2014 has been a year in which I’ve learnt a lot of new stuff. Having never really been around pregnancy and babies before, my knowledge was pretty sparse. But fast-forward just 10 months and I can pretty confidently say I know quite a bit about what happens, why it happens, when it happens and who it happens to!
I therefore wanted to share my A to Z of pregnancy terms which I now know, despite not having a clue what they meant back in early January prior to the arrival of the sprog. So as not to make the article too big, I’ll be splitting this into a Part 1 (A to M) and Part 2 (N to Z). This is Part 1:
A is for Amniotic Sac: This is the bag in which the baby and amniotic fluid are contained during pregnancy. Think of yourself inside a water-filled zorb being thrown around. That probably gives you an idea of the trauma that the little one has to deal with for nine months inside their watery bag in mothership.
B is for Breech: A position of the baby inside the womb where the feet or buttocks are down, instead of the head. Not to be confused with a breach of contract or breach of the peace, although arguably the baby isn’t doing what is expected and childbirth is hardly peaceful. A baby who is bottom-down is likely to mean that a c-section is needed as you approach the due date. We were pretty lucky though as Baby L was breech but decided to spin herself around a week before she popped into the world. That’s my girl!
C is for Colostrum: The milk secreted shortly before and for a few days after childbirth. If Carlsberg made super, high octane drinks for babies, it would probably be colostrum. Although not much volume is produced, colostrum is full of antibodies which helps protect newborns from disease during their first few days on the outside. I find it truly fascinating that the human body can produce different types of milk as the baby grows and that each has a different purpose. Why do we drink cow and goat’s milk when we have human boob juice at our disposal?
D is for Doppler: A machine that uses ultrasound to detect the fetal heart. Sounding like a robotic alien race in a low budget sci-fi series, a doppler is actually the thing that the midwife uses to listen to the heartbeat of the baby. It is a noise you’ll become accustomed to during pregnancy (and beyond if you use white noise) and is best described as listening to a heartbeat underwater.
E is for Episiotomy: An incision made in the tissue around the vagina in order to ease the final stage of delivery. Possibly one of the worst things you will ever need to think about, this involves slicing the bit between the front-door and the back-door with a scalpel in order to stop any tearing to the vajayjay area. Cut or tear? The question that no pregnant woman (or her partner) ever wants to consider.
F is for Fontanelles: The two soft spots on a newborn’s head where the skull bones do not yet meet. That’s right, your little sprog has a really weird head. Whereas the adult skull is solid all the way round, a baby’s head is not. Instead, the newborn’s skull has five plates which do not meet to allow the skull to flex as the baby departs the birth canal. This means there are two huge gaps in the baby’s head, which if pressed, basically means you’re touching your newborn’s brain. The front one closes after a few months, whilst the back closes after two years. Mind the Gap!
G is for Gestational Age: The duration of the pregnancy, measured from the first day of the last menstrual period. If someone would have asked me what Gestational Age was, I’d have probably thought it happened in Europe somewhere in the Middle Ages between the Dark Ages and Late Middle Ages. Although it is a time period, the Gestational Age is in fact the name given to the duration of pregnancy rather than the time period following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Of course I didn’t have to Google “list of time periods” to impress you with my knowledge of historical human evolution…
H is for Hyperemesis Gravidarum: A condition during pregnancy characterised by severe nausea, vomiting and dehydration which affects up to three per cent of pregnant women. You know, that thing which Kate Middleton made (in)famous during both of her pregnancies. The thing that the news call “severe morning sickness” in an attempt to trivialise the condition. Also known as HG, it can make pregnancy a nightmare for the mum-to-be as they feel shit for ages, suffer from exhaustion, struggle to keep anything down and lose lots of weight. If normal morning sickness or man flu is bad enough, give a thought to the women who suffer from HG.
I is for Induction: Using artificial means to assist the mother in delivering her baby, often when the due date has passed. Induction is a nice word which evokes images of being welcomed into something prestigious, such as being inducted into a Hall of Fame. You can then totally understand why the word is used in the context of welcoming the baby into the world. However, what it fails to convey, is that if you are more than 42 weeks pregnant or suffering from conditions such as preeclampsia, you may need a helping hand to get things going. This can involve natural inductions based on old wives’ tales like curry and a good shagging, a membrane sweep where a finger is used to sweep around the cervix or a tablet / gel to be used in the girly area.
J is for Jaundice: A common condition in newborn babies where they are marked by a yellowing of the skin, which is caused by the immature liver’s inability to process excess red blood cells. Don’t worry, you’ve not just given birth to a character from The Simpsons. Newborn babies have too much bilirubin (a yellow substance caused when red blood cells are broken down) in their blood which can give them a yellowy tinge to their skin and eyes. This normally is rectified at around two weeks, meaning that your pride and joy looks more pink and less Professor Frink (how about that for a The Simpsons rhyming reference!).
K is for Kegel Exercises: Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor which are done by contracting and holding the muscles used to stop the flow of urine. They can help during birth and help recovery from childbirth, which can prevent or control urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor problems. I’d never heard of the word kegel before, but now I’m a big fan of the word. Mainly because it sounds like a word which could be used in many different scenarios to describe something. It could be a unit of measurement – “I’ll have a kegel of beer”. It could describe a gathering of something – “Look over there, that’s a kegel of Kangaroos”. Or it could be the name of an electrical component – “I’m afraid your car is having problems because the kegel has broken”. What. A. Word.
L is for Linea Nigra: The vertical line that appears down the middle of your belly during pregnancy. When I say “your belly”, obviously I mean the woman’s not the man’s. I didn’t develop a Linea Nigra during pregnancy. Latin for “black line”, the Linea Nigra forms in the majority of woman as a result of hormones darkening the Linea Alba (the white line that runs down the centre of the abdomen to the top of the public bone). Did you ever draw a picture with a white wax crayon and then paint over it? This is basically what happens (I think).
M is for Mucus Plug: Also called ‘the bloody show’ and a sign that labour will soon begin, this is the pinkish, blood-stained discharge from the vagina which might appear when the cervix starts to open. Firstly, BLEURGH! Secondly, BLEURGH! Possibly the worst sounding thing I ever had the misfortune to let enter into my ears (that’s the word, not the discharge). I’d have thought that this was the name given to the collection of soap scum and hairs that block the shower trap, not the name for something that leaves the wife’s genitals. As a side point, don’t Google ‘mucus plus’ as you are met with photos! BLEURGH!
So that’s it for Part 1 of my newly discovered words as I’ve covered the first half of the alphabet. Keep an eye out for Part 2 coming soon which will cover terms ranging from N to Z!
Are there any terms that you heard about during pregnancy or birth that you didn’t know beforehand? Are there any words above that you didn’t know even if you’ve been through birth? Let me know below!