Glossary of Pregnancy Terminology

First-Time Dad Glossary of Pregnancy Terms

Every 1st time dad would already have his plate full dealing with his wife’s nausea and mood swings at the onset of pregnancy.

However, the first trip to the doctor is going to either add more stuff into your jumbled-up mind or make you look really stupid.

So to help first-time dads morph into the all knowing Daddy Cool, this article will try to demystify some of the frequently used pregnancy terms used by doctors, nurses, your wife and any other person.

The terms are in alphabetical order will be color-coded so first-time dads pressed for time can distinguish better

  • Green (Easy peasy. lemon squeezy ones)
  • Orange (Middle-of-the-road still can be a riddle ones)
  • Red (Tough, scratch your head, phone a doctor friend ones)

An asterisk * next to the term will indicate you will come across it during the delivery period and not in the initial months.


Abortion – Don’t suggest this to your partner even if the task ahead does sound too daunting. Any pregnancy which ends unsuccessfully before 24 weeks for some reason or the other is termed Abortion. Not to be mistaken for Miscarriage which is termed a ‘spontaneous abortion’?

Abruptio Placenta* – The term itself is scary and it does lead to a scary situation. It refers to the partial or complete separation of the placenta from the uterus suddenly and not in natural circumstances. Contractions and internal bleeding will be seen in 80% of patients but it happens in only 0.8% of all pregnancies. Various bad habits like maternal smoking, cocaine use, hypertension, advanced maternal age and blunt external trauma (car accident) are potential causes for this to happen.

Abdominal circumference (AC) – refers to the distance around the fetal abdomen of the mother’s womb. It is measured by a sonogram. It helps to give indication to the doctor whether to continue with a normal delivery or give the option for a caesarian. Can you imagine a sumo-wrestler sized baby coming through the gap of your petite partner’s legs?

AFP (Alpha-fetaprotein) – This innocuous sounding protein found produced by the liver of the fetus and detected in the blood of the expecting mother gives an indication of normalcy in the pregnancy or not. The level of this protein should be just right, both high and low levels of this protein will call for more tests and serious discussions with your doctor. High levels of the protein mean some sort of opening in the fetus organs or a fetal death. Low levels of the protein mean abnormal growth and points to Down syndrome, trisomy 18 or Turner syndrome.

Amniotic fluid* – The liquid which surrounds the fetus and protects it in the mother’s uterus. Most of it is fetal urine. When the uterus is almost ready and the water bag bursts, it is the release of this amniotic fluid from the mother which is the first hint of the adventure to follow.

APHAntepartum haemorrhage or easily seen as bleeding before birth. The bleeding which can happen in any of the 9 months before the actual delivery is not a good sign and indicates some sort of distress. Usually it gets resolved if the mother takes adequate rest but better to consult your regular doctor as soon as you see it and not to wait for next appointment.

Braxton Hicks contraction* – Resembles labor contractions but are actually false alarms. The cervix does not dilate so they can be ignored. They are similar to the story of the boy who cried ‘Tiger, tiger’ to fool.

Breech presentation* –  Fetal position in which the feet or buttocks of the baby are closest to the mother’s cervix when labor begins.It’s a sign the baby’s getting cold feet in coming out and wants to stay in a while longer. Delivery will wait till the baby’s position is changed to normal increasing first-time dad’s anxiety.

Cesarean section* –  Delivery of an infant through an incision in the abdominal and uterine walls.It’s the only method which is possible when doctor, nurse and mother have tried all means to get baby to come out. Popularly called C-section by doctor because it brings them the cash. Looks like baby prefers mom’s cosy corner than stare at first-time dad.

Cervix*– The portion of the uterus which extends into the vagina and through which everything fetus, placenta and umbilical cord escapes out.

Colostrum* – The milk secreted shortly before and for a few days after childbirth. It is very important for the baby’s development so please do not steal it for yourself.  Even if your partner is planning to start the baby on formula milk, convince her to delay it for the first few days.

Contraction* – This activity causes the uterus to tighten and dilate the cervix, making way for the baby to go through the birth canal. Don’t wonder what your plumbing contractor has to do with your partner’s pregnancy.

Cramping – Don’t mistake it for camping and head off to buy a tent when your wife mentions she’s cramping. It is repeated pain which a woman will experience during pregnancy (similar to the pain she gets during her menstrual cycle). Usually felt during the mid months of the pregnancy as the abdominal muscles stretch.

Diaphragm* – Muscle which lies across the top of the stomach, under the lungs and which gives your wife the energy to overcome the pain and push the baby out. Maybe show your partner a diagram of the diaphragm so she can develop it well before the delivery.

Dilation* – Refers to how much the cervix will expand during the mother’s labor pains. The width of the dilated cervix will indicate to the doctor or the nurse, what is the right time to assist the mother in relieving the tremendous pain she is undergoing.

Down syndrome – Also known as Mongloid baby in some countries (not in Mongolia surely). It refers to arrested growth of the baby due to lack of a certain chromosome. It is a hard decision for the couple to take if the tests done during the 2nd trimester may reveal a possibility of the fetus having this syndrome. Some Down syndrome babies do grow up to be beautiful people except they look a bit different than others.


Ectopic Pregnancy – Another innocent sounding term but if you hear the doctor mentioning it during your visit, you guys are in trouble. It refers to the fetus developing somewhere else other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Very few doctors will allow you guys to continue with the pregnancy and the hard option of abortion will come up. Tubular pregnancy is similar.

EDD – Earliest date of delivery or popularly known as due date. The doctor will review the first time your partner missed her period and calculate approximately 40 weeks from that date to arrive at 25th December 2007.

Edema – Refers to the swelling in the mother’s body tissue due to retention of fluid. May lead to low confidence in an already troubled mother and cause her discomfort in walking. Paying heed to her mother’s advice on what to eat and what not to eat would help in controlling the edema. Raising the leg up on a chair helps in trying to control it a bit as well as less walking.

Epidural* – A type of local anesthesia used to relieve pain during delivery. The hospital will definitely want to sell it to you but our personal advice is if you can live through the temporary contractual pain, opt out of taking it. Remember once the baby comes out, you have already elected to take a lot of pain through the baby’s childhood, so what are 3 or 4 hours.

Estrogen – Hormone responsible for the embryo’s growth and nourishment in the early stages. If your doctor has not prescribed medicine to help the estrogen level, consider an option to change your doctor.

FASD – Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The word alcohol in the term should indicate to you the dangers of drinking. Convince your partner to refrain from alcohol for 9 months if you do not want to induce life-long mental retardation and other birth defects on the fetus.

Fetus – What you call the baby when he’s in the womb. In some cases, the baby remains a baby even 40 years after coming from the womb.

FH / FM – Refers to Fetal heart and fetal movement. Absence of either during your wife’s usual doctor check-up is warning signs of something wrong. That is why the mothers ask first-time dad to put hands on tummy to monitor. Not for her to enjoy the feel of your hands.

Fundus – The fundamental of fundus is it refers to the top of the uterus. The fundal height between the top of the uterus and the pubic bone helps to confirm the EDD and assess the baby growth.

Gestation – refers to the period the fetus lies in the mother’s womb just as a hen gestates its eggs. The usual gestation period for a baby is 40 weeks but anything from 37 to 42 falls in the normal gestation period.

Gynecologist – If you didn’t know this also referred to a type of doctor, it’s good you read this glossary. A Doctor who specializes in a females’ reproductive system is referred to as a gynecologist.

Induction* – After waiting for quite a while from the water bag bursting, if still no signs of baby wanting to see terra firma, artificial means of labor are tried to expand the mother’s cervix.

Incubator* – An open warmer machine to help the baby to acclimatize to the world after the warmth of mother’s womb.

Jaundice* – A yellowness in the skin and eyes of a baby due to inability of the baby to break down excess red blood cells. In certain countries, this is monitored very closely and your baby may not be discharged from the hospital until the bilo-rubin level falls to a certain level. Grandmother’s always advice to take the baby out to get the early morning sunrays to get rid of the jaundice.

Labor pains* – Don’t get too happy if you are a Conservative Party member (UK political party) thinking your favorite punching-bag party is in trouble. This is the actual pain your wife will begin to experience between her legs and in her ribs once the baby decides enough is enough and time to see some sunlight.

Lactation* – Production of milk by the mother’s breasts. If the mother lactates too much and the baby is a fussy eater, then it is advisable to get a breast pump and store the lactated milk, so mother can sleep more peacefully the initial days.

Meconium* – refers to the 1st Bowel contents of a baby at birth. Doctor’s have to take special care to check if meconium has gone into the baby’s lungs during delivery as it may lead to Meconium aspiration syndrome for the baby.

Miscarriage – refers to spontaneous ending of a pregnancy before 24 weeks of gestation. It is heart-breaking for everyone especially the mother. It’s Nature or God’s way of saying ‘Sorry not this time’.

Neonatal* – refers to a newborn infant after birth. Do not enter the neonatal unit if you wanted to check on grandfather after his fall.

Obstetrician If you thought both obstetrician and gynaecologists are the same, you obviously are not a doctor. A doctor who specializes in anything related to pregnancy and childbirth is actually an obstetrician and not a gynaecologist though both can do the same job.

Placenta The hard-working structure in a mother’s womb which is never given credit but is key to providing nourishment and oxygen to the fetus during gestation.

Pre-eclampsia A disorder in the mother due to high blood pressure,edema and kidney malfunction. Diabetes in the mother also may lead to this condition which can be dangerous to the fetus. Difficult to convince the mother to keep off chocolate during the pregnancy but the sugar level should be in control.

Pre-mature baby* Any baby taken out of mother’s womb after 24 weeks still alive is referred to as a premature baby. The longer the baby remains in mother’s womb higher its chances of survival. But thanks to technology, even pre-mature babies are given decent odds of survival.

Quickening A quaint unknown term but which actually gives joy to mother and first-time dad the first time they experience it. It refers to the first time mother feels little baby’s feet kicking at her stomach.

Rubella Also known as German measles. One disease which an expectant mother should avoid catching as it leads to birth defects or miscarriage. Made famous in an Agatha Christie movie ‘The Mirror Cracked from side-to-side’.

SCBU* – Also known as NCBU refers to Special care baby unit. Pre-mature babies whose lungs have not fully developed are placed in such units to give them a chance to survive the toughest days of their life.

Sonography – refers to the use of ultra-sound to get an image of the fetus inside the mother’s womb. Unheard of in the good old days, now every doctor who has access to this machine will use it. It definitely helps when there is a problem in the pregnancy, but in 90% of normal deliveries is only an insurance policy.

Trimester – refers to the terms of gestation of the fetus in the mother’s womb. Broken down into 3 trimesters, each of 3 months duration. The 1st trimester is where maximum precautions should be taken by mother and first-time dad to avoid a miscarriage. Once that period is over, travel is allowed for a lady till the last months of her trimester.

Umbilical cord* – The structure through which the fetus draws blood from the placenta to keep the fetus alive and kicking. It is cut off from the placenta after the baby comes out of the womb. It is often used by mother’s as a form of emotional blackmail to remind their grown-up children of the sacrifice she undertook to bring them so far.

Water bag bursting* – The  first warning signal to mother and first-time dad that delivery time is approaching soon and baby is just dying to see the people responsible for his creation. Referred to as SROM or spontaneous rupture of membranes and is actually the amniotic fluid escaping out from the cervix.



We hope this glossary presented in an easy, layman’s way helped to educate the first-time dad a bit more as he supports his partner in this unknown adventure. You won’t be able to deliver a baby on your own with this knowledge, but at-least you will be alerted enough to watch out for danger signals which mother-to-be may have ignored caught up in her own struggles with the fetus in her womb. Stay cool first-time dad.