I remember going to my first prenatal appointment armed with notes and questions and felt quite prepared, but halfway through the appointment my doctor threw out at term I didn’t understand. Of course I felt I should know this term, after all, I was going to be a mother and should know all the terminology. Then I started to think, “Well, how the hell can I know everything? I’m not an OBGYN!” so I was going to ask what it meant, but it then dawned on me that while I was weighing the validity of my ignorance, the conversation had long since moved on. I couldn’t exactly rewind and ask what something meant twenty minutes ago after sitting like a bobble-head doll for the entire conversation, plus, I couldn’t quite remember how to pronounce the term anymore which would make me look like an idiot even more – I learned that the hard way with agave (stupid Spanish.)
So I asked Claire to write a glossary based on a list that we compiled from you guys. She did so much research on this that when her pregnant friend was telling her about some pain she was having she was like, “Is it sciatica? Pelvic girdle pain?? LIGHTNING CROTCH?!”
It’s a great little snapshot of many of the pregnancy terms thrown around so you don’t feel like an agave idiot like me.
Let us know if we missed anything and enjoy!
Also called Amniotic Fluid Test or AFT, Amniocentesis is a medical procedure done for some pregnant women during weeks 16-22 where a tiny amount of amniotic fluid is tested to diagnose prenatal chromosomal abnormalities. The knee-buckling part is how they get the amniotic fluid—a needle is inserted through Mom’s abdominal wall, then through the uterine wall and removes a tiny amount (20ml) of fluid from the amniotic sac. The removed amniotic fluid and fetal tissue contains the baby’s chromosomes and can be examined for any existing genetic abnormalities. This test is most commonly used to diagnose a fetus with Down syndrome.
Amniotic Fluid Embolism
No bones about it, this is some scary shit. Amniotic fluid embolism occurs when, during or shortly after birth, some of baby’s amniotic fluid (that liquid he has been floating around in for months) enters the mother’s bloodstream. The symptoms set on quickly and include shortness of breath, low blood pressure, heart rate issues, coma and even maternal death. Even scarier is that doctors still aren’t sure what causes it or why it happens, so there is no clear way to prevent it. They think the amniotic fluid might cause an inflammatory reaction in the mother’s bloodstream, which make the mother’s lungs and blood vessels clot.
Location, location, location. When a fertilized egg arrives at the uterus, it finds a good spot, implants, gets comfy, and that’s where the placenta eventually grows. Typically, an egg implants and a placenta grows on the spine side of Mom’s uterus. That is called a posterior placenta. But sometimes, the placenta grows on the abdomen side of the uterus – that’s an anterior placenta. An anterior placenta poses no problems to mom or baby – it may just be harder to feel baby’s kicks against Mom’s belly since the placenta is in the way. And usually an anterior placenta moves around to the back later in pregnancy.
The APGAR is a tried and true neonatal assessment tool that was developed in 1952 and is still used today. Not long after your babe is born the APGAR is performed by a doctor or nurse as a quick and dirty way of making sue your baby is healthy. Your baby gets a score of 0, 1, or 2 on five criteria: Appearance (is baby blue or pink?), Pulse (slow or normal?), Grimace (does baby respond to stimulation?), Activity (are arms and legs flexing?), and Respiration (does baby have a weak or strong cry?). If your baby gets a low score (3 or under) he/she may need some medical attention after birth.
Bilirubin is this yucky brownish yellow stuff found in bile that is waste from your liver. Your body regularly ditches it trough stool. Newborns sometimes have a build-up of bilirubin because their bodies create more bilirubin than their little livers can efficiently remove from the blood. The result is a bit of jaundice, that can cause the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow.
Bio-physical Profile (BPP)
A BPP is a nifty little work-up on a baby’s health and well-being, typically performed in the third trimester. It consists of information from an ultrasound and a non-stress test. Your doc is checking on the baby’s breathing, muscle tone, movement, heart rate, and amniotic fluid, all of which indicate whether your babe is happy and comfy.
Bloody Show/Mucus Plug
Funny story – When pregnant with my first baby I wasn’t sure if what I saw on my toilet paper was bloody show so I called my best friend to describe it and she was all, “Hmm, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to look like. Hang on, let me Google it… OH DEAR GOD WHY DID I JUST DO THAT.” The deal is that your cervix is all sealed up for 9 months by this thick mucus that keeps everything put. As you get close to labor you cervix starts to thin out and dilate and the plug may come out in a lump or it may look like several days of vaginal discharge that looks brown, pink , or red with blood (hence “bloody show”). This can mean that labor is a’comin in the next few days so giddyup!
Braxton Hicks Contractions
These funny contractions are named after Dr. Braxton Hicks, a male doctor from the 1800s who had no uterus and therefore had no idea what these suckers even felt like. Braxton Hicks contractions happen later in pregnancy as a way for the uterus to practice contracting for real labor. During Braxton Hicks, the uterus tightens for 30-60 seconds. Unlike true labor contractions, Braxton Hicks are irregular, infrequent, and aren’t very painful for most women, just briefly uncomfortable.
One of those things no one tells you about childbirth is that your wee one comes out with his mouth and lungs full of amniotic fluid. All newborns sound really gurgly when first born. One routine post-birth intervention is suctioning the mouth of the newborn immediately after birth with a suction bulb to aide the baby’s breathing. In recent years people have been questioning whether this intervention is really necessary. Truthfully, I barely even registered that it happened. They pull this tiny human out of your body and in the time it takes you to exchange a look of shock and terror with your partner, the suctioning is done and that baby is on your chest.
As you *may* have noticed your body changes and starts to get ready for baby months before you ever meet the bugger. And guess what? Your boobs totally get in on that action and start making this yellow, sticky liquid called colostrum. Your breasts create it and store it and when you breastfeed just after birth it is colostrum that your baby is drinking, not milk. Your milk will come in around Day 3 or 4 post-birth, but until then, all your newborn needs are regular feedings of colostrum. Research has shown that, while low in fat, it is jam-packed with fancy proteins and antibodies that help build you baby’s immunity. Mmmmm, antibodies.
This is probably the very first measurement to be taken of your baby during an early ultrasound. The uterus is round and the embryo naturally curls up in there is a “C” shape. So the best standard measurement that can be taken is from the “crown”, or top of the head, to the “rump” or baby butt.
D&C (dilation and curettage)
A D&C procedure is a surgery performed to end a pregnancy or clear out the uterus after a miscarriage. (I hate even typing that.) The woman is typically put under general anesthesia (though I know they can be done without). The cervix is dilated, or opened, and then a curette is used to scrape the lining of the uterus.
Degrees of laceration
Those of you who know what this is just crossed your legs. This is the brutal truth: if you have a vaginal birth there is a good chance you’ll end up with some tearing. So after birth, your OB or midwife will settle in between your legs (the show’s not over!) and assess the damage to your lady bits and label them using different degrees. They range from superficial tears (minor tears to the outer vagina) to fourth degree tear where the tissue has torn through vaginal tissue and muscle all the way to your anal sphincter. Anything more serious than a superficial tear will require stitches after birth. As if your lady garden hasn’t been through enough!
Think of a stomach of rock hard abs. You know how there are two rows of muscles in a six-pack? Well, diastasis recti occurs when those two rows of abdominal muscles are forced apart – in the case of mommies, usually by a huge, protruding uterus. Yes, the uterus pushes through the connective tissue of your abs to make more space for baby. This is something to get checked out and repair because if you have a decent gap it means all your core muscles are unsupported, which can lead to lower back pain. Diastsais recti is also commonly the cause of the mommy Muffin Top – that mommy belly that you just can’t get rid of? It may actually be your organs flopping out because there is no abdominal connective tissue to hold them in! Thank you, giant uterus.
In a healthy pregnancy, a fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and implants in the cozy uterus, where it will set up shop for 9 months. But sometimes an egg implants somewhere else—like in the fallopian tube or on an ovary or somewhere it just shouldn’t be. This is sad and bad news because not only can the egg not survive outside the uterus, but Mom’s life can be endangered if the growing egg ruptures a nearby organ.
An episiotomy is a surgical incision made to enlarge the vaginal opening during childbirth to make more room for baby’s exit. Youch. Traditionally, episiotomies were standard practice during childbirth but in the last few decades many medical professionals have stopped performing them, arguing that letting the vagina tear naturally results in a less severe tear and faster healing. You can read more about them here.
When I started breastfeeding I heard a lot of talk about making sure my baby stayed on the breast long enough to drink the foremilk and then the hindmilk. Actually, your breasts create one type of milk but the fat content is different between the beginning and end of a feeding. As milk is produced, the fat globs stick to each other and to the milk-making cells. When your baby goes to town and starts sucking, you let down the less fatty and more watery milk first and then, pretty quickly, the creamery milk becomes “unstuck” from higher up in the breast, mixes with the more watery milk, and baby gets his perfect meal. It’s kinda like when you turn o the hot water tap and for a few moments the water run cold until the warmer water starts to mix in.
Gestational diabetes is a special type of diabetes that women get when they are—you guessed it—gestating. It basically means your pregnancy hormones screw up how your body reacts to insulin, the stuff that naturally lowers you blood sugar. And if your pancreas can’t keep up and produce extra insulin you end up with chronically high blood sugar, or diabetes. Stupid hormones. There are usually no clear symptoms for GD, either—that’s why nurses are always checking your pee for extra sugar and why you have to go through a Glucose Screening midway through your pregnancy. The good news is that most women with GD do not continue to be diabetic after they give birth.
Glucose Screening / Glucose Tolerance Test
Around 24-28 weeks your practioner will likely send you for a Glucose Screening to rule out Gestational Diabetes. When you get to the screening you have to chug this sugar drink that contains 50 grams of glucose. Then you sit around and wait for an hour and then they take a blood sample to check how efficiently your body has processed the sugar. Some women think this drink is gross or it makes them feel all jacked up. Maybe I just eat too much sugar but I thought it was no biggie. If you fail the screening (your blood sugar level is too high) then your practitioner is going to want you to do a three-hour Glucose Tolerance Test where you fast for 12 hours beforehand. When you arrive for the test you give a baseline blood sample, chug an even more sugary drink, and then wait three hours, having a blood sample take each hour. I’m no sure which of those things would have made me irate at six months pregnant—the fasting or the four arm pricks. Only one-third of women who fail the first screening end up having gestational diabetes. So knock that drink back, play your Candy Crush, and try to relax while your pancreas kick it into high gear.
Group B Strep
Group B Strep is a type of common bacteria a lot of people have living in their intestines. Aaaand, oh yeah, it might also set up camp in your vagina. About 25% of healthy women have this bacteria hanging around their lady bits or rectum. It’s totally not a big deal, except that you can pass it to your baby during delivery, putting him at risk for breathing and heart problem and a lot of other awful stuff. So to prevent that, a few weeks before your due date your practitioner will do a quick, routine swab of your vagina and rectum to test for Group B Strep. If they find it then your practitioner may recommend you be on IV antibiotics during delivery to reduce the chance that you will infect your babe.
HELLP syndrome is a serious pregnancy complication that typically crops up in the third trimester. Affecting 0.2 to 0.6 of pregnancies, HELLP syndrome causes the breakdown of red blood cells, fucks up your liver function, and creates low platelet count in your blood. Those are each really bad but together there are especially bad news. Symptoms include headache, nausea/vomiting, upper right abdominal tenderness, and fatigue. The risks of HELLP syndrome are scary enough that in many cases the best way to stop complications for mom and baby is to delivery the baby as soon as possible.
This is basically a period fake-out. Some women get this and some don’t, but implantation bleeding happens when, about 10-14 days after conception, the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining, causing a light amount of bleeding. Since this is about the time most women are expecting their monthly regular, it is often mistaken for period bleeding. It is often a lot lighter than the normal flow. So if you pulled the goalie this month and just had a very light period it maaaay be worth peeing on a stick, just to check.
So your cervix is the thing you want to dilate and open on baby’s birthday. But some women have an incompetent (so insulting) or weakened cervix, which means the pressure of the baby’s head causes the cervix to open prematurely. This is bad news because it can lead to miscarriage or premature birth. It is really hard to diagnose an incompetent cervix until it has already started. A common treatment is a cervical cerclage, where they stitch the cervix closed to prevent it from dilating too soon.
If labor doesn’t giddyup on its own, your practitioner can take action to induce, or begin, contractions. The most common way to induce labor is to do a membrane sweep or set mom up with an IV of pitocin. There are a lot of different reasons to induce labor, like if your water breaks too soon or your doc is worried your placenta isn’t providing enough nutrients to your babe. I was induced with all three of my babies due to some medical complications and my childbirths were perfectly lovely and my babies didn’t seem to know the difference. Huzzah!
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
You might have noticed practitioners are kinda interested in the size of your wee one while he is still in-utero. One of the things they are on-alert for is Intrauterine Growth Restriction, which is when your fetus appears to be very small for his gestational age (specifically, less than 10%). They diagnose this problem by doing that first trimester crown-to-rump measurement and then continue to measure your baby either through additional ultrasounds or pelvic exams. There are a lot of reasons IUGR might occur. It could mean mom is malnourished or baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or had a chromosomal abnormality. And sometimes these babies are just actually small people, like the parents.
When baby is born you’ll notice nurses and doctors are very interested in your baby’s poop schedule. That’s because they want to see that newborn pooping up a storm! Newborns often have a buildup of bilirubin in their bile because their little livers can’t process the waste very efficiently. The more baby poops, the better. But a lot of babies end up at least a little bit jaundiced, meaning the bilirubin builds up in baby’s body, causing a yellow hue to the skin and whites of the eyes. A little jaundice in a newborn is pretty common and not a big deal, but too much jaundice can be bad news for baby. If your pediatrician is concerned about jaundice he/she may have your baby’s bilirubin levels checked through a simple blood test and could recommend phototherapy as a treatment.
Ah, you poor pelvic floor muscles. They are the group of small muscles that are responsible for supporting your bladder, uterus, and intestines. And guess what happens to those muscles when you throw a giant watermelon on top of them? Blammo! When these muscles get weak, stretched, or torn part it can lead to post-childbirth issues, like peeing your pants every fucking time you sneeze. (God, that’s annoying.) That’s why yoga teachers and my OB are always clucking on and on about kegel exercises – the workout you can do so strengthen and support these very important muscles. One way to do a kegel exercise is to contract your muscles like you are stopping the stream of pee. Try to repeat that squeeze and learn to hold it. I suck at them and pee at the very sight of a trampoline.
Just in case you thought you birthed a sasquatch, it’s probably just lanugo. Lanugo is this very fine hair that covers your newborn’s body. You’re more likely to see it if you gave birth a bit prematurely. Within the first couple months of life the hair gradually falls out and is replaced the very fine body hair we all have.
How your baby latches onto your breast is vital for a successful breastfeeding experience. And yes, I was one of those women who, before childbirth, thought, is this a thing? Don’t newborns just latch on automatically and that’s that? Oh no no no. A lot of moms and babies have to work at getting the latch just right – meaning on the breast deep enough that breastfeeding isn’t horribly painful for mom. It took two adults (four hands) to get my first baby properly latched in the hospital. Like I said, for some of us there is a learning curve. A lot of people say if breastfeeding hurts at all, that means the latch is wrong. I thought nursing was horribly painful the first week even *with* the correct latch. Get the name and number of a lactation consultant if you feel like your latch is not right or you need help.
So when it’s time for your baby to eat he/she usually goes at your nipple with a fast, quick suck, hungry for milk. This action stimulates your let down reflex, that signals your boobies that the milk bar should open, and thus the milk starts a-flowin’. Some women can’t feel their let down and others are extremely sensitive to it Either way, you can tell you have let down because your baby’s sucking goes from the initial, frantic sucking, to longer sucks with swallowing. Oh yeah, and let down can also happen even when baby is not latched on. I once let down at the supermarket because my newborn let out this delicious little yawn/sigh and I started leaking milk right down my shirt. Lovely.
Large for gestational age (LGA)
If your baby is busting off the growth chart and is above 90th percentile for weight when born than he/she may be labeled at LGA. Your practitioner may estimate that your baby has LGA due to ultrasound an pelvic measurements while you are still pregnant, but LGA can’t really be diagnosed officially until birth. Often, babies with LGA had moms with gestational diabetes but some babies are just big kids because they have big parents.
This delightful sensation often occurs in the third trimester when baby shifts around and presses on a nerve to your vagina. I (thankfully) never experienced this but apparently it feels like you are being electrocuted in the vagina. How fun!
A lot of women get this dark vertical line on the skin from your crotch up through your belly button. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it—just those wacky pregnancy hormones causing your skin to do weird, useless things, like darken freckles and grow skin tags.
Lipase is an enzyme in your breastmilk. For some women, excess lipase in breastmilk causes expressed, stored milk to taste soapy. Your first clue might be that your baby latches on to a bottle of expressed milk but refuses to drink it. Give that milk a taste yourself and you’ll know if you have a lipase problem. To prevent your pumped milk from tasting nasty, you have to scald it while it’s still fresh and then you can store it.
Lochia is that bonus period-like bleeding that occurs for 4-6 weeks after childbirth. Doesn’t that sound fun? For about a month after baby arrives you’ll discharge blood, mucus, and uterine tissue, so stock up on menstrual pads because you’ll need ’em.
Awwww, baby’s first poops! The first few bowel movements your baby has will be meconium, this black tarry poop and is made up of stuff your baby ingested while in-uetero. After a few days your baby’s poop will turn yellow, the color of digested milk. If your water breaks take a look and see if it’s clear or tinged with this tarry stuff, because your practitioner will want to know since infants who release it into the amniotic fluid before birth may be in distress.
This is a method for inducing labor. During an office visit your practitioner will put his/her finger into the cervix to separate the bag of water (amniotic sac) from the uterus. Doing this releases hormones that may start contractions. It doesn’t throw you into labor right away—you’ll have it done and then go home and knit an afghan and wait around to see If anything happens, like you’ve been doing. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s not a comfortable procedure so you may want to discuss with your practitioner the pros/cons of having it done.
See Bloody Show
This is a non-invasive test done to check the health of your fetus in the third trimester. It’s called a “non-stress” test because it causes no harm or stress to your baby at all. Mom is hooked up to one belt that measure baby’s heart rate and another that measures contractions. For about 30 minutes to one hour your baby’ heart rate and movement are measured and your doc is looking to see that your baby’s heart rate goes up a healthy amount during movements and decrease at rest. You might have to have this test done if you have gone past your due date, you noticed your baby moving less often than normal, or if you are having a high-risk pregnancy.
Percentiles are a clinical measure your pediatrician uses to plot your child’s overall physical growth on a chart of the general population. So after a baby’s height, weight, and head circumference are measured at a well-baby check-up, your pediatrician plugs that data into a nifty chart that then generates your baby’s percentile ranking. If Baby is ranked 65th percentile for weight that means out of 100 babies in the general population, he weighs the same or more than 65 of them and less than 35 of them. You can read more about percentiles here.
After I got wheeled into postpartum care from my vaginal delivery my nurse handed me a peri bottle and told me to go pee and I was like, ‘WTF, lady, am I supposed to drink out of this while peeing?!’ The deal is you fill the peri bottle with tap water and squirt it onto your nethers to rinse off your lady bits after you pee or poop, post-childbirth. Your down under area is so raw and sensitive you do not want to touch it with toilet paper, trust me. It’s kind of like an on-the-go bidet. You get to take you nifty peri bottle home and use it until things heal down there. My friend Ellen even kept hers and uses it at the beach as a water toy, much to the horror of other moms. True story.
Pelvic Girdle Pain
These awesome, amazing hormones that keep your baby alive also make everything all loosey-goosey down in your pelvic region. Some women are the unlucky recipients of pelvic girdle pain—when your pelvic joints and muscles loosen up and your get some pretty intense pain around your pelvis, lower back, and butt. It is very commonly confused for and misdiagnosed as sciatica. You can ear a pelvic girdle or do massage or forms of physiotherapy to alleviate your symptoms, but more than anything you should not push through the pain. Give your poor pelvis some rest!
Yeah, this isn’t the kind of prenatal massage you get at a spa. The perineum is the area around your vagina and some people massage it before birth to increase its stretchiness. Why? The idea is that doing perineal massage while pregnant may reduce your risk of tearing or the need for an Episiotomy during childbirth. You can google up how exactly to perform this massage though maybe not at work…) and some women find it easier to have someone else do the massaging. Tee hee.
Phototherapy is a common treatment for reducing jaundice in newborns. If your baby’s bilirubin levels are high the doc can put your baby in an incubator where he is exposed to the type of florescent light that breaks the bilirubin and makes it easier for your baby to pass in his stool. The phototherapy doesn’t hurt baby. He gets a bitchin’ pair of shades to wear to protect his eyes and hopefully he’ll just snooze through the whole thing, as if it was a rum-induced nap on the beach during spring break.
Pitocin (or “Pit” as your nurses may call it) is a liquid medication given to induce labor. It is administered via IV and it’s basically a synthetic form of oxytocin. It can also be used to speed up labor that has started on its own. You can ask your practitioner before childbirth if or how he/she uses pitocin so you know what to expect going in. Some women get pitocin and find it to be no big deal and others hate, hate, hate it.
The placenta is a whole extra organ that you grow while pregnant just to support your baby. It I shaped a bit like a pancake and it usually attaches to the top of your uterus. The baby is connected to it via the umbilical cord. The placenta is responsible for providing oxygen and nutrition to baby, eliminating waste, fighting infection, and the list goes on. After your delivery your baby the umbilical cord is cut and then a few minutes later you “deliver” your placenta as well. Some practitioners will ask you if you want to see it or keep it for encapsulation. Even if you’re squeamish, it’s worth taking a peek at the thing that kept your baby going for so many months.
This is one of those things I thought my hippy friend was making up and I called her a goddamn liar and then I found out it’s actually a pretty common thing! After you deliver your placenta it can be dehydrated, ground up, and formed into capsules. Women take them like vitamins and they are said to help a woman heal faster after birth, battle postpartum depression, and even increase breastmilk supply. How does this work? The idea is that after birth a woman loses a lot of iron and there is a massive hormone free-fall. Taking the encapsulated placenta helps increase iron levels and boost hormone levels up again so mom might not take that trip to No Hormones Crazytown. If you are interested in encapsulating your placenta, ask you practitioner how to make it happen and you can read more about it here.
Placenta previa is where your placenta attaches to the bottom of your uterus, close to the cervix, instead of the top. This is usually detected early in pregnancy and it typically moves up. But if the placenta stays low and covers the cervix later in pregnancy it can cause major complications, like bleeding, that may mean you have to deliver your baby early via c-section.
Postpartum Hemorrhage (PPH)
All women bleed and have lochia after childbirth but some women have an abnormal amount of bleeding from deep tears or a clotting problem. Your postpartum nurse will likely ask you to keep track of how many pads you are using and you should pay attention to whether the bleeding it getting heavier instead of lighter, etc.
Preeclampsia is a really serious condition that causes your blood vessel to constrict, causing a lot of harm to you and your baby. The biggest symptom is high blood pressure, as well as protein in the urine, headaches, and vision changes. It can come on very suddenly so it’s important to call your practitioner if you notice any of these symptoms. In some cases, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, or life-threatening seizures in mom. Please read more about it here.
Prodromal labor is when you start having real, painful contractions and they are kinda sorta regular and then you realize, hey wait, these aren’t actually regular at all. So basically they are big fake-out contractions and you have my permission to call your uterus an asshole.
Prolapsed Umbilical Cord
An umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the cord precedes the baby out during childbirth. This is considered an emergency because as the baby descends it puts pressure on its own cord, thereby reducing its own oxygen and blood supply. Typically a c-section is performed to prevent any damage to the baby.
PUPPP stands for Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy. It’s this super uncomfortable rash that some women get late in their pregnancy, around 35 weeks. The rash consists of bumpy, itchy red marks and doctors have no clue what causes it. They can prescribe ointments and creams and you can try taking an oatmeal bath or slathering aloe on. Thankfully, symptoms usually disappear after birth because that sounds really fucking annoying.
Round Ligament Pain
There are these round ligaments that connect the front part of your uterus to your groin. And a whole lotta strain is put on them as your uterus grows, especially in the third trimester. These ligaments contract really slowly compared to other muscles so any quick movement, like standing up, can cause a few minutes of sharp ligament pain. Just another reason for you to take it nice and easy there, mama.
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back all the way down the back of your legs to your feet. And guess what happens when that nerve starts acting up? It’s not pretty. But I just learned that real, true sciatica is pretty rare—most pregnant women with lower back, butt, and leg pain are actually having pelvic girdle pain, which is also a huge pain in the ass. Literally.
Subchorionic Hemorrhage (SCH)
An SCH is when a clot occurs in the folds between the folds of the placenta. They can cause bleeding and if your practitioner suspects you have an SCH he/she will order up an ultrasound. Many times an SCH dissolves with no issue, but sometimes they can cause complications. Yet another reason to get your practitioner on the horn if you ever see bleeding while pregnant.
Short Frenulum/Tongue Tied
Ok, go to the mirror and lift your tongue up the roof of your mouth. See that weird membrane thing that connects your tongue to the roof of the mouth? That’s the frenulum. If your pediatrician or lactation consultant says your baby may be tongue tied, it means his frenulum is short, which can make breastfeeding really difficult for your wee one. You might notice that your baby’s tongue curl under when she is screaming bloody murder—that’s a sign of a short frenulum. For most people the fernulum loosens over time but that doesn’t help when your newborn is hungry and your boobs are leaking. To solve the problem in baby, it is possible to have the frenulum clipped. I know that sound brutal. My best friend had it done to her tiny baby and the baby barely woke up or cried at all and it made a *huge* difference to nursing for both of them.
Skin to Skin
Skin to skin is when you put your naked baby (with diaper) on your naked chest or belly for some skin on skin action just after birth (and beyond). Yes, it feels delicious but there are actual, real medical benefits to do doing this with your newborn, right after birth and beyond. Babies who have skin to skin contact with mom after birth have more stable respiratory function, body temperature, and glucose levels. Did I mention it’s totally and completely delicious?!
If you hear your practitioner tossing around numbers and referring to baby’s station he/she is trying to explain where your baby’s head is in relation to your pelvis. It’s measured from -5 to +5. -5 to 0 means the baby’s head is not engaged in the pelvis at all and +1 to +4 means baby’s head is moving down and +5 means giddyup, baby is crowning and it’s time to start pushing!
Stages of Labor (early, active, transition)
Labor generally follows a vague pattern of three stages. Early labor is when you go from 0-3cm dilated. During this phase some women like to nest and clean their houses or bake casseroles. I like to sit on my ass and eat snacks while glaring at my husband. The next phase, active, means you are going from 3cm-7cm. Now is when you want to be heading to the hospital to get all ready for baby’s imminent arrival. Some women go too soon and are told to go home because they are still in early not active labor, which is generally not well received by the woman who is having contractions and wants to give a piledriver to the bearer of this bad news. Next comes transition where contractions are constant and you go from 7cm to 10cm, when you will be ready to push. A lot of women puke at this phase or say unsavory things to their spouses… maaaaybe speaking from personal experience.
When a baby dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it is called stillbirth. Anything before that is considered a miscarriage. In most cases, stillbirth occurs before delivery and less often during labor. The cause of stillbirth is often linked to placenta issues, infections, chromosomal disorders, blood clots, umbilical cord accidents or chronic heath issues in mom—like diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, etc. – but sometimes they just don’t know why a baby is born still. It’s usually picked up at an ultrasound appointment or by mom with a sudden drop in fetal movement. You can read more about it here though.
Thrush is this totally harmless (though fucking annoying as shit) yeast infection your baby can get in his mouth. They often pick up the infection on their trip down the birth canal. The worst part is that baby can pass it to mom’s nipples (making nursing excruciating) and even if one person gets rid of the infection they can just keep passing it back and forth. Thrush in your baby will look like these white patched in his mouth that won’t wipe off. Side note: my lactation consultant explained to me that baby’s tongue is usually white from milk, but thrush is on the tongue and the sides of the mouth.
After birth your practitioner will come and check that your uterus is doing what it’s supposed to do—namely, shrink back down. They may give it a gentle uterine massage to help get it back where it needs to be. There is also research suggesting that this massage may reduce hemorrhaging and blood loss after birth.
Vaginal Birth After C-Section (VBAC)
Also called a Trial of Labor After Ceserean (TOLAC), this is when a woman who had previously delivered by c-section labors and deliverys subsequent babies vaginally. It used to be that if you had one c-section you had to deliver all your other babies that way, too. Now VBACs are becoming more and more common – 70-80% of women who are allowed to labor end up having vaginal deliveries after c-section. If this is something you want to do, make sure your practitioner is on-bard or find one who is.
vernix is this white, cheesy looking stuff that may cover your newborn at birth. It washed right off. Vernix has a few theorized functions—it aides baby’s ride down he birth canal, helps slough off lugano, and also moisturizes and protects baby’s skin.
Void (after birth)
Your postpartum caregiver is going to be super interested in when and how much you peed after birth. That’s because they want to make sure that childbirth didn’t fuck up your bladder. They want to make sure you can pee without pain and can fully empty your bladder, so they will even measure how much pee you produce to make sure everything is honkey dorey.
Claire Goss is a stay-at-home mother of three (ages 6, 4, and 1) who lives in suburban Boston. She has MA degree in child development, which doesn’t come in handy at all when your child has just ripped open 10 packets of infant oatmeal and dumped them on the floor. She is also known as Guru Louise at Rants from Mommyland and was also a regular contributor at Babble.com. She has been reading Pregnant Chicken for years and loves writing for the Burd because she gets to use all those curse words she is forced to edit out of daily preschool vocabulary.