Labor and Birth Terms to Know

Abruptio Placenta (Placental Abruption): The placenta has started to separate from the uterine wall too early before the baby is born.

Amniotic Fluid: This protective liquid, consisting mostly of water, fills in the sac surrounding the fetus.

Breech Presentation: Where the fetus is positioned head up to be born buttocks first or with one or both feet first. This occurs in less than five percent of all births.

Cephalopelvic Disproportion: The baby is too large to safely pass through the mother's pelvis.

Cervidil: A medication used to ripen the cervix before induction.

Cesarean Section: An incision through the abdominal and uterine walls for extraction of the fetus; it may be vertical or, more commonly, horizontal. Also called abdominal delivery; commonly called C-Section.

Colostrum: Baby's first food, this is a thin white fluid discharged from the breasts at the beginning of milk production, and usually noticeable during the last couple of week of pregnancy.

Complete Breech: The baby's buttocks are presenting at the cervix, but the legs are folded "Indian style," making vaginal delivery difficult or impossible.

Contraction: The regular tightening of the uterus, working to dilate and efface the cervix and to push the baby down the birth canal.

Crowned/Crowning: The baby's head is pushing through the fully dilated cervix and ready to pass into the birth canal.

Dilation: The extent at which the cervix has opened in preparation for childbirth. It is measured in centimeters, with full dilation being 10 centimeters.

Effacement: This refers to the thinning of the cervix in preparation for birth, and is expressed in percentages. You'll be 100% effaced when you begin pushing.

Engaged: The baby's presenting part (usually the head) has settled into the pelvic cavity, which usually happens during the last month of pregnancy.

Epidural: A common method of administering anesthesia during labor. It is inserted through a catheter threaded through a needle inserted into the dura space near the spinal cord.

Episiotomy: An incision made during childbirth to the perineum, the muscle between the vagina and rectum, to widen the vaginal opening for an emergency delivery.

Fetal Distress: Condition when the baby is not receiving enough oxygen or is experiencing some other complication.

Fontanelle: Soft spots between the unfused sections of the baby's skull. These allow the baby's head to compress slightly during passage through the birth canal.

Forceps: Tong like instruments which may be used to help guide the baby's head out of the birth canal during delivery.

Frank Breech: The baby's buttocks are presenting at the cervix and the baby's legs are extended straight up to the baby's head.

Incontinence: Inability to control excretions. Urinary incontinence can occur as the baby places heavy pressure on the bladder.