Say What? Getting a handle on birthy terminology.

So often I am in conversation and forget that everyone does not eat, drink and sleep birth related information like my peers and I do.

I have put together a list of useful terms and definitions to take the “What?” out of navigating the host of terms surrounding pregnancy and birth.

  • AROM – Artificial Rupture of Membranes – using a finger or tool to open the amniotic sac to to allow the fluid to release.
  • Birth Center – Free standing location usually run by one or more certified nurse midwife. True birth centers are almost always independently run. They are not overseen by a hospital or in a hospital. May be near a hospital. Often set-up like a home birth space and epidurals or other pain medications are not available.   Hospital “birth centers” are labor and delivery floors not birth centers in the true sense of the term.
  • Bloody Show – Mucous and blood mixed together as dilation and effacement occurs.  Starts off as blood tinged mucous and becomes heavier as labor progresses.
  • Braxton-Hicks – Practice contractions that do not dilate or efface the cervix often felt at the top of the uterus versus the bottom.
  • CBAC – Cesarean Birth After Cesarean – This is a repeat cesarean after a woman desires and tries to have a vaginal birth after cesarean.
  • Cervix -The lower portion of the uterus that provides an opening between the uterus and the vagina. Also known as the neck of the uterus that softens, effaces, dilates and changes position during labor.
  • Cesarean – Baby born via a surgical incision made through the abdomen into the uterus.
  • Contraction – Tightening and loosening of your uterus. Productive contractions are often felt at the bottom of the uterus, start out like period cramps and progressively grow stronger, longer in length, and closer together.
  • Doula – Is an assistant who provides various forms of non-medical and non-midwifery support (physical and emotional) in the childbirth process. Based on a particular doula’s training and background, the doula may offer support during prenatal care, during childbirth and/or during the postpartum period. A birth doula provides support during labor. A labor doula may attend a home birth or might attend the laboring at home and continue while in transport and then complete supporting the birth at a hospital or a birth center. A postpartum doula typically begins providing care in the home after the birth. Such care might include cooking for the mother, breastfeeding support, newborn care assistance, errands, light housekeeping, etc. Such care is provided from the day after the birth, providing services through the first six weeks postpartum. In some cases, doula care can last several months or even to a year postpartum – especially in cases when mothers are suffering from postpartum depression, children with special needs require longer care, or there are multiple infants.
  • Effacement – The thinning of the cervix which occurs before and while it dilates.
  • Endorphins– Any of a group of peptide hormones that bind to opiate receptors and are found mainly in the brain. Endorphins reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions.
  • Epidural – A medical method of giving pain relief during labor. A catheter is inserted through the lower back into a space near the spinal cord. Anesthesia is given through this catheter, and results in decreased sensation from the abdomen to the feet.
  • Episiotomy – A surgical procedure to widen the outlet of the birth canal to facilitate delivery of the baby and avoid a jagged rip of the perineum. (Natural abrading or tearing is preferred and episiotomies are not evidence-based to be used except under specific circumstances).
  • ERCS – Elective Repeat Cesarean
  • First Stage – Early, Active, and Transition. This encompasses the effacement to 100%, dilation to 10 centimeters/complete, position movement of cervix from posterior to forward as contractions begin while staying longer, strong and closer together prior to pushing and delivery.
  • Foley – A foley catheter is used to release the bladder if a woman unable to urinate due to an epidural, post surgery, or with a swollen urethra post birth.  It can also be used for successful cervical ripening in lieu of cytotec.
  • Fourth Stage – First hours after placenta is delivered.
  • Fundus –  Top of the uterus. During labor contractions the fundus thickens and gets more firm as the strength of contractions increase and dilation increases.
  • HBAC – Home Birth After Cesarean
  • Ina May’s Sphincter Law -Tapping into the concept that if one sphincter is open and relaxed, the others will also open, relax and be able to handle, quite adequately, the task at hand. This also includes the aspect of birth requiring privacy, sacredness, and honor as well so a woman feels safe, unwatched and supported.
  • Induction – To attempt to artificially start labor usually by pitocin, artificial rupture of membranes with or without cervical ripening (Cytotec, Cervadil, Prepadil or Foley Catheter).
  • Intervention – Anything that does not exist in a spontaneously, naturally occuring labor and delivery that is done.
  • Kegel Exercises – Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor (sometimes called the “Kegel muscles”).
  • Lochia – Post birth bleeding that though a wound site from the placenta detaching from the uterine wall, it mimics a heavy and long menstrual period.
  • Midwife – Is a person usually a woman who is trained to assist women during pregnancy,  during childbirth, and postpartum as well as the newborn post birth.  There are many types of midwives – some work in the home, at birth centers or in the hospital.
  • Miso – Misoprostol is the pharmacological name for Cytotec a drug used for cervical ripening and induction though a controversial, off and against label used ulcer Medication
  • Mucous plug – The mucous that blocks off the non-dilated and non-ripened cervix for protection.
  • Natural Birth – Labor and vaginal delivery free from intervention except for intermittent fetal monitoring. In the hospital only a saline lock and intermittent monitoring. Can also mean no monitoring.
  • Obstetrician – Is the surgical specialty dealing with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth and the immediate post birth time.
  • Oxytocin – A hormone made in the brain that plays a role in childbirth and lactation by causing muscles to contract in the uterus (womb) and the mammary glands in the breast. It also plays a role in bonding with mate, child, and socially.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscles -The sphincter mechanism of the lower urinary tract, the upper and lower vaginal supports, and the internal and external anal sphincters. It is a network of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that hold up the pelvic organs.  Includes bladder, rectum, vagina and uterus.
  • Pelvis -The basin like cavity formed by the ring of bones of the pelvic girdle in the posterior part of the trunk in many vertebrates: in humans, it is formed by the ilium, ischium, pubis, coccyx, and sacrum, supporting the spinal column and resting upon the legs.
  • Perineum – The area between the anus and the vulva (the labial opening to the vagina).
  • Pitocin (oxytocin injection, USP) is a sterile, clear, colorless aqueous solution of synthetic oxytocin, for intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection.
  • Placenta -The organ that develops during pregnancy that transports nutrients to the fetus and waste away from the fetus. The placenta is attached to the uterus and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord.
  • PROM – Premature Rupture of Membranes – when the amniotic fluids releases before labor starts.
  • Prostaglandin – Any of a group of hormone like fatty acids found throughout the body, esp. in semen, that affect blood pressure, metabolism, body temperature, and other important body processes such as cervical ripening.
  • RCS – Repeat Cesarean
  • ROM – Rupture of Membranes
  • Saline Lock/Buffalo Cap/ Hep Lock – Is the apparatus that the IV line hooks into.  It is silicone tubing that is lightweight with a plastic needle that stays under the skin to allow easy vein access.
  • Second Stage – Pushing phase after cervix is completely dilated to delivery of baby.
  • SROM – Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes during labor.
  • Stripping membranes –  Pressing the amniotic sac away from the inside of the cervix.
  • Third Stage – Delivery of baby to delivery of placenta.
  • UBAC – Unattended Birth After Cesarean
  • Umbilical cord – The cord that transports blood, oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the placenta.
  • Uterus -The muscular organ in which a fertilized egg implants and matures through pregnancy. During menstruation, the uterus sheds the inner lining.
  • Vagina – A muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body. Also known as the birth canal.
  • Vaginal Birth – Baby born vaginally with or without medication and intervention.
  • VBAC – Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
  • WBAC – Water Birth After Cesarean

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