Abruptio placenta: a complication in pregnancy where there is an abnormal separation of the placenta from the uterus (after 20 weeks gestation and prior to birth).
Afterpains: the contractions felt by a breastfeeding mother.
Alpha-fetoprotein screening (AFP): this blood test measures the levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein in the mother’s blood. Abnormal levels can indicate a brain or spinal cord defect, the presence of twins, a miscalculated due date, or an increased risk of Down syndrome.
Amenorrhea: abnormal absence or stoppage of a woman’s period.
Amniocentesis: if necessary, this test is performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy and can indicate chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, or genetic disorders such as Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and others. It can also detect the baby’s sex and risk of spina bifida (a condition in which the brain or spine do no not develop properly).
Amniotic fluid: clear, slightly yellowish liquid that surrounds the unborn baby (fetus) during pregnancy.
Anemia: when the amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin (the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to organs) becomes reduced, causing fatigue that can be severe.
Anaesthesia: drugs or substances that cause loss of feeling or awareness. Local anaesthetics cause loss of feeling in a part of the body. General anaesthetics put the person to sleep.
Antibiotics: drugs used to fight many infections caused by bacteria. Some antibiotics are effective against only certain types of bacteria; others can effectively fight a wide range of bacteria. Antibiotics do not work against viral infections.
Antibody: a protein produced by white blood cells to fight bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances.
APGAR score: a method used to quickly assess the health of newborn children immediately after childbirth. The test is generally done at one and five minutes after birth, and may be repeated later if the score is and remains low. Scores below 3 are generally regarded as critically low, 4 to 7 fairly low, and over 7 generally normal. A low score on the one-minute test may show that the neonate requires medical attention but is not necessarily an indication that there will be long-term problems, particularly if there is an improvement by the stage of the five-minute test.
Areola: the dark-colored skin on the breast that surrounds the nipple.
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): the most common vaginal infection in women of childbearing age, which happens when the normal bacteria (germs) in the vagina get out of balance, such as from douching or from sexual contact. Symptoms include vaginal discharge that can be white, gray, or thin and have an odor; burning or pain when urinating; or itching around the outside of the vagina. There also may be no symptoms.
Bilirubin: a yellow pigment that is created in the body during the normal recycling of old red blood cells. High levels of bilirubin in a baby is called “jaundice.”
Birth defect: a problem that happens while the baby is developing in the mother’s body. It may affect how the body looks, works or both. It can be found before birth, at birth, or anytime after birth. Birth defects can vary from mild to severe.
Bloody show: a small amount of mucus and blood that is passed from the cervix.
Bradley method: a method of childbirth that believes that with adequate preparation and education along with help from a loving, supportive coach, most women can give birth naturally – without drugs or surgery. The Bradley Method emphasizes measures that can be taken to stay healthy and low-risk to help avoid complications that may lead to medical intervention.
Braxton-Hicks contractions: “practice” contractions (tightening of the uterus) that are common in the last weeks of pregnancy.
Breastfeeding: the feeding of an infant or young child with milk from a woman’s breast. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk.
Breech: when the baby is positioned to come out of the vagina any way but head first.