20 Medical Terms Pregnant Moms Will Hear And What They Mean

There are a lot of good reasons why people don’t decide to become doctors. It is not an easy thing to do. On top of all the schooling and medical procedures, one would have to do, there is this intense list of vocabulary that needs to be known at the drop of a hat. Being pregnant can be overwhelming all on its own, without having to worry about the medical side-effects that can come with it. Sometimes, OB’s and midwives tend to forget that they are talking to a patient and not a colleague, and they may use foreign medical language that normal people are not accustomed too.

This can be a problem because it can often cause some undue anxiety. Medical terminology has a sneaky way of making everything sound like a big deal. It makes everything sound extremely serious and it can leave a mom-to-be running to Google to try and figure out what her doctor just said to her. Disclaimer- we don’t recommend doing that! Instead, just ask the doctor what they meant.

We went through pregnancy and found 20 of the most commonly used medical terms and provided a definition for them. These are the terms that a woman is bound to hear often and more than once, and they are not generally a cause for concern.

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20 Amniotic Fluid And Sac

We are going to start off with an easy one, one that many people know before they even get pregnant. That is Amniotic fluid and sac. The amniotic sac can also be called the baby’s ‘home.’ It is what protects them for 9-months while they grow and develop inside the mother’s womb. It is a hard, durable sac that can take a lot of heat.

Amniotic fluid is what fills the sac, along with the baby of course. This keeps the baby cushioned and safe as well. Throughout her pregnancy, a woman will get her fluid levels checked at her ultrasounds to make sure she has the right amount.

19 Epidural

There are many types of birth plans out there, and a woman’s choices are endless. One of the more popular items included in a birth plan is whether or not a woman would like an epidural. This is another easy one, one that many people know when they hear it. An epidural is a form of pain-killer that is provided through a catheter in the spinal area. This will numb the lower half of the woman’s body.

This is one of the more popular choices for pain relief, but it is also one of the most feared. Women can get quite nervous about having a needle and a small tube inserted into their back near their spine. The good news is that usually, the contractions are so painful when the time comes, that mom doesn’t mind anymore.

18 Antenatal

Antenatal sounds a little foreign, and that is because of all the ‘natals’ mom will hear through the course of her pregnancy, this is the least common. Women have actually heard this term before, but it is more commonly called the prenatal phase. This means that it describes the period of pregnancy before birth. If you hear the doctor refer to you as antenatal in the office, don’t worry, that just means you are pregnant.

Postnatal is the term that is used after the baby is born, but it can also be called postpartum. Sometimes, medical words are a lot scarier sounding than they actually are.

17 Apgar Score

Sometimes, a pregnant woman will hear a word or term that will apply to life immediately following delivery. Apgar score is something that her OB or midwife may run by her, in order to prepare her for what is going to happen to her baby immediately following birth. The Apgar score is a test that is given to babies 1 minute after they are born and then again 5 minutes after they are born.

They are looking for 5 things and see if you can figure out why it is called Apgar. They are looking for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. Did you figure it out? There is a certain range the baby must fall into when this test is being completed. Typical scores are 7, 8 and 9 out of 10. Anything lower may indicate that the baby is having some trouble breathing and would require additional help.

16 Birth Canal

The term birth canal kind of sounds like an adventure, as if you and the family were going camping and you were going to take a nice kayak ride down the birth canal. When it comes to the birth canal, there is no actual water-filled canal, it is simply the passage way the baby has to go through during delivery.

It is called a canal because of its similarity to the ones found in nature. During delivery, the baby’s progress down the birth canal will be monitored by the nurses and doctor to make sure that everything is clear, and the baby is not going to get stuck.

15 Braxton Hicks

Braxton hicks is something you may hear quite often, but it is also one that you already know about. It is more commonly called false labour. This is when the uterus contracts and makes the woman feel like she is having a slight contraction. This is very common, and it is just the body’s way of getting ready for labour. Some women state that they feel them as early as the second trimester.

The main difference between Braxton hicks and real labour is that Braxton hicks don’t get worse over time, are irregularly spaced and can sometimes be eased by changing positions or having a bath. They are also not described as being painful, they are usually just uncomfortable.

14 Breech

There is a very specific position that the baby has to be in when it is coming closer to delivery day. When they are not in the optimal position, it is normally because they are breech. A breech baby will have its head up towards moms’ ribs instead of near the pelvis. This means that if the baby was born in this position, their feet would come out first instead of their head.

It is not advised that women give birth naturally to babies in breech position because there are some health risks. Most babies who do not turn will end up being born by C-section to ensure both baby and mom’s safety.

13 Crowning

Crowning seems like a very fancy thing, like it should mean that when the baby is born, mom gets a gold crown for this huge feat she has accomplished. Sadly, it does not mean that. Crowning is the term that is used to describe the period of labour when the baby’s head has exited and can be seen from the outside.

This is normally when delivery starts to get difficult, because the head and the shoulders are the hardest parts for mom to push out because they are the widest. The delivery doctor or midwife may tell mom that her baby is crowing in an effort to encourage her to push harder and faster. To show her that she is almost at the finish line.

12 Dilation

We all know how childbirth works and we don’t really need to go into detail about the basics, but in order for that baby to come out we need some dilation to happen. Dilation is the process in which the cervix opens to allow the baby to exit the body. The cervix needs to dilate to 10cm in order to fit the baby through.

Unfortunately, in order for the body to dilate, a woman has to have contractions. Every contraction mom has meant her cervix is softening and dilating more and more. Contractions are considered one of the most painful parts of labour, so mom needs to keep in mind that they serve a very good purpose.

11 Anaesthetist

Remember how we talked about the lovely epidural before? Well, an Anaesthetist is a doctor who specializes in giving anesthetic. This is a person that mom-to-be should make good friends with because when she needs some relief from all of the contractions, this is the person they are going to call for.

Of course, when you are delivering a baby, you may not really care who gets the baby out as long as they get the baby out. However, you are going to want an Anaesthetist to administer the epidural. An epidural can have some negative side effects if not administered properly, so you definitely are going to want someone who knows what they are doing.

10 Folic Acid

Folic acid is something your doctor will ask you about starting from the very first appointment. It is a nutrient that is essential for women to take when they are pregnant. Folic acid is primarily found in dark, leafy vegetables and it is also found in prenatal vitamins. This is essential when it comes to battling anemia when pregnant and in the prevention of some spinal conditions.

Folic acid is considered a B vitamin and should be part of a pregnant woman’s dietary needs. It is important to talk to your doctor and find out how much you need if you plan on getting this through diet alone.

9 Fontanelles

Fontanelles is another word you may hear during your pregnancy, but it is actually used in reference to your little baby. Fontanelles is the medical term for the soft spots your baby is born with on their skull. The spots are there because a baby’s skull is not fully fused when they are born. The skull needs to be able to shift when they are being born so that their head can fit through the birth canal.

A baby is born with six of these spots, but they will be completely closed by the time your baby is 2-years old. It is important to treat these spots with care while the skull fuses as they are very fragile and there is no skull covering the brain.

8 Jaundice

Jaundice is another word you may hear when you are pregnant to prepare you for something that may happen when the baby is born. Jaundice occurs in newborns and infants when there is too much of a chemical called bilirubin in their blood. This will show in the baby as a yellow tinge to their skin and eyes.

This is not generally anything serious and, in most cases, it can resolve on its own. Sometimes, the baby will be put under a special light for a certain amount of time until the bilirubin in their blood regulates. It can be quite common, but the doctors will do blood tests following the baby’s birth to watch out for any signs, so they can act quickly.

7 Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is one of the most feared terms in the pregnant world. Preeclampsia is a medical condition found in a pregnant woman that if not detected or treated quickly can be quite scary. Some of the common symptoms of it are blurred vision, excessive swelling in the hands and face, and high blood pressure.

This is why the OB or midwife will check your blood pressure at every visit to make sure it is not too high. High blood pressure is normally the first sign that there is something wrong. Doctors can also test mom-to-be’s urine for a protein that would also indicate preeclampsia. If mom does have this condition, she will be monitored closely, and the baby may have to be delivered a bit early.


The term VBAC may only be heard by a select amount of mom’s who are about to have their second baby. VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Caesarean. This means that a mom who had her first child by C-section wants to try and have her baby naturally the second time around. This is something that is possible, and mom’s all over are having more and more VBACs with subsequent children.

The possibility of being able to have a VBAC will depend on how the pregnancy is going and what the reason for the previous C-section was. If the second baby is breech, for example, mom may not be able to have a VBAC as an option.

5 Amniocentesis

A lot of medical words are a mouthful, and this one is no different. An Amniocentesis is a form of prenatal testing to determine if the baby has any chromosomal abnormality. This test is not for the faint of heart and is normally only done as a last measure. Mom will undergo lighter testing first, and if those all indicate red flags the doctor may suggest an amniocentesis to be done.

This is done by inserting a needle into the abdomen and into the uterine sac. They then retrieve a small sample of the amniotic fluid when they can then test to see what is going on with the baby. Conditions like trisomy 18 and down syndrome are usually diagnosed this way.

4 Anti-D Antibody

I feel like I can relate to this one because I have the Anti-D antibody, and so do a lot of women. There is a long medical definition of this name, but it basically means that mom has a negative type blood. Everyone has a letter attached to their blood type, A, B or O. They then will be RH positive or RH negative.

If mom is Rh-negative it is assumed that dad is positive, positive being more common. This would mean that there is the potential that the baby’s blood type is positive. If mom and baby’s blood mixes while in utero or during delivery, her body would recognize this as a foreign substance and it may threaten any future pregnancies. The good news is there is a shot that mom can get when she is 28-weeks pregnant that will protect any future babies. If the baby is born positive, then mom will receive another shot after birth.

3 Fundal

At every OB appointment, there are certain things that are done, they are done so routinely that they just become habit and mom knows exactly what will happen at each appointment. One thing that will happen is she will get her fundal height measured. The fundus is the top of the uterus, and the fundal height is the length between the top of the uterus and the pelvic bone.

This measurement can allow a doctor to make sure the baby is growing appropriately. It is not an exact science as every woman carries differently, but it is accurate enough. If the doctor is not happy with the fundal height measurement, he may order an ultrasound to be done just to check.

2 Placenta Praevia

The placenta is very important for the growth and well-being of your baby. It is what provides oxygen and nutrients to your little one, so we can see why it is important to make sure it is healthy. Placenta Praevia is a condition in which the placenta is lying very low in the uterus and is blocking the cervix. It could be a partial block or a full block.

This can be a very serious condition, and if there is any hint this is happening there is a good chance mom will be put on bed rest and will be monitored closely. The placenta can move as the pregnancy progresses, but if it does not chances are mom will need to have a C-section to deliver her baby.

1 Quickening

Quickening is one of the best words in the world of pregnancy. Quickening is the term used to describe the first little flutters that mom feels from her baby. First-time moms may take a while before they feel their little baby kick, and they may not even recognize it as a quick. It is called quickening because it happens quickly. The baby is so small and not strong enough yet to pack a powerful punch.

This is the moment that all mom’s wait for, that moment when they can feel their little one move around inside of them. This is when they start to feel more connected to their baby. They start to bond and will always remember the first time they felt quickening.

References: betterhealth.vic.gov.au, baby2see.com

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