Written by: Cally Worden
From palpations to quickening, the language of pregnancy can feel foreign to many Mums-to-be. Just at the point when you are riddled with hormones and the fabled ‘Baby-Brain’ kicks in you are expected to grapple with a raft of new terminology. Not great timing! To help you out we’ve compiled a random list of some of the most common, most obscure pregnancy terms and set about demystifying them for you.
1. Palpation – this is medical jargon for ‘feeling’ your baby-bump. As your pregnancy progresses you will doubtless indulge in a little palpation yourself, as your run your hands over your bump and gently press in places to see if you can feel what’s going on inside. Midwives use this technique too – at your later ante-natal visits they will palpate your bump to see if they can work out which way up/around your baby is lying
2. Symphysis Fundal Height (SFH) – this is the medical term for the measurement from the top of your pubic bone up to the top of your uterus (which, confusingly, is also known as your ‘fundus’). The measurement in cm will roughly correspond with the number of weeks that you are pregnant. It is taken in order to keep track of the growth-progress of your baby
3. Quickening – a lovely, somewhat old-fashioned term, it refers to the first baby movements you feel. It is typically experienced at around 16 -18 weeks and has its roots in the pre-ultrasound days, when the first flutterings of your baby’s movement were one of the few ways to be sure all was well. The word ‘quick’ used to mean ‘alive’
4. Contraction – most Mums-to-be are familiar with this term, as it represents the imminent start of labour. A contraction is the involuntary tightening of the muscles in your abdomen that will encourage your baby to descend ready for birth and eventually to push your baby out. With a little help from Mum of course! Braxton Hicks is the name given to ‘practice’ contractions experienced earlier in pregnancy, which are generally irregular and painless. Real contractions are felt as pain in the lower back or abdomen, they can feel like period pains. They are usually regular, with intervals decreasing and intensity increasing over time
5. Ripening – a quaint term that refers to the way in which your cervix gets ready for labour. Your cervix is usually long and thick. As your labour progresses is softens and becomes thinner – this is known as ripening. A fitting term if you think about the birth of your baby as the ‘fruits of your labour’!
6. Show – no, this is nothing to do with flashing your bits to all and sundry (although this is an unavoidable part of giving birth!). A ‘Show’ refers to the mucus plug that keeps your cervix firmly closed for business during pregnancy, passing from the vagina. It is normally a pinky-brown discharge, this is a sign that labour is due to start soon
7. Engaged – whether you are already married or not you will become engaged again in late pregnancy. ‘Engaged’ is the term given to the dropping of your baby into your pelvic area, ready for birth. It can offer great relief to some women, whose stomach and lungs may have been quite squashed upwards in the latter weeks of pregnancy. Not all women will feel such a significant change, some babies won’t drop at all until labour is well underway
8. External Cephalic Version (ECV) – if by around 37 weeks your baby is still breech (feet down) an ECV may be recommended. It involves your midwife or Doctor trying to rotate your baby by manipulating your bump from the outside. Medication is sometimes given to help the uterus relax a little for the procedure
9. Induction – you’re approaching 42 weeks and there is still no indication that your baby is ready to enter the world. At this point, induction will usually be recommended. It is the medical term used when starting your labour artificially. You may first be offered a membrane sweep, where a midwife will insert two fingers into your cervix and move around to try and separate the membranes. This stimulates the release of prostaglandins, hormones that can stimulate labour. If the sweep fails, then a prostaglandin pessary or gel will be inserted into your vagina to ensure the hormones are present in your body
10. Apgar Scale – this is a series of simple checks made on your baby at one and then five minutes after birth. It rates each of skin colour, pulse, muscle tone, responsiveness and breathing on a scale of zero to two. These are added up, the result is then used as an indicator of whether medical intervention is required to assist your baby in getting used to life on the outside. Typical scores are between 7 and 10, with most little ones needing no help at all