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Glossary

alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP) ~ This blood test measures the levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein in the mother's blood. Abnormal levels can indicate a brain or spinal cord defect, the presence of twins, a miscalculated due date, or an increased risk of Down syndrome.

alveoli cells ~ tiny glands in the breast that produce milk.

amniocentesis ~ If necessary, this test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, or genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and others. It also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do not develop properly).

amniotic fluid ~ clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy. It is contained in the amniotic sac.

anemia ~ when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs) becomes reduced, causing fatigue that can be severe.

anovulation ~ absence of ovulation.

antibodies ~ proteins made by certain white blood cells in response to a foreign substance (antigen). Antibodies neutralize or destroy antigens.

areola ~ the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.

assisted reproductive technology ~ technology that involves procedures that handle a woman's eggs and a man's sperm to help infertile couples conceive a child.

bilirubin ~ when the hemoglobin in a person's blood breaks down, causing a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. It is a temporary condition in newborn infants.

birth center ~ A special place for women to give birth. They have all the required equipment for birthing, but are specially designed for a woman, her partner, and family. Birth centers may be free standing (separate from a hospital) or located within a hospital.

breast shell ~ a round plastic shell that fits around the breast. It is used to correct inverted or flat nipples. Also referred to as breast shield or milk cup.

candida ~ a fungus, called Candida albicans, that causes yeast infections like thrush in the mouth and throat, and in intestines and other parts of the body.

cervix ~ the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). The cervix forms a canal that opens into the vagina, which leads to the outside of the body.

cesarean (C-section) ~ procedure where the baby is delivered through an abdominal incision.

chorionic villus sampling (CVS) ~ If necessary this test is performed between 10 and 12 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate the same chromosomal abnormalities and genetic disorders as amniocentesis can. It also can detect the baby's sex and risk of spina bifida.

colostrum ~ thick, yellowish fluid secreted from breast during pregnancy, and the first few days after childbirth before the onset of mature breast milk. Also called "first milk," it provides nutrients and protection against infectious diseases.

condom ~ a barrier method of birth control. There are both male and female condoms. The male condom is a sheath placed over an erect penis before sex that prevents pregnancy by blocking the passage of sperm. A female condom also is a sheath, but is inserted into the vagina to block the passage of sperm.

connective tissue ~ a type of body tissue that supports other tissues and binds them together. Connective tissue provides support in the breast.

constipation ~ infrequent or hard stools or difficulty passing stools.

cystic fibrosis (CF) ~ one of the most common serious genetic (inherited) diseases. One out of every 400 couples is at risk for having children with CF. CF causes the body to make abnormal secretions leading to mucous build-up. CF mucous build-up can impair organs such as the pancreas, the intestine and the lungs.

dehydration ~ excessive loss of body water that the body needs to carry on normal functions at an optimal level. Signs include increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worse on standing), and a darkening of the urine or a decrease in urination.

depression ~ term used to describe an emotional state involving sadness, lack of energy and low self-esteem.

diabetes ~ a disease in which blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are above normal. Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), is the most common form of diabetes.

diaphragm ~ birth control device made of a thin flexible disk, usually made of rubber, that is designed to cover the cervix to prevent the entry of sperm during sexual intercourse.

diarrhea ~ passing frequent and loose stools that can be watery. Acute diarrhea goes away in a few weeks. Diarrhea becomes chronic when it lasts longer than 4 weeks.

down syndrome ~ a genetic disease that is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21.

ductules ~ small milk ducts in the breast leading to the mammary or lactiferous ducts.

eating disorder ~ eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, involve serious problems with eating. This could include an extreme decrease of food or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress and concern about body shape or weight.

ectopic pregnancy ~ a pregnancy that is not in the uterus. It happens when a fertilized egg settles and grows in a place other than the inner lining of the uterus. Most happen in the fallopian tube, but can happen in the ovary, cervix, or abdominal cavity.

embryo ~ a period during pregnancy where the baby has rapid growth, and the main external features begin to take form.

endometrial cancer ~ cancer that develops from the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus (womb).

endometriosis ~ a condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other areas of the body, usually inside the abdominal cavity, but acts as if it were inside the uterus. Blood shed monthly from the misplaced tissue has no place to go, and tissues surrounding the area of endometriosis may become inflamed or swollen. This can produce scar tissue. Symptoms include painful menstrual cramps that can be felt in the abdomen or lower back, or pain during or after sexual activity, irregular bleeding, and infertility.

engorgement ~ condition in which breasts become overly full of milk. Engorged breasts may feel swollen, hard, and painful. Engorgement can lead to blocked milk ducts.

epidural ~ During labor a woman may be offered an epidural, where a needle is inserted into the epidural space at the end of the spine, to numb the lower body and reduce pain. This allows a woman to have more energy and strength for the end stage of labor, when it is time to push the baby out of the birth canal.

episiotomy ~ This is a procedure where an incision is made in the perineum (area between the vagina and the anus) to make the vaginal opening larger in order to prevent the area from tearing during delivery.

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erectile dysfunction ~ inability to achieve and keep a penile erection.

estrogen ~ a group of female hormones that are responsible for the development of breasts and other secondary sex characteristics in women. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and other body tissues. Estrogen, along with progesterone, is important in preparing a woman's body for pregnancy.

fallopian tubes ~ part of the female reproductive system, these tubes carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus (or womb).

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ~ a federal regulation that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for adoption or foster care of a child.

fatty tissue ~ connective tissue that contains stored fat. Also referred to as adipose tissue. Fatty tissue in the breast protects the breast from injury.

flat nipple ~ a nipple that cannot be compressed outward, does not protrude or become erect when stimulated or cold.

follicle ~ each month, an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid filled pocket called a follicle. This follicle releases the egg into the fallopian tube.

follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) ~ a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In women, it helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries.

galactosemia ~ a condition where the body is not able to process galactose (a sugar), which makes up half of the sugar (called lactose) found in milk. When galactose levels become high, body organs and the central nervous system can be damaged. In newborns, the condition is found when first breastfeeding and can cause jaundice and other problems.

glandular tissue ~ body tissue that produces and releases one or more substances for use in the body. Some glands produce fluids that affect tissues or organs. Others produce hormones or participate in blood production. In the breast, glandular tissue is involved in the production of milk.

hepatitis B ~a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. The virus, which is called hepatitis B virus (HBV), can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. You get hepatitis B by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person; for instance, you can become infected by having sex or sharing needles with an infected person. A baby can get hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.

hepatitis C ~ a liver disease, caused by a virus, that makes the liver swells and stops it from working correctly.

high blood pressure ~also known as hypertension. A cardiovascular disease which means the blood vessels become tight and constricted, forcing your heart to pump harder to move blood through your body. These changes cause the blood to press on the vessel walls with greater force, which can damage blood vessels and organs, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain. Blood pressure is considered high if it is greater than 140 over 90 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).

HIV/AIDS infection ~HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV infection can produce no symptoms for many years. When certain symptoms develop, a person has AIDS. AIDS is a syndrome, or group of diseases, that can be fatal. HIV/AIDS infection is life-long, there is no cure.

hormone ~substance produced by one tissue and conveyed by the bloodstream to another to effect a function of the body, such as growth or metabolism.

hypertension ~see high blood pressure.

hysterectomy ~surgery to remove the uterus.

immune system ~a complex system in the body that recognizes and responds to potentially harmful substances, like infections, in order to protect the body.

infertility ~A condition in which a couple has problems conceiving, or getting pregnant, after one year of regular sexual intercourse without using any birth control methods. Infertility can be caused by a problem with the man or the woman, or both.

inflammation ~used to describe an area on the body that is swollen, red, hot, and in pain.

insulin ~one of many hormones that helps the body turn the food we eat into energy and helps store energy to be used later. People with diabetes mellitus, a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin, might need to inject themselves with insulin to help their bodies and cells work properly.

interstitial cystitis ~a long-lasting condition also known as painful bladder syndrome or frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome. The wall of the bladder becomes inflamed or irritated, which affects the amount of urine the bladder can hold and causes scarring, stiffening, and bleeding in the bladder.

intrauterine device ~a small device that is placed inside a woman's uterus by a health care provider, which prevents pregnancy by changing the environment of the uterus (or womb).

intravenous analgesic ~ An analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. During labor, a woman can be given pain-relieving drugs intravenously (through a tube inserted into her vein).

inverted nipple ~ a nipple that retracts, rather than protrudes when the areola is compressed.

jaundice ~ a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. While not a disease, jaundice can signal a liver or gallbladder problem. Newborns can develop jaundice, which is only temporary and goes away.

lactation ~ breastfeeding, or the secretion of breast milk.

lactiferous sinuses ~ enlarged portion of the mammary or milk duct where breast milk pools during breastfeeding. The sinuses are behind the areola and connect to the nipple.

lactose ~ a sugar found in milk and milk products like cheese, cream, and butter.

lamaze ~ a philosophy of giving birth developed by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze. The goal of Lamaze classes is to increase women's confidence in their ability to give birth. Lamaze classes teach women simple coping strategies for labor, including focused breathing. But Lamaze also teaches that breathing techniques are just one of the many things that help women in labor. Movement, positioning, labor support, massage, relaxation, hydrotherapy and the use of heat and cold are some others.

lead ~ a metal that can make infants and young children sick.

let-down reflex, or milk-ejection reflex ~ A conditioned reflex ejecting milk from the alveoli through the ducts to the sinuses of the breast and the nipple.

libido ~ sexual drive.

local analgesic ~ An analgesic is a drug that relieves pain. Pain-relieving drugs can be given to a woman during labor and delivery locally through a needle inserted into a muscle (intra-muscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous).

luteal phase defect ~ problems with the uterine lining that can affect a woman's ability to get pregnant and have a successful pregnancy.

luteinizing hormone ~ a hormone that triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum (empty follicle) to make progesterone.

lymph ~ the almost colorless fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph tissue in the breast helps remove waste.

mammary ducts ~ ducts in the breast that carry milk to the lactiferous sinuses and the nipple.

mastitis ~ a condition that occurs mostly in breastfeeding women, causing a hard spot on the breast that can be sore or uncomfortable. It is caused by infection from bacteria that enters the breast through a break or crack in the skin on the nipple or by a plugged milk duct.

menopause ~ the transition in a woman's life when production of the hormone estrogen in her body falls permanently to very low levels, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and menstrual periods stop for good.

menstruating ~ The blood flow from the uterus that happens about every 4 weeks in a woman.

milk ducts ~ see mammary ducts.

milk sinuses ~ see lactiferous sinuses.

milk-ejection reflex ~ see let-down reflex.

miscarriage ~ an unplanned loss of a pregnancy. Also called a spontaneous abortion.

montgomery glands ~ also called Montgomery's glands or areolar glands. These small glands enlarge during pregnancy and breastfeeding and look somewhat like pimples on the areola. They secrete oils that lubricate the nipple.

mumps ~ a sudden illness caused by the virus paramyxovirus. It is spread by direct contact as well as by airborne droplets and saliva. Since 1967 the mumps vaccine (MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella) has helped cases decline in the United States. Symptoms include inflamed salivary glands (causing a child to have full cheeks like a chipmunk), inflamed tissues of the central nervous system (brain and spine), and an inflamed pancreas. Mumps in a child who has gone through adolescence tends to affect the ovary and the testes, which can lead to infertility.

nerve(s) ~ cells in the human body that are the building blocks of the nervous system (the system that records and transmits information chemically and electrically within a person). Nerve cells, or neurons, are made up of a nerve cell body and various extensions from the cell body that receive and transmit impulses from and to other nerves and muscles. Nerve tissue in the breast makes breasts sensitive to touch, allowing the baby's sucking to stimulate the let-down or milk-ejection reflex and milk production.

nipple ~ the protruding part of the breast that extends and becomes firmer upon stimulation. In breastfeeding, milk travels from the milk sinuses through the nipple to the baby.

nipple shield ~ an artificial latex or silicone nipple used over the mother's nipple during nursing.

nurse-midwife ~ A nurse who has undergone special training and has received certification on birthing (labor and delivery). Nurse-midwifes can perform most of the same tasks as physicians and have emergency physician backup when they deliver a baby.

ovarian reserve ~ health of the ovaries and eggs. It is an important factor in female fertility and decreases with age.

ovaries ~ part of a woman's reproductive system, the ovaries produce her eggs. Each month, through the process called ovulation, the ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tubes, where they travel to the uterus, or womb. If an egg is fertilized by a man's sperm, a woman becomes pregnant and the egg grows and develops inside the uterus. If the egg is not fertilize, the egg and the lining of the uterus is shed during a woman's monthly menstrual period.

ovulation ~ the release of a single egg from a follicle that developed in the ovary. It usually occurs regularly, around day 14 of a 28-day menstrual cycle.

ovulation method ~ a method used by couples trying to get pregnant, in which they have intercourse just before or after ovulation.

oxytocin ~ a hormone that increases during pregnancy and acts on the breast to help produce the milk-ejection reflex. Oxytocin also causes uterine contractions.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) ~ an infection of the female reproductive organs that are above the cervix, such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is the most common and serious problem caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). PID can cause ectopic pregnancies, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and other serious problems. Symptoms include fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, extreme pain, and vaginal bleeding.

phototherapy ~ treatment with light. Prescription phototherapy exposes the baby's skin to special fluorescent lights. In mild cases of jaundice, exposing the baby's skin to sunlight (taking care to avoid sunburn) is sometimes recommended.

pituitary gland ~ a small gland in the head that makes hormones that control other glands and many body functions including growth.

plugged (milk) duct ~ when the small milk ducts in the breast become blocked, or plugged. This is often caused by mastitis.

postpartum depression (PPD) ~ a serious condition that requires treatment from a health care provider. With this condition, feelings of the baby blues (feeling sad, anxious, afraid, or confused after having a baby) do not go away or get worse.

post-traumatic stress disorder ~ A psychological condition that can happen when a person sees or experiences something traumatic, such as rape, murder, torture, or wartime combat. A person can have many symptoms including flashbacks (re-living the event), nightmares, fatigue, anxiety, and forgetfulness. A person can also withdraw from family and friends.

preeclampsia ~ Also known as Toxemia, it is a condition that can occur in a woman in the second half of her pregnancy that can cause serious problems for both her and the baby. It causes high blood pressure, protein in the urine, blood changes and other problems.

prematurely ~ before the expected time.

primary lactase deficiency ~ when a person is born with the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactose can't be digested because there is not enough of an enzyme, called lactase, in the body. Consuming milk and dairy products causes diarrhea, bloating, gas, and discomfort. This deficiency can also develop over time, as the amount of lactase in the body decreases with age.

progesterone ~ a female hormone produced by the ovaries. Progesterone, along with estrogen, prepares the uterus (womb) for a possible pregnancy each month and supports the fertilized egg if conception occurs. Progesterone also helps prepare the breasts for milk production and breastfeeding.

progestin ~ a hormone that works by causing changes in the uterus. When taken with the hormone estrogen, progestin works to prevent thickening of the lining of the uterus. This is helpful for women who are in menopause and are taking estrogen for their symptoms. Progestins also are prescribed to regulate the menstrual cycle, treat unusual stopping of the menstrual periods, help a pregnancy occur or maintain a pregnancy, or treat unusual or heavy bleeding of the uterus. They also can be used to prevent pregnancy, help treat cancer of the breast, kidney, or uterus, and help treat loss of appetite and severe weight or muscle loss.

prolactin ~ a hormone that increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It stimulates the human breast to produce milk. Prolactin also helps inhibit ovulation.

prostate gland ~ a gland in a man's reproductive system. It makes and stores seminal fluid. This fluid is released to form part of semen.

puberty ~ time when the body is changing from the body of a child to the body of an adult. This process begins earlier in girls than in boys, usually between ages 8 and 13, and lasts 2 to 4 years.

pudenal block ~ This procedure anesthetizes, or numbs, the area around the vulva to reduce pain during labor and delivery.

rooting ~ a reflex that newborn babies have, along with the reflexes for sucking and swallowing. Rooting means turning the head to search for the nipple and milk.

rubella ~ also called German measles. Rubella virus causes rash, mild fever, and arthritis. If a woman gets rubella while she is pregnant, she could have a miscarriage or her baby could be born with serious birth defects.

semen ~ the fluid (which contains sperm) a male releases from his penis when he becomes sexually aroused or has an orgasm.

sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) ~ diseases that are spread by sexual activity.

sickle cell anemia ~ a blood disorder passed down from parents to children. It involves problems in the red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth and move through blood vessels easily. Sickle cells are hard and have a curved edge. These cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. They block the organs from getting blood. Your body destroys sickle red cells quickly, but it can't make new red blood cells fast enough-- a condition called anemia.

spermicides ~ chemical jellies, foams, creams, or suppositories, inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse that kill sperm.

sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) ~ the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation. Because most cases of SIDS occur when a baby is sleeping in a crib, SIDS is also commonly known as crib death. Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 1 and 4 months of age.

symptothermal method ~ a method of pregnancy planning or birth control that combines certain aspects of the calendar, the basal body temperature, and the cervical mucus methods. It takes into account all these factors as well as other symptoms a woman might have, such as slight cramping and breast tenderness.

synthetic ~ made in a lab and not from a natural source.

Tay-Sachs disease ~ a fatal genetic disorder in which harmful quantities of a fatty substance called ganglioside GM2 build up in the nerve cells in the brain and damage the cells. In children, this begins in the fetus early in pregnancy. By the time a child with Tay-Sachs is three or four years old, the nervous system is so badly affected that death usually results by age five.

testicle (testis) ~ the male sex gland. There are a pair of testes behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testes make and store sperm, and make the male hormone testosterone.

thalassemia ~ a group of blood diseases, that are inherited, which affect a person's hemoglobin and cause anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen and nutrients to cells in the body.

thrush ~ a yeast infection, caused by the fungus Candida albicans, of the mouth and throat. It's hallmark is white patches in the mouth. It can also occur in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, and causes some types of diaper rash in infants.

thyroid ~ The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that makes and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy.

toxemia ~ see preeclampsia.

toxoplasmosis ~ an infection caused by the parasite named Toxoplasma gondii that can invade tissues and damage the brain, especially in a fetus and in a newborn baby. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph glands, and muscle aches and pains. Can be contracted by touching the hands to the mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or anything that came into contact with cat feces; or by eating raw or partly cooked meat, or touching the hands to the mouth after touching raw or undercooked meat.

trimester ~ A typical pregnancy is 9 months long. Pregnancy is divided into three time periods, or trimesters, that are each about three months in duration - the first, second, and third trimesters.

triple screen ~ blood test that indicates if there's an increased risk of a birth defect, or a condition like Down Syndrome, in the fetus. This test can also show twins.

ultrasound ~ a painless, harmless test that uses sound waves to produce images of the organs and structures of the body on a screen. Also called sonography.

umbilical cord ~ connected to the placenta and provides the transfer of nutrients and waste between the woman and the fetus.

urinalysis ~ a test that looks at urine to find out its content. Can be used to detect some types of diseases.

urinary tract infection ~ an infection anywhere in the urinary tract, or organs that collect and store urine and release it from your body (the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra). An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the urethra (opening to the urinary tract) and begin to multiply.

uterine contractions ~ During the birthing process, a woman's uterus tightens, or contracts. Contractions can be strong and regular (meaning that they can happen every 5 minutes, every 3 minutes, and so on) during labor until the baby is delivered. Women can have contractions before labor starts; these are not regular and do not progress, or increase in intensity or duration.

uterine fibroids ~ common, benign (noncancerous) tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus, or womb. Fibroids often cause no symptoms and need no treatment, and they usually shrink after menopause. But sometimes fibroids cause heavy bleeding or pain, and require treatment.

uterus ~ a woman's womb, or the hollow, pear-shaped organ located in a woman's lower abdomen between the bladder and the rectum.

vagina ~ The muscular canal that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body. Its walls are lined with mucus membranes and tiny glands that make vaginal secretions.

vulva ~ opening to the vagina.

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