All You Need To Know About Labor Language
Pregnancy and birth bring with them a whole new dictionary. There is an entire stream of medical and non medical pregnancy jargon we hear and since they are not regular English words they all sound rather intimidating.
Here are a few pregnancy terms you will hear frequently during your pregnancy and birthing phase. Knowing what they mean might help you get by your pregnancy without much worry...
1. Braxton-Hicks Contractions : These are called fake contractions but in reality they are contractions. The only difference is that they do not have any effect on the cervix. They are short, sporadic and painless and some moms may actually feel them all through their pregnancy. For most moms the Braxton-Hicks are most noticeable in the third trimester. They feel like a tightening and relaxing of the entire abdomen and can also be mistaken for a strong fetal movement.
2. Cervix : This is the mouth of the uterus at the vaginal end. It is long thick and tightly closed during pregnancy. The cervix is also called posterior during pregnancy. Once the baby is ready to be born, the cervix shifts to anterior and becomes shorter and thinner and will eventually open to deliver the baby.
3. Fundus : This is the top of the uterus. Many women will feel labor contractions all the way to the top of the uterus. Your doctor may instruct the labor room nurse to apply fundal pressure to help during the pushing stage. The fundus is also massaged to help the placenta to deliver.
4. Contraction : A real labor contraction is expected to start anytime post week 37. They have a regular pattern in terms of frequency and duration. A contraction will help the cervix open and in the second stage of labor it will also help push the baby through the birth canal. A real labor contraction will progressively get longer and stronger.
5. Effacement : This means the thinning and shortening of the cervix. Effacement can also be a part of pre-labor and can last for a few days. A fully effaced cervix is paper thin and ready to open.
6. Dilatation : This refers to the opening of the cervix from zero to ten centimeters which is the size of the newborn’s head. At times dilatation can begin a few days prior to the contractions picking up intensity.
7. Lightening : During pregnancy your baby is moving all over the uterus. Closer to full term the baby tends to move into a head down position. In the last couple of weeks prior to the onset of labor the baby descends further and enters into the pelvis. This is referred to as lightening, and can also be referred to as the baby’s head being fixed, locked or engaged.
8. Station : This means the position of the baby in the pelvis. It is measured in negative and positive numbers from -5 to +5. A baby at -5 station is still floating and not yet entered the pelvis. A baby at 0 station is said to be engaged and a baby at +5 is crowning and is going to be born at any minute.
9. Induction : This refers to the process of artificially starting the labor. If a mom has completed full term, if the baby or the mom have some condition which makes it necessary to deliver the baby then the doctor may induce labor. The doctor can begin the process with the application of prostaglandins directly on the cervix to soften the cervix and if that does not work then an IV with synthetic Oxytocin called Pitocin is started.
10. Augmentation : If the labor contractions are not strong and effective enough synthetic Oxytocin i.e. Pitocin is introduced in the mother’s IV to enhance the labor contractions. The Pitocin drip is popularly known as starting the PIT.
11. Mucus Plug : The cervix is also blocked by what we call the mucus plug. When the cervix begins to efface and dilate the mucus plug will fall off in small bits or larger chunks. It can be tinged with a little blood. Labor can start soon after the mucus plug falls off and it can even take several weeks.
12. Forceps: This is a type of an assisted vaginal birth. If the baby is really low down but is stuck in an odd position or the mom is not able to push anymore the doctor may use forceps which is an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal.
13. Ventouse / Vacuum : Ventouse or vacuum delivery is an assisted vaginal birth. It consists of a suction cup which delivers the preset suction pressure to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. If the baby is stuck very low in the birth canal or the mom is unable to push anymore and if the baby’s heart rate is showing erratic patterns a ventouse extraction may be used.
14. Epidural : An epidural <https://www.babychakra.com/learn/1066-going-in-for-labour-with-epidural-anaesthesia-know-your-facts-here> analgesia is pain medication delivered through a small tube placed in the lower back. It numbs the lower half of the body and prevents the nerves from carrying any pain sensation messages to the brain. It is a common method of pain relief used in childbirth as it has least effect on the baby and does not cause drowsiness in the mother.
15. Episiotomy : This is a surgical cut made in the perineum above the anus and at the opening of the vagina during childbirth. At times if the baby is coming too fast and if the contractions are very strong the mother may tear and this may be difficult to repair. Hence a neat incision is made after administering local anesthesia which can then be repaired easily post the birth.
Fetal Presentation Terms:
This refers to the part of the baby which is presenting to the cervix. The right presentation will make all the difference in the type of birth and the length and duration of labor.
1. Vertex / Cephalic : This means that the presenting part is the head. This is considered to be the most favorable position for a vaginal birth.
2. Breech : This indicates that the presenting part is buttocks or legs.
- Complete Breech means the baby is sitting buttocks first in a cross legged position.
- Footling Breech means the baby is almost standing in the uterus with feet presenting to the cervix.
- Frank Breech indicates that the baby is presenting with buttocks but the knees are against the chest.
3. Transverse : This means that the baby is lying in a horizontal position.
4. Aslyinctic : Refers to the head being against one of the pelvis bones and the presenting part being the shoulder.
5. Brow presentation : This is a head down position but the baby is entering the pelvis face first.
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