Download PDF

This list of terms has been compiled to assist in understanding various medical terms related to your care here.

Amnionitis: Inflammation of amniotic membrane, usually due to infection and associated with prolonged rupture of membranes (more than 24 hours before birth.) This condition may be dangerous to both mother and baby.

Amniotic Fluid Embolism: A rare condition caused by entry of amniotic fluid or material into the mother’s bloodstream at the placental site and resulting in respiratory distress and shock, which can be fatal.

Cardiac Arrest: Sudden, unexpected cessation of the heartbeat and circulation. Could result from extreme blood loss, shock, severe heart condition, allergy, overdose of drugs, or other severe medical complications.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM): A CNM is an individual educated in the two disciplines of nursing and midwifery, who possesses evidence of certification according to the requirements of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Nurse-midwifery practice is the independent management of care of essentially normal newborns and women, antepartally, intrapartally, postpartally and/or gynecologically occurring within a health care system that provides for medical consultation, collaborative management, or referral, and is in accord with the Functions, Standards and Qualifications for Nurse-Midwifery Practice as defined by the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

The Nurse-Midwife provides care for the normal mother during pregnancy and stays with her during labor, providing continuous physical and emotional support. She evaluates progress and manages the labor and delivery. She evaluates and provides immediate care for the normal newborn. She helps the mother to care for herself and for her infant; to adjust the home situation to the new child; and to lay a healthful foundation for future pregnancies through family planning and gynecological services. The Nurse-Midwife is prepared to teach, interpret and provide support as an integral part of her service.

Coma: A state of prolonged unconsciousness due to some injury or disease.

Congenital Anomalies: Developmental defects such as cleft lip, club feet, extra finger, etc. Anomalies may be incompatible with life.

Convulsions: Episodes of involuntary muscular contractions and relaxations due to a variety of causes.

Episiotomy: An incision made into the perineum to temporarily enlarge the vaginal opening at the time of delivery of the baby. Such an incision requires repair by suture.

Family Centered Care: Care that has as its central focus the needs and desires of the mother and those persons she considers her family. It is always directed toward strengthening the family’s inner resources so that all may be better able to participate in the pregnancy and birth and experience and to experience deep and enduring satisfaction which may be reflected in the parenting of the child.

Fetal Distress: Significant drop in baby’s heart rate and/or irregularity of the heart rate usually coupled with staining of the amniotic fluid with stool, indicating that the baby is being deprived of adequate oxygen supply.

General Anesthesia: Complete loss of sensation with loss of consciousness when the anesthetic acts on the brain. This type of anesthesia is usually accomplished following administration of inhalation or intravenous anesthetic. Commonly used for surgical procedures; may be used for Cesarean section.

Hyperbilirubinemia (Jaundice): Excessive bilirubin (pigment) in the blood resulting in yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes. Bilirubin is usually broken down and excreted in urine and stool. The newborn is lacking the enzyme necessary for this breakdown and therefore bilirubin may buildup in the bloodstream. Jaundice is normal in many newborns. Excessive jaundice, however, may be caused by blood incompatibility, infection, or liver malfunctions and requires treatment to prevent possible brain damage to the newborn.

Immaturity: The condition of being born at a point of development incompatible with life outside the uterus without supportive measures, usually prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Intramuscular Injection: Medication given into a muscle with a needle and syringe.

Intravenous Injection: Medication given into a vein through a needle. The medication can be given full strength in a short time or diluted in sterile fluids and given over an extended time.

Local Anesthesia: Injection of a preparation, such as Novocain, to cause loss of sensation (numbness) in a body area.

Malpresentation: Any part of the baby other than the vertex (top of the baby’s head or the bottom (breech), which enters the pelvis first, i.e. face or shoulders. (Note: breech cannot be delivered at the birth center.)

Pap Smear: Screening test for cancer of the cervix. The mouth of the womb is lightly scraped with a wooden spatula to obtain cells for microscopic examination.

Placental Abruption: Separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus before the birth of the baby, therefore cutting off the blood supply to the baby. Abruption can occur before or during labor, and is usually associated with complications of pregnancy, such as high blood pressure or severe trauma, and requires immediate cesarean birth.

Placenta Previa: Placenta which implanted low in the uterus and is either partially or totally covering the internal opening of the uterus (internal cervical os). Such a condition may cause bleeding from the placenta, which may be life-threatening to the baby.

Failure of placenta to function optimally when pregnancy has continued well past the due date, usually beyond 42 weeks. May result in fetal distress or baby showing characteristics of nutrition deprivation.

Precipitate Labor: Labor and delivery lasting less than three hours, often associated with tumuituous contractions, either spontaneous or induced. Such labor may cause trauma to the baby as it cannot so rapidly adapt to the process of being born.

Prolapse of the Cord: Expulsion of the umbilical cord into the vagina with rupture of the membranes due to the presenting fetal part not being firmly fixed in the pelvis. Compression of the cord by the descent of the baby cuts off blood supply to the baby, causing fetal distress and possible death if not diagnosed and iterated immediately.

Respiratory Distress Syndrome: Breathing difficulty in the early hours or days after birth due to incomplete lung development. Usually present in immature babies, and requires careful monitoring and treatment of the baby.

Retained Placenta: Placenta that is not able to be expelled spontaneously following the birth of the baby.

RH Factor: An antigen (protein substance) which in 85% of the population is present in the blood (Rh Positive). In 15% of the population, the antigen is absent (Rh Negative). If the Rh negative expectant mother receives or has received in the past Rh positive antigen, antibodies may form in the blood. These do not affect the mother, but may cause a harmful blood incompatibility if the baby she carries has Rh positive blood.

“Rhogam”: A medication administered to an Rh negative mother after giving birth to an Rh positive baby, to prevent the development of antibodies in the mother, which could affect future pregnancies.

Rupture of Circle of Willis Aneurysm: Circle of Willis Aneurysm refers to a congenital ballooning of an artery at the base of the brain. This is a very rare condition and not caused by pregnancy. Aneurysm may rupture at any time due to stress and is usually only diagnosed after this has occurred can be fatal.

Serology: Blood test used to screen for the presence of syphilis, a venereal disease which, if untreated, can be harmful to the unborn infant and the mother.

Shoulder Dystocia: Difficult delivery caused by large size of an infant’s shoulder in relation to the mother’s pelvis. Shoulder dystocia is associated with maternal obesity, oversized infants and maternal diabetes. Subcutaneous Injection: Medication given beneath the skin with a needle and syringe.

Uterine Rupture: Tearing of the wall of the uterus. Usually associated with previous uterine surgery, trauma to the uterus, or extremely prolonged or poorly managed labor.