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Glossary of OB/GYN

A term meaning interruption of pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation. Most people associate the word abortion with voluntary disruption of a pregnancy. However, the medical term for miscarriage is “spontaneous abortion” and the term for bleeding in early pregnancy is “threatened abortion.”

Advanced maternal age 
Age 35 or greater during pregnancy.

A test that can be done during pregnancy (at around 16 weeks gestation) to test the baby’s chromosomes to rule out certain birth defects. A small amount of amniotic fluid is removed with a needle, and the baby’s skin cells are grown in tissue cultures and then tested. Amniocentesis is offered to all pregnant women who are 35 years or older, or who have an increased risk of fetal problems that can be diagnosed by this test. There is a small risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis.

Low blood count due to inadequate iron intake, blood loss, or other medical problems.

APGAR Score 
This is a system to assess the baby at birth to determine need for supportive measures, breathing assistance, or other resuscitation. The baby is scored at 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth; the score includes 1-2 points each for heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflexes, and color. A score of 10 is perfect but uncommon; most babies will have scores of 7, 8 or 9.

Barrier Method of Contraception 
Condoms, diaphragm, cervical cap

Bioidentical hormones 
A marketing term used to describe hormones that are chemically identical to your body’s own hormones. These hormones are no safer than FDA approved hormones, and may not be as safe because they have been studied less than most FDA approved hormonal preparations.

Biophysical profile 
This is a test to assess the baby’s wellbeing before birth. Like the APGAR score after birth, points are assigned. The BPP includes 2 points each for fetal movement, fetal tone, fetal breathing movements, and amniotic fluid volume. 2 additional points can be assigned for a nonstress test (NST).

Bloody show 
A small amount of bleeding, with or without mucous, in early labor. This is normal. If you have a large amount of bright red blood, call your care provider.

Braxton-Hicks contractions 
Irregular contractions that do not cause the cervix to open. These contractions cause your uterus to tighten and feel more firm, and can sometimes be uncomfortable. They are perfectly normal, but if you notice regular or painful contractions that do not go away when you drink a large glass of water and lie down, call your provider.

Breech position 
Rather than descending head first into the pelvis, another body part of the baby is down. Breech position is further classified according to which body part is lowest in the mother’s pelvis: frank breech – buttocks, footling breech – one foot, double footling breech – both feet are down, complete breech – both feet and buttocks.

Terbutaline, a medication commonly used for asthma, that is also sometimes used to treat premature labor.

A blood test for a cancer antigen that is used in the diagnosis and follow-up of ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, this is not a good screening test for ovarian cancer in asymptomatic low-risk women because it usually only becomes positive after the cancer is fairly advanced. It also has a high false positive rate, i.e. abnormal results when the patient does not have ovarian cancer.

Cesarean section 
Delivery through an abdominal incision rather than through the vagina. There are various types of incisions in the uterus which can impact whether it is safe to consider vaginal birth after a previous C-section.

A procedure or stitch placed around the cervix to avoid abnormal early opening of a weakened or “incompetent” cervix. Cerclage is not used to treat or prevent premature labor.

Cervical dysplasia 
A potentially precancerous condition of the cervix.

An infection of the amniotic fluid and membranes.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) 
A test that can be done to test the baby’s chromosomes to rule out birth defects such as Down’s syndrome. This test can be done at 10-12 weeks of pregnancy (earlier than amniocentesis), but must be done at a tertiary care center such as Baylor College of Medicine. This test also carries a small risk of miscarriage.

A test performed by a gastroenterologist or other specialist to evaluate your colon. This test is recommended for everyone beginning at age 50, sooner if you have risk factors for colon cancer. Just having the test done can prevent colon cancer!

Early breast secretions produced before the breast milk comes in. Colostrum is high in antibodies and proteins and is very valuable to the newborn. Colostrum may be noticed during pregnancy, well before birth.

A test done in the office to look at your cervix closely through a magnifying scope in order to determine the cause of an abnormal PAP smear.

Cord Blood Banking 
Saving your baby’s umbilical cord blood which is very high in stem cells and potentially can be used in the future to treat many diseases.

Cystic fibrosis 
An inherited disease that causes abnormally thick secretions in the lungs and digestive track. Caucasians have a 1 in 25 chance of carrying the cystic fibrosis gene. If both parents are carriers, the baby could potentially inherit a gene from each parent and would have a 1 in 4 chance of having the disease, which is currently fatal in the teenage or young adult years. Cystic fibrosis testing is offered to all caucasian patients and to other patients at high risk for the disease.

D&C Stands for dilatation and curettage, which means dilating the cervix and sampling or removing the lining or contents of the uterus.

Labor assistant who provides support, encouragement, and coaching during the entire labor and delivery experience. Doulas are not supplied by the birthing center; they must be hired separately.

Cramping or pain with your menses.

Pain during intercourse.

Seizures during pregnancy caused by pregnancy-induced hypertension or one of the related syndromes.

Ectopic pregnancy 
A pregnancy which is growing in an abnormal location rather than inside the uterus. The most common type is a tubal pregnancy.

Thinning of the cervix that occurs in preparation for labor and delivery.

Emergency contraception 
“Plan B”

A common disease in which endometrial tissue that normally lines the uterus is growing in an abnormal place. Endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain and infertility.

The tissue that lines the uterus and that is shed during a menstrual cycle.

Endometrial Ablation 
A procedure for heavy menstrual bleeding in which the lining of the uterus is destroyed.

Used for pain control during labor and delivery.

An incision in the perineum, the area between the vagina and the anus, used to facilitate vaginal delivery. Once used routinely, episiotomies are rarely done now, and only for specific indications.

A technique of female sterilization that involves blocking the tubes by inserting tiny coils through the cervix using a hysteroscope. This procedure is not uncomfortable and can be performed in the office.

A hormone produced by the ovaries that stimulates growth of the lining of the uterus (endometrium).

False labor 
Contractions that do not dilate the cervix.

Fetal alcohol syndrome 
Small size, mental deficiency, and multiple birth defects, caused by regular alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Fetal Fibronectin 
A substance produced during pregnancy prior to labor. The fFN or FFN test can be used to determine a patient’s risk of preterm delivery.

Benign smooth muscle tumors of the uterus. Fibroids are very common, occuring in 25-50% of all women.

First Trimester 
The first one-third of pregnancy, usually defined as lasting until 12-13 weeks gestation.

A vaccination that protects against the most common 2 subtypes of HPV that cause genital warts, the 2 most common high-risk subtypes that cause cervical cancer.

German measles (Rubella) 
A childhood infection. If contracted during pregnancy, Rubella can cause serious birth defects. Most women have been immunized (the MMR vaccination), but if you are not immune, you should be vaccinated prior to pregnancy. If already pregnant and not immune, avoid contact with sick children, especially those with a rash.

Gestational diabetes 
Glucose intolerance caused by pregnancy. Gestational diabetes resolves after delivery, but if you have gestational diabetes, you have a fairly high risk of developing Type II diabetes in the future.

GBS (Group B Strep) 
A very common bacteria often located in the vagina or rectum. About 10% of all healthy women are “carriers” of GBS. If exposed to GBS during labor and birth, the infant can occasionally develop pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis.

HELLP syndrome 
A severe condition, variation of preeclampsia or pregnancy induced hypertension. The initials stand for hemolysis, hepatic enzyme elevation, and low platelets.

Hepatitis A 
A viral infection that affects the liver. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted by eating contaminated food. It rarely causes serious disease.

Hepatitis B 
A viral infection that affects the liver. Hepatitis B is transmitted by sexual contact or other close personal contact, and by blood transfusions, sharing needles, etc. Some patients completely clear the infection; others become chronic carriers of the infection. Vaccination prevents this disease.

Hepatitis C 
The most serious type of Hepatitis, transmitted by contact with blood, sharing needles, sexual contact.

A viral infection that causes genital blisters or oral fever blisters. There are two types of Herpes Simplex virus, Type I which usually causes oral lesions, and Type II which usually causes genital lesions.

Human papilloma virus. There are over 100 subtypes. This virus causes genital warts. The high-risk types cause precancerous lesions of the cervix and cervical cancer.

Hydrothermal ablation, a method to improve abnormal heavy menstrual bleeding

Induction of labor 
The use of medication or other methods to start labor when desired (elective induction) or needed, i.e. when it is safer than waiting (medical induction).

Intrauterine device. A small device placed inside of the uterus which prevents pregnancy.

A yellow coloration of the skin caused by too much bilirubin, a waste product usually cleared by the liver. Jaundice is commonly seen in patients with hepatitis, and in newborns whose parents have different blood types.

Kegel exercises 
Exercising the pelvic floor muscles.

The first few bowel movements that a newborn passes are thick and green, called meconium. The baby sometimes passes meconium prior to birth. In this case, the amniotic fluid will have “meconium staining” which can cause respiratory problems if the baby inhales this fluid.

The condition that occurs when the ovaries cease making the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menses cease in women who have not had a hysterectomy. If a woman has had a hysterectomy, but her ovaries were not removed, she will still go through menopause, but will not have cessation of menses to tell her when it has occurred.

An intrauterine device which contains and releases tiny amounts of progestin. The efficacy is over 99% and once inserted, it lasts for 5 years.

Molar pregnancy 
An abnormal pregnancy which consists of abnormal placental tissue.

Morning Sickness 
Nausea and vomiting that occur in early pregnancy. These symptoms can happen at any time of the day; they are caused by the pregnancy hormones.

Mucous plug 
Mucous collects in the cervix during pregnancy. It serves no purpose, but is often shed during the last few weeks of pregnancy. It does not mean that you are going into labor if you see your mucous plug and you do not need to notify your care provider that you have passed it.

Natural Family Planning 
Also called the rhythm method, this birth control method relies on avoiding intercourse during the “fertile” times of the woman’s cycle. The failure rate is high.

A method of endometrial ablation to treat heavy bleeding.

Nuchal Translucency Testing 
A noninvasive test done in the first trimester to determine the risk of Down’s syndrome and Trisomy 18. Test consists of an ultrasound to measure the baby’s neck fold thickness (NT) and a blood test.

Decreased bone density which increases a woman’s chance of fractures.

Ovarian cancer 
Cancer which begins in the ovaries. It is difficult to diagnose because it often does not cause symtpoms until it is already very advanced.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) 
This term refers to infection of the tubes and other pelvic structures and is usually due to chlamydia or gonorrhea.

The years before menopause when women experience symptoms of irregular menses, hot flashes, or other symptoms.

PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) 
Symptoms which occur during the week or so prior to the beginning of the menses, and which resolve when the menses begins. Also called PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

Plan “B” 
See Emergency Contraception.

Polycystic ovary syndrome 
A condition of the ovaries characterized by multiple small cysts, poor ovulation, etc.

Postdates pregnancy 
A pregnancy that goes past the due date. The definition is 2 weeks past the due date (the due date is 40 weeks gestation, postdates is 42 weeks). Most patients who have not delivered by the due date will deliver spontaneously within the next few days. If the pregnancy continues past 41 weeks, complications rapidly increase with each passing day.

Postpartum Sterilization 
Tubal ligation can be performed immediately after delivery, but the failure rate is slightly higher than if performed after the postpartum recovery period.

“Toxemia”, PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension). Common in first pregnancies, the disorder consists of high blood pressure, swelling or edema, and protein in the urine. It is usually mild but can be very severe and associated with life-threatening complications.

Preterm delivery 
Delivery prior to 37 weeks gestation. The earlier the delivery, the more potential complications the premature infant may have.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) 
An infection such as herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, HPV, some types of hepatitis, and HPV that are transmitted from person to person by sexual contact.

Rendering a man or woman incapable of having a child.

Uterine artery embolization 
A method of treating fibroid tumors of the uterus that involves catheterization and blockage of the main blood supply to the uterus. This can cause shrinkage of the tumors and uterus in many women with fibroids.

Irritation and vaginal discharge, usually caused by yeast, bacterial overgrowth, or reaction to chemicals, laundry detergent, or perfumes.

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