Amniotic sac. A thin-walled sac that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy. The sac is filled with amniotic fluid (liquid made by the fetus) and the amnion (the membrane that covers the fetal side of the placenta) that protect the fetus from injury and help to regulate the temperature of the fetus.
Analgesics. Medications that are administered to relieve pain.
Anesthesia. Medications that cause loss of sensation; includes pudendal block, epidural anesthesia, spinal anesthesia, and general anesthesia.
Apgar test. A scoring system to evaluate the condition of the newborn immediately after birth.
Bloody show. A small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, that is expelled from the vagina indicating a woman is in labor.
Breech birth. An abnormal delivery presentation in which the baby's feet, knees, or buttocks come into the birth canal first, before the baby's head.
Cervix. The lower part of the uterus that projects into the vagina. Made up of mostly fibrous tissue and muscle, the cervix is circular in shape.
Doula. A woman, experienced in childbirth, who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to women and their families during childbirth and postpartum.
Epidural anesthesia (also called a epidural block). The infusion of numbing medications through a thin catheter that has been inserted into the space that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower back, causing loss of sensation of the lower body.
Episiotomy. An incision through the vaginal wall and the perineum (the area between the thighs, extending from the anus to the vaginal opening) to help deliver the fetus.
Fetal monitoring. A method of checking the rate and rhythm of the fetal heartbeat.
Fundus. The top of the enlarged uterus.
Induction of labor. Artificially stimulating the process of labor.
Large for gestational age (LGA). A term used to describe babies who are born weighing more than the usual amount for the number of weeks of pregnancy.
Lightening. When the baby drops or settles down into the pelvis near the end of pregnancy.
Low birthweight. Refers to a baby weighing less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds) at birth.
Placenta. An organ, shaped like a flat cake, that only grows during pregnancy and provides a metabolic interchange between the fetus and mother. (The fetus takes in oxygen, food, and other substances and eliminates carbon dioxide and other wastes.)
Umbilical cord. A rope-like cord connecting the fetus to the placenta. The umbilical cord contains two arteries and a vein, which carry oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and waste products away from the fetus.
Uterine wall. The wall of the uterus.
Uterus (also called the womb). A hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum, that sheds its lining each month during menstruation and in which a fertilized egg (ovum) becomes implanted and the fetus develops.
Vagina. The part of the female genitals, behind the bladder and in front of the rectum, that forms a canal extending from the uterus to the vulva.
Vernix caseosa (also called vernix). A white substance that covers the skin of the fetus (while inside the uterus) and helps to protect the fetus.
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