15 Pregnancy Terms And What They Really Mean


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Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman’s life. For a first-time mother, there is so much to learn about how a woman’s body changes to accommodate another human. Going to the first scan can be overwhelming. There are so many new terms that the doctor throws at a woman. If the morning sickness doesn’t make a pregnant woman dizzy, the sheer amount of things she must learn before the baby comes will do it.


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Sometimes, the easiest thing to do when confronted with this new set of vocabulary and jargon is to smile and nod. After all, think how embarrassing it would be to ask a doctor to explain everything over again.

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After the doctor’s visit, a quick search on Google and pouring over a few medical journals might clear up anything the doctor may have discussed.


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However, some medical terms do need to have a talk with PR because they sound way worse than they actually are. Some sound completely harmless but are actually life-threatening—or they are unpleasant to say, like moist. No one likes the word moist or mucus. How many people would like to strike those words out of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary?

15 Mucus Plug – The V Gets Unclogged



Via: Google Images

A mucus plug is super thick, phlegm-like mucus that forms at the base of the cervix when a woman becomes pregnant. The purpose of the mucus plug is to prevent pathogens, bacteria and viruses from entering the body via the cervix.


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It acts as another barrier for the baby from the outside world. As a woman’s body prepares itself for labor, the mucus plug will begin to break apart. For some women, it will come apart in chunks and will appear as a thicker-than-usual discharge in the woman’s underwear.

Other women experience losing their mucus plug all at once and this generally occurs when they are using the toilet. It isn’t uncommon for the plug to have some blood in it as some small vessels might have broken. When a woman loses her mucus plug, it means her body is preparing itself for labor, but that doesn’t mean that labor will occur immediately after the mucus plug is lost. Furthermore, women can lose parts of their plug throughout pregnancy and it just regenerates.

14 The Ring Of Fire – The Worst Burn Ever



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This sounds awful and that is because it is. The ring of fire refers to the burning sensation a woman will feel as the baby’s head is crowning. This is caused by all of the tension and pressure from the baby crowning. The mother’s tissue is stretching around the baby’s head.

Despite that terrible sensation, the ring of fire can mean good things for women who experience it. This means that a baby can be pushed out more quickly, like in one or two pushes. The vagina might be on fire, but the baby is coming out quickly. It might be considered a fair trade off by some mommas. This may be avoided if the mother is given a perineal massage during labor or has a medical caregiver support the perineum while the mother begins to push.

13 What A Show – Worse Than Mensies



Via: Google Images

This is not to be confused with the mucus plug, as it may have some very similar properties as the snot-like cervical cap. The bloody show occurs towards the actual onset of labor. It looks like a gelatinous blood that is secreted from a variety of sources.

It comes from the dilating cervix as the uterus expelling its contents and the vagina begins to stretch. For some women, bloody show is a sign that contractions are going to start soon—if they haven’t already. For others, it doesn’t even occur until a woman is deep in the throes of labor.

Bloody show is not a cause for concern. However, women who experience bleeding in late pregnancy may confuse more serious issues with their bloody show. If there is a lot of blood, if it keeps coming, or if it is dark and not mixed with any semblance of mucus, it’s best to give the doctor a call.

12 Alpha-Fetoprotein – Baby’s Liver



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During pregnancy, a woman will be given a blood test to test for the levels of alpha-fetoprotein. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is something comes from the liver of the unborn child. The level of AFP in the blood can be an indicator that the baby might have problems, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

It can also test for other abnormalities, such as Edwards’s syndrome and Down syndrome. An AFP test can additionally help indicate that the baby has a congenital problem called omphalocele, which is when the baby’s intestines stick out of the belly wall.

It should be said that all pregnant woman have AFP in their blood, while healthy non-pregnant women and men have none. If they did test positive for AFP in their blood, it could mean that they could have certain types of cancers, such as testicular, ovarian, liver, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.

11 Amniocentesis – Checking For Abnormalities



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If someone who was pregnant were to hear the term amniocentesis, they could make an educated guess that it had something to do with amniotic fluid. That would be correct; it does pertain to a test of the amniotic fluid.

This test is performed sometime during the 16th to 20th week of pregnancy. This is a fairly invasive test and does have a risk of miscarriage. Women should be informed of that by their doctors.

To perform the test, the doctor will take a needle and insert in into the placenta. The doctor will then extract a bit of amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid contains the baby’s DNA so the doctor is able to test for a wide variety of diseases and disorders from the amniotic fluid. The disorders they are able to detect are genetic disorders and not birth defects.

10 Anovulation – Irregular Mensies



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Anovulation is when there is a lack of ovulation or absent ovulation. Pregnancy is clearly a time when anovulation occurs because an egg was fertilized, implanted into the uterine lining, and a baby starts to develop. Hormones will signal the body to stop ovulating.

Anovulation—outside of pregnancy—is a type of ovulatory dysfunction. Women who have anovulation will probably have very irregular periods. It is also possible for a woman’s body to be on a slightly normal schedule and not ovulate.

It should be noted that this is not very common. A woman who is anovulatory cannot get pregnant as there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. Anovulation can be caused by a variety of factors, such as extreme exercise, perimenopause, hyperthyroidism, high stress levels, extremely high or low body weight, and hyperprolactinemia.

9 APGAR – Baby’s First Test



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APGAR is a very strange acronym which stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. Taken out of context, those words don’t mean anything. This acronym is the test the doctors and nurses give to a baby immediately after it is born.

The test was designed for medical professionals to quickly access the baby’s condition to see if any immediate treatment is needed. Medical caregivers will perform this test twice—once immediately after birth and then again five minutes later. A perfect test result is a ten.

They give two points for skin color, two points for heart rate, two points for reflex responses, two points for activity, and two points for respiration. A normal pulse for a baby is over 100 and the baby would be given two points for that. They would be given one point if the heartbeat is below 100 beats per minute and fail if there was no pulse.

8 Breast Shells – Breastfeeding’s Little Helper



The word breast shell sounds off-putting. What is that? A breast shell is used by nursing mothers to protect bruised or sore nipples and correct inverted or flat nipples. A mother will wear the shell inside of her bra between and before feedings. There are two parts to a breast shell; there is the rounded dome that fits inside of the bra and a back with a hole where the nipple can be inserted.

There are two types of breast shells. One type will have wider holes which are designed to relieve mothers who have sore nipples and the other type will have a smaller hole and sit closer to the nipple base as it is designed to help mothers who have inverted nipples. Since the breast shell is sitting against the breast, it is best to not wear them continuously as this could cause leaking or an overproduction of milk.

7 Chorionic Villus Sampling – Baby’s DNA



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Chorionic Villus Samplings doesn’t sound like the fun. This is a prenatal test that takes a sample of chorionic villi. It is removed from the placenta through either the cervix, transcervical, or the abdominal wall—which is called transabdominal. Chorionic villi are tiny hair-like protrusions of tissue from the placenta that contain the baby’s genetic makeup.

The sampling takes place between the 10th and 13th week of pregnancy. It occurs earlier than some other prenatal diagnostic tests. The sample that is recovered from the villi can reveal if a baby has a chromosomal condition, like Down syndrome or Tay-Sachs.

This test can also be used to see if the baby has any genetic disorders. While the information gained from this test can be useful, Chorionic Villus Sampling has risks, which is why it is only performed if a mother tests positive during other prenatal screenings.

6 Colostrum – That Liquid Gold



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Colostrum is a bodily secretion; thankfully, it is not a gross or disgusting type of secretion. This is the first milk a woman’s body produces during pregnancy. A woman could have no knowledge of her body producing milk when she was pregnant because it is such a small amount.

Very few women will have any milk leak while they are pregnant. Even though a woman produces very little colostrum, the colostrum makes up for it by being very nutrient dense. Colostrum has often times been referred to as “high octane” milk.

It is full of immunoglobulins and antibodies. These are so important for a newborn because they help protect the baby from the new world they entered that is filled with bacteria and viruses. Colostrum also acts as a laxative that helps the baby make its first poop, which is called meconium.

5 Get A Doula, Darling



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Doula. This is a word that many women aren’t familiar with. A doula isn’t a test or bodily secretion, but a person. A doula is a trained professional who provides the woman in labor with continuous emotional, physical and informational support. Unlike doctors, the doula never leaves a woman’s side during the labor process.

She will stay during the birth and shortly after. The doula is there to provide the mother with the support she needs to have the best birth experience she can. She will also try to keep to a mother’s birth on target with what she had envisioned.

Many studies have shown that women who have a doula during labor are more likely to have an intervention-free delivery and are less likely to have a C-section. They also provide breastfeeding consultations shortly after the baby is born. Women who have a doula report to be more satisfied with their birth experience than women who did not.

4 Episiotomy – To Cut Or Tear?



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An episiotomy is not something most women wish to have and unfortunately, most may not know what it is until the doctor says he or she is going to perform one. An episiotomy is a procedure that is performed right before a woman tries to push the baby out. The doctor will make an incision from the vagina to the rectum in order to help the woman push out the baby more easily.

This isn’t a procedure doctors like to perform and it is being performed less than before. Still, the incision will be made if the baby is in distress, the head is too large, if the baby is breech, if the mother is unable to push, or if the perineum hasn’t had enough time to stretch. The doctor will give the mother a local anesthetic—assuming she didn’t receive an epidural—before performing the episiotomy.

3 Galactosemia – Baby Will Never Be Able To Digest Milk



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This word sounds like it belongs in outer space. Unfortunately, it has very real consequences here on Earth. Galactosemia is an inherited disorder. It occurs when the body is unable to metabolize galactose, which is a simple sugar. This isn’t a problem for women during pregnancy, but it can be a problem for a woman directly after birth when she tries to feed her child.

If an infant has galactosemia and is given milk, a substance created from the galactose will form in the infant’s body. It can cause liver, brain, eye, and kidney damage. This means that the baby will never be able to digest any milk products—human or non-human. Since it is an inherited disorder, the child will have a one in four chance of having galactosemia.

2 Mastitis – Mommy Pain



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Mastitis is an infection and can be very painful for a woman who has it. The infection occurs in the breast tissue and a woman will be able to tell she has this infection by having breast pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in her chest.

She may also experience fever- like symptoms, such as fevers and chills. The infection is most common in women who breastfeed and will most likely occur in the first six to twelve weeks after giving birth.

It is a more common post-partum infection than most people realize. This infection can be very physically draining, which can make it more difficult for mothers to care for their newborn. Some mothers who have developed lactation mastitis will wean their babies because of it—even though it is safe to take antibiotics to treat it.

1 Thalassemia – Baby Gets Abnormal Cells



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Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. If both parents were to be carriers of this disorder, the child would have a greater chance of inheriting a worse form of thalassemia. Thalassemia causes the body to create an abnormal form of hemoglobin. This can be a problem for women who have this disorder because they are more likely to become anemic when pregnant.

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The reason being is that the abnormal hemoglobin prevents the red blood cells from carrying oxygen properly, which can be put mom and baby under more stress with a pregnancy. Symptoms of thalassemia can be: dark urine, excessive fatigue, and pale or yellow skin.

If both parents are carriers of this blood disorder, the mother might wish to be tested to see if her child also has this disease as it can get worse with every generation. In its most extreme form, it will cause extreme anemia and jaundice and will require frequent blood transfusions as this condition can be life threatening.

Sources: Parents, WebMD, Very WellKids Health, Ask Dr. Sears, Mayo Clinic, Baby Center, DONA, American Pregnancy Association, Medline Plus

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