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Childbirth Glossary

Medical terminology is often difficult for lay persons to understand, and can lead to misunderstandings. The following is a brief glossary containing simple explanations of some common words used in obstetrics.
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Intentional rupture of the amniotic membrane with a small instrument called an amniotome. The amniotic sac is opened during labor to initiate the expulsive stage (not to be performed before the cervix is dilated to at least 4-5 cm). Augmented laborWhen contractions begin spontaneously but are not sufficiently strong and regular, medications such as oxytocin are administered to stimulate the uterine muscles and shorten the birth process. This method is advisable if labor has been prolonged and the woman is too exhausted to push.

Birth canal
The birth canal includes the cervix (uterine outlet) and vagina. It is the "path" the baby travels during birth. Bishop's scoreA scoring system for evaluating the prerequisites for induction of labor. It assesses mainly cervical softening, effacement and dilatation, and the position of the baby's head relative to the birth canal through which it must pass.

The movements the baby makes during birth so that the head and shoulders can emerge from the last part of the birth canal. Dystocia Difficult birth requiring obstetrical intervention (forceps, vacuum extractor, or cesarean section). There are various causes including problems with uterine contraction (dynamic dystocia) or interference with cervical dilatation (mechanical dystocia), a pelvic structure that hinders the birth of the baby, malpresentation or malposition, and excessively high birth weight.

A small incision of the vagina and perineum (the layer of muscle between the vagina and the anus). Sometimes an episiotomy is done in the last stage of the birth, to shorten the birth for the baby and avoid a spontaneous rupture of the perineum. It is done mainly when the baby is too large for a vaginal delivery or the available space is too small. It is done under local anesthesia. Eutocia A natural birth without obstetrical procedures. The term eutocic is used interchangeably with "spontaneous" (which means a birth that begins normally, i.e., without the use of medications).

Fetal engagement
The baby's entry into the birth canal in preparation for expulsion from the uterus. Normally, the head usually "engages" first. In a breech presentation (feet or buttocks first) or transverse presentation (shoulders first), a cesarean section is offered. Full-term birthBirth between the 37th week of pregnancy and the end of the 40th week, i.e., 259 to 294 days after the last menstrual period.

Induced labor
When no contractions occur naturally, they must sometimes be intentionally induced using drugs. The medications are administered via intravenous drip (oxytocin) or vaginal gel (prostaglandin). In some cases, amniotomy is sufficient to induce labor. The most frequent causes are:
  • diabetes, high blood pressure, or other diseases that lead to changes in the placenta
  • a large decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid at the end of the pregnancy
  • the baby's weight is too great ("fetal macrosomatia")
  • labor does not begin spontaneously, even if the membranes have already ruptured
  • the baby is overdue (end of the 41st week).
Instrumental laborDelivery assisted by means of a surgical procedure (cesarean section) or obstetrical instruments (forceps, vacuum extractor).

Kristeller maneuver
Method by which, in a spontaneous birth, expulsion is accelerated by exerting pressure on the top (fundus) of the uterus and the mother's abdomen.

MacrosomatiaMacrosomatia is frequent in babies with diabetic mothers. It is neither a disease nor a genetic anomaly, but simply a slightly above-average birth weight, usually over 4.5 kg. Multipara A woman who has borne more than one child.

A woman who has not yet given birth.

The hormone oxytocin stimulates the uterine muscles and increases the intensity and frequency of contractions. A similar chemical substance is administered during labor to intensify uterine contractions and speed delivery.

An obstetrical chart or graphic display on which the important events of the birth process are recorded. Provides an overview of the labor and shows whether it is proceeding optimally. Perineorrhaphy Suture(s) placed by the doctor or midwife to repair an episiotomy. Primipara A woman giving birth to her first child.

of the membranesTearing of the amniotic sac, causing the amniotic fluid to flow out through the vagina. Shortly before the birth, the expectant mother feels wetness and notices a clear odorless fluid. If the rupture of the membrane occurs before the onset of labor, it is "premature."

Page created on: 03/09/2012
Last modified on: 03/09/2012
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