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Glossary of Terms - Words You'll Hear

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.

Anaesthesia.  A medical way of relieving pain.

Anti-D Immunoglobin. Is a medicine given by intramuscular injection that is used to prevent the immunological condition known as haemolytic disease of the newborn. Haemolytic disease of the newborn is a severe form of anaemia caused in a fetus or newborn infant by incompatibility with the mother's blood type, typically when the mother is rhesus negative and produces antibodies which attack rhesus positive fetal blood through the placenta.

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

Antibody screen. Is a blood test done to identify different antibodies in the bloodstream.

Asthma. A respiratory condition marked by attacks of spasm in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It is usually connected to an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.

Autoimmune. A condition in which a person's immune system begins to attack the healthy organs and cells of his or her own body.

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.

Body Mass Index (BMI). Is a measurement to work out the healthy weight for a person. The healthy range is between 19 and 25.

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 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Candida albicans. See vaginal thrush.

Cardiac activity. The heart beating in an individual.

Cervical os. The cervical os is part of the female reproductive system and is located in the pelvis. It is part of the cervix, which is in the lower part of the uterus. The cervix is a cylinder-shaped neck of tissue that connects the vagina and uterus. The cervix is made of cartilage covered by smooth, moist tissue.

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

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.

Chromosome. The genetic structure within our cells which contain our DNA (the material that carries genetic information).

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

Complete miscarriage. A miscarriage is complete when an ultrasound scan shows that there is no pregnancy tissue remaining in the womb.

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.

CUMH. Cork University Maternity Hospital.

D&C. Dilation and curettage (D&C) refers to the dilation (widening/opening) of the cervix (neck of the womb) and surgical removal of part of the lining of the uterus and/or contents of the uterus (womb) by scraping and scooping (curettage).

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

Diabetes. A condition caused by elevated levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood. The amount of glucose in your blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin.

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

Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU). A clinic that specialises in problems in early pregnancy (under 12 weeks) where a woman receives medical care, counselling and treatment as required. In some maternity units/hospitals, an EPU may be called an Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) or

Early Pregnancy Clinic (EPC).

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

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

Is a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception / ERPC. Is an operation that is performed when you have been diagnosed with a miscarriage if you have some retained pregnancy tissue in the womb.

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.

Fetal tissue. Part of a fetus.  

Fetus. An unborn baby. After 11 weeks gestation the embryo is referred to as a fetus.

Folic Acid. Folic acid or folate is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins, which reduces the risk of a baby being born with a spinal defect such as spina bifida. Women should take folic acid, starting at least three months before they become pregnant: the recommended dose is 400 micrograms per day. Some women may be at a higher risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (such as spina bifida) and a higher dose of folic acid (5mg) may be recommended. All women should take it for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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.

General anaesthetic. General anaesthesia is a state of controlled unconsciousness. During a general anaesthetic, medications are used to induce sleep so you're unaware of surgery and don't move or feel pain while it's carried out.

Genetic information. The genetic potential of an organism carried in the base sequence of its DNA (or, in some viruses, RNA) according to the genetic code.

Gestation or gestational age. Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe the age of the fetus or unborn 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 five 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.

HbA1c. Is a glycated haemoglobin. It develops when haemoglobin joins with glucose in the blood, becoming 'glycated'. By measuring the HbA1c, clinicians are able to get an overall picture of what our average blood sugar levels have been over a period of weeks/months.

Heartbeat. The pulsation of the heart.

Histological examination. Is the branch of biology dealing with the study of human tissues.
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 womb for implantation of the fertilised ovum and to maintain pregnancy. It shows up in a woman’s blood or urine if she is pregnant.

Hydatidiform mole. Growth of an abnormal fertilised egg or an overgrowth of tissue from the placenta.
Hyperprolactinaemia. Hyperprolactinemia is an excessive secretion of prolactin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.

Hyperthyroidism. A condition where thyroid hormone level is higher than normal limit, usually caused by overactivity of the thyroid gland.

Hysterosalpingogram. An x-ray film of the uterus (womb) and the fallopian tubes using gas or a radiopaque substance introduced through the cervix to allow visualisation of the uterine cavity and the passage of the fallopian tubes.

Hysteroscopy. Hysteroscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to look through the vagina and cervix (neck of the uterus/womb) to inspect the cavity of the uterus.

Ibuprofen. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is commonly used to treat pain, swelling, and fever. 

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.

Inevitable miscarriage. When there is vaginal bleeding and sometimes period like cramps, and an examination shows that the neck of the womb is open. However, even though an ultrasound scan may show an ongoing pregnancy and/or no pregnancy tissue has passed from the uterus (womb), it is inevitable that miscarriage will occur.

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.

Internal organs. Organs situated within the body.

Intra-abdominal. Within the abdominal cavity. The abdominal cavity is the part of the body between the thorax (chest) and the pelvis.

Intrauterine adhesions. Scar tissue that develops within the uterine cavity (womb).

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

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

Keyhole surgery. Same as laparoscopic surgery is a modern surgical technique in which operations are performed far from their location through small incisions (usually 0.5–1.5 cm) elsewhere in the body.

Laparoscopic surgery. A modern surgical technique in which operations are performed using a telescopic microscope (called a laparoscope) through small incisions (usually 0.5–1.5 cm) in the abdomen.

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.

Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA). MVA is a medical procedure used to remove pregnancy-related tissue from the womb. During the procedure, the neck of the womb is gently opened and a small suction tube is passed into the womb to remove the pregnancy tissue.

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.

Methotrexate. Methotrexate, formerly known as amethopterin, is an antimetabolite and anti-folate drug. It is used in the treatment of ectopic pregnancy.

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 24 weeks.

Misoprostol. A medication used to start labour, induce a miscarriage, prevent and treat stomach ulcers, and treat postpartum bleeding due to poor contraction of the uterus (womb).

Missed miscarriage. A missed miscarriage is also known as a silent miscarriage because women generally do not experience the common symptoms of miscarriage i.e., bleeding and pain. The pregnancy stops developing but the signs of pregnancy continue, and women have no reason to think they have miscarried. Often it is not until a routine ultrasound scan is performed that the miscarriage is diagnosed, which can be a shocking and upsetting experience.

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

MRI scan. MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a diagnostic technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the body's soft tissue and bones. 

Neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. They happen in the first month of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.

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 womb. 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.

Paracetamol. A medication used to treat pain and fever. It is typically used for mild to moderate pain.
Passive smoke. Smoke inhaled by persons other than the intended "active" smoker.

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.

Polycystic ovaries. Ovaries which have at least twice as many follicles as normal ovaries in the early part of the menstrual cycle.

Pregnancy hormone (see hCG). A steroid hormone that is secreted by the corpus luteum of the ovary and by the placenta and that acts to prepare the womb for implantation of the fertilised ovum and to maintain pregnancy.

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 uncertain viability (PUV). A term used when the ultrasound shows a pregnancy in the womb, but the ultrasound scan cannot confirm if the pregnancy is one that will develop normally, or may miscarry. An embryo may not be seen, or it may be too small to expect to see a heartbeat. It will not be possible to tell you if the pregnancy will continue to be successful, based on a single scan. In cases of pregnancies of uncertain viability, a repeat ultrasound scan will be necessary. 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 womb for implantation of the fertilised ovum and to maintain pregnancy. 

Premature. Occurring or done before the usual or proper time; too early. A baby born before the end of the full term of gestation, especially three or more weeks before.

Pre-term delivery. A premature birth is a birth that takes place before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Normally, a pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks.

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

Prophylactic. A preventive measure.

Prostaglandin. The hormone that makes the womb contract during labour.

Recurrent miscarriage. The loss of two or more consecutive pregnancies before 12 weeks of pregnancy.

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.

Saline instillation sonography. Saline infusion sonohysterography (SIS) or saline ultrasound uterine scan is a test where a small volume of saline (salt solution) is inserted into the uterus (womb). This allows the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to be clearly seen on an ultrasound scan. It is also known as a saline ultrasound uterine scan.

Sonographer. A healthcare professional who specialises in the use of ultrasound imaging devices to produce diagnostic images, scans, videos, or 3D volumes of anatomy and diagnostic data.

Sperm. Male reproductive cell.

Spina bifida. A major birth defect and a type of neural tube defect that involves an opening in the vertebral column caused by the failure of the neural tube to close properly during embryonic development.

Threatened miscarriage. A medical term that is used when vaginal bleeding occurs before the 24th week of pregnancy, but an examination has confirmed that the neck of the womb is closed and an ultrasound has shown an ongoing pregnancy.

Thrombophilia. A blood clotting anomaly 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). 

Transabdominal ultrasound. A scan where the probe is moved across the abdomen.

Transvaginal 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.

Uterine cavity. The space inside the uterus (womb) between the cervical canal and the Fallopian tubes.

Uterine perforation. Uterine perforation is a medical term that may be used to describe the accidental puncturing of the uterus (womb). This typically occurs as a result of a surgical procedure that involves the uterus.

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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