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Glossary of Terms - Early Pregnancy

Abdomen. The tummy area from the lower ribs to the pelvis.

Acute. Sudden and severe​

Antibody. Blood protein that helps fight attacks on the immune system such as those caused by bacteria or viruses.

Amenorrhoea. Is the medical term used for the absence of menstruation/a period.

Blood group. The way blood is classified by proteins (known as antigens) on the surface of your red blood cells. Known as Group A, group B, group AB and Group O.

Blood vessels. A tubular structure carrying blood through the tissues and organs; a vein, artery, or capillary.

Booking bloods. Booking bloods are blood tests performed by the GP or the midwife after a pregnancy is confirmed. These include Full Blood Count, Blood Group, Hepatitis B and C, HIV, Syphilis

Booking visit. Your booking appointment is the first official antenatal appointment at the hospital and takes place normally between 12 and 16 weeks of pregnancy.

CA. Cardiac Activity is the heart beating in an individual.

Candida albicans. See vaginal thrush

Cardiac activity. The heart beating in an individual.

Cervix. The entrance or neck of the womb, at the top of the vagina, it connects the vagina and uterus.

Chlamydia trachomatis.  A sexually transmitted infection which can damage the reproductive system of both men and women if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Both partners require treatment.

Chronic. Something that persists or continues for at least six months. 

Complete miscarriage. All the pregnancy tissue is passed, and the uterus is empty.

Complications. Problems that develop after an operation, treatment or illness.

Conception. When an egg is fertilised by a sperm and then starts to grow in the womb.

Constipated. Constipation is a condition in which you have fewer than three bowel movements a week or hard, dry and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.​ 

Crown Rump Length (CRL). Crown-rump length (CRL) is the measurement of the length of human embryos and fetuses from the top of the head (crown) to the bottom of the buttocks (rump). It is typically determined from ultrasound imagery and can be used to estimate gestational age.

Dating ultrasound scan. A dating scan is an ultrasound examination which is performed in order to establish the gestational age of the pregnancy between 12-16wks of pregnancy.

Diarrhoea. Is the condition of having at least three loose or liquid bowel movements each day.

Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU).  A clinic that specialises in problems in early pregnancy (under 12weeks) where a woman receives medical care, counselling and treatment as required.

Early miscarriage. When a woman loses her baby in the first three months of pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy. A pregnancy in which the fertilised egg (embryo) develops outside the womb, typically in one of the fallopian tubes.

Embryo. An unborn human in the earliest stages of growth when its basic structures are being formed between 5th and 11th weeks gestation.

Emergency Room.  A hospital room or area staffed and equipped for the reception and treatment of persons with pregnancy-related conditions requiring immediate medical care.       


Fallopian tube. Are two hollow tubes leading from the womb to the ovaries allowing the passage of the egg from the ovary to the womb. In natural conception, the fallopian tube is where the egg is fertilised by the sperm.

Fertilisation.  When a sperm enters an egg and an embryo is formed.

Fetus. An unborn baby.

Full Blood Count (FBC). A very common blood test. Doctors use this to check a person's general health as well as screening for specific conditions, such as anaemia. The number of red cells, white cells and platelets in the blood are checked.

Gestation or gestational age. Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe the age of the baby in the womb. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period.

Gestational Sac. The first sign of early pregnancy and can be seen on a vaginal ultrasound scan from 5 weeks of pregnancy.

General Practitioner (GP). A doctor who provides general medical treatment for people who live in a particular area. Like a family doctor.

Gynaecologist. A doctor who treats medical conditions and diseases that affect women and their reproductive organs.

Haemoglobin. Is a substance in the red blood cells that combines with and carries oxygen around the body and gives blood its red colour.

Haemorrhage. Very heavy bleeding.

HCG. A hormone that is made by the placenta and that acts to prepare the uterus for implantation of the fertilized ovum and to maintain pregnancy. It shows up in a woman’s blood or urine if she is pregnant.

Heartbeat. The pulsation of the heart.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). A viral infection that attacks the body’s immune system, making it hard to fight infection.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). A hormone that is made by the placenta and that acts to prepare the uterus for implantation of the fertilized ovum and to maintain pregnancy. It shows up in a woman’s blood or urine if she is pregnant

Implantation. The process by which the embryo attaches to the lining of the womb.

Incomplete miscarriage. When a miscarriage has started but some pregnancy tissue remains in the uterus/womb.

Infectious diseases. Conditions which can be from person to person - such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Examples include HIV, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis etc.

Intrauterine pregnancy (IUP).  The medical term describing the pregnancy developing in the uterus.

Karyotyping.  A  specific test using blood or tissue to check for abnormalities in the chromosomes.

Liver Function Tests. Liver function tests are blood tests used to help diagnose and monitor liver disease or damage. The tests measure the levels of certain enzymes and proteins in your blood.

Menstrual cycle. The monthly process in which an egg develops and the lining of the womb is prepared for a possible pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised, it is reabsorbed back into the body and the lining of the womb (endometrium) is shed. This is known as a period or menstruation.

Mid-gestational sac diameter. Is a sonographic measurement of the gestational sac. The gestational sac is the large cavity of fluid surrounding the embryo.

Miscarriage. Is the unplanned ending of a pregnancy before 24th completed weeks.

Molar pregnancy. There are two types of molar pregnancy - partial or complete - neither of which result in a viable pregnancy. 

Obstetrician. A doctor who specialises in the care of pregnant women.

Ovaries. A pair of organs, located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce follicles from which eggs develop.

Ovulation. The process by which the ovaries produce and release eggs each month. Ovulation usually takes place around 10-16 days before a period.

Placenta. Is a temporary organ that develops in the womb during pregnancy. It links the mother and baby by transferring oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the baby.

Pregnancy of unknown location (PUL). If there is a positive urine pregnancy test but the location of the pregnancy (either intrauterine or extrauterine) cannot be located on initial transvaginal ultrasound scan

Pregnancy of unknown viability (PUV). A term given to an intrauterine pregnancy when it is not possible from ultrasound scan to confirm the intrauterine pregnancy as viable or a failed pregnancy

Pregnancy test.  A test to measure the pregnancy hormone in the body called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It is positive when this hormone is detected in urine or blood and it confirms a pregnancy.

Pregnancy hormone. A steroid hormone that is secreted by the corpus luteum of the ovary and by the placenta and that acts to prepare the uterus for implantation of the fertilized ovum and to maintain pregnancy. 

Progesterone. A hormone produced as a result of ovulation. It prepares the lining of the womb to enable a fertilised egg to implant there.

Rhesus status. Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you're RhD positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you're RhD negative.

Threatened miscarriage. Bleeding before the 24th week of pregnancy which occurs without harm to the baby.

Thrombophilia. A blood clotting abnormality which tends to run in families, whereby the blood is more likely to clot than usual.

Thrush. An infection caused by a yeast known as Candida albicans. Symptoms include redness and itching around the genital area and an unusual vaginal discharge.

Thyroid Function Tests. Thyroid function tests are blood tests which help to check the functioning of your thyroid gland. To detect an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). 

Trans-abdominal ultrasound. A scan where the probe is moved across the abdomen.

Trans-vaginal ultrasound. A scan where the probe is placed inside the vagina.

Trimester. A three-month period of time. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters:

  • First trimester – up to 12 weeks.

  • Second trimester – 13 to 27 weeks.

  • Third trimester – 28 to 40 weeks.

Ultrasound scan. High-frequency sound waves used to provide images of the body, tissue and internal organs.

Urine. Excreted fluids containing waste products of the body.

Uterus (Womb). A hollow, pear-shaped organ that is located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum. It is the organ where a baby develops during pregnancy.

Vagina. The canal leading from the outer vulva to the inner cervix of a woman’s body.

Vein. A blood vessel that takes blood towards the heart.

Vulva. The area surrounding the opening of the vagina.

Yolk sac. The human yolk sac is a membrane outside the embryo that is connected by a tube (the yolk stalk) through the umbilical opening to the embryo's mid-gut. The yolk sac serves as an early site for the formation of blood and in time, is incorporated into the primitive gut of the embryo.

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