Depending on where exactly your placenta is sitting and how much of your cervix it’s covering, you may have complete/total previa or marginal/partial previa.

If at your mid-pregnancy ultrasound, it shows you have placenta previa, don’t panic because as your uterus expands, the placenta may end up farther from your cervix. That said, if complete previa is detected, this is less likely to change even as time progresses.If you have placenta previa when you are due to deliver, this may require you to undergo a cesarean section.

7 Placental Abruption

Placental abruption means the placental lining has partially or completely peeled away from your uterus prior to delivery. This can result in depriving the baby of oxygen and essential nutrients.

Most often, placental abruption occurs suddenly within the last trimester of pregnancy. It is one of the most common causes of late pregnancy bleeding. If left untreated, it can be extremely dangerous for you and your baby.

Symptoms indicating you have suffered placental abruption include vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain and/or back pain and experiencing rapid contractions. If you notice any of these signs, contact your health care provider immediately.

6 Anal Bulging

Yet another disgusting and uncomfortable consequence of pregnancy is possibly developing anal bulging or hemorrhoids (also known as piles). They commonly occur in pregnancy or when you are in labor (as a result of pushing) or even due to constipation after you have already given birth.

Hemorrhoids appear when the veins in and around your rectum and anus become swollen. They are caused by the pressure from your growing uterus and increased blood flow to your pelvic area.

Constipation can irritate hemorrhoids or even cause them to develop. As can pushing or straining either in the bathroom or while in labor. But don’t fret too much, they will most likely disappear following the birth of your child.

If you notice some small, soft lumps, painful to the touch around the edge or inside of your bum, chances are you may have developed a case of hemorrhoids. A few other symptoms you may notice include:

  • A sore bum making it uncomfortable to go to the bathroom
  • Bright red blood or mucus discharge in the toilet
  • Itchiness
  • The feeling you haven't finished pooping even though you have

Your best bet to avoid developing hemorrhoids during pregnancy is to take steps to fend off constipation. If you are concerned, talk to your health care professional. But even if you do develop hemorrhoids, don’t worry as they are very treatable. Treatment can be as mild as applying an ice pack to the affected area or soaking in an occasional sitz bath or as serious as undergoing surgery to have them removed.

5 Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia refers to a serious pregnancy complication where the mother-to-be exhibits sudden high blood pressure that affects various internal organs. Typically, it occurs near the end of pregnancy. Oftentimes, you may feel perfectly fine, and it is only after a pre-natal checkup that preeclampsia is diagnosed, which is why it's important you don't skip any appointments!

If untreated, preeclampsia can result in serious, sometimes even deadly complications for mother and baby. The only solution when faced with this condition is for delivery of the baby. However, if your pregnancy is not far enough along for this to be a viable option, you and your healthcare provider have your work cut out for you.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to combat the effects of preeclampsia. You may be recommended bed rest throughout the remainder of your pregnancy. You may even require hospitalization for the duration of your pregnancy.

4 Crowning

This regal sounding term has nothing to do with the coronation of a king or queen. In reference to pregnancy and labor, it describes the act of your baby pushing themselves into the world.

Crowning occurs during delivery. It is the official term for when your baby’s head is visible through your vaginal opening without slipping back in following a contraction.

3 Ring of Fire

As your baby’s noggin stretches your vaginal opening, you will probably experience a burning or stinging sensation sometimes referred to as “the ring of fire”. But don’t freak out, this burning only lasts for a short amount of time before numbness kicks in. When your vaginal tissue becomes stretched thin, your nerves become blocked which is a natural anesthetic.

Once you pass “the ring of fire” stage, the hardest part of labor and delivery is over. You should note that if you receive an epidural, you will probably not even feel the ring of fire. In this case, your doctor or midwife will probably inform you when the baby is crowning and advise you when to resist the urge to push.

2 Episiotomy

Episiotomy refers to a surgical cut in the muscular area between your vagina and anus made before delivery in order to enlarge your vaginal opening. The decision on whether or not to perform an episiotomy is usually left in the hands of your health care professional who is attending the birth.

In the past, episiotomies were considered a routine part of childbirth but currently, they are only recommended in certain instances such as:

  • If severe tearing seems inevitable
  • Your baby is positioned abnormally
  • Your baby is large
  • Your baby needs to be delivered immediately

It’s always a good idea to have a discussion with your doctor or midwife before you go into labor to find out what their policies are on performing episiotomies. That way you will know what to expect, and it will also give you an opportunity to voice your own concerns.

1 Vacuum Extraction

Vacuum extraction is a procedure sometimes used by your health care provider in order to assist in the vaginal delivery of your baby. The vacuum consists of a soft or rigid cup with a handle and vacuum pump. It is applied to the baby’s head and when you are in the midst of a contraction and are told to push, the vacuum is used to guide the baby out of the birth canal. Sometimes an episiotomy will be performed prior to vacuum extraction in order to facilitate the procedure.

A vacuum extraction may be recommended if you’ve been pushing but it just doesn’t seem like your labor is progressing, or if your baby’s health is at stake and delivery is needed quickly. It’s important to note that when a vacuum extraction is recommended, a cesarean section is also a viable option. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to bring them up with your doctor or midwife at your next check-up.

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