abortion Termination of pregnancy before viability of a fetus (approximately 20 weeks’ gestation). Miscarriage is the lay term for spontaneous abortion.

abruptio placentae Premature separation of a normally implanted placenta from the uterine wall.

abstinence Refraining from having sexual intercourse.

acceleration Periodic increase in the baseline fetal heart rate.

acidosis Excessive acidity of body fluids caused by the accumulation of acids or the loss of bicarbonate, resulting in lowered pH.

acini cells Milk-producing cells of the breast.

acme Peak, or period of greatest strength, of a uterine contraction.

acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) Disease that destroys the body’s natural immune system, resulting in the loss of defense against malignancies and opportunistic infections.

acrocyanosis Cyanosis of hands and feet seen in most newborns.

active acquired immunity Formation of antibodies in response to immunization or illness.

acupressure Finger, palm, or knuckle pressure at points located along an invisible system of energy channels, called meridians, for the purpose of relaxation, pain relief, and promotion of general health.

acupuncture A Chinese medical technique that involves inserting needles on the surface of the body at specific points; aims to promote health by stimulating the body’s self-healing powers.

adolescence Period of development between puberty and adulthood.

advice telephone line A telephone number usually staffed by nurses that is given to patients on hospital discharge to foster communication, answer questions, and reinforce discharge teaching instructions.

afterbirth Placenta and membranes that are expelled after the birth of a newborn.

afterpains Cramping pain after childbirth resulting from alternating relaxation and contraction of the uterine muscles.

agonist An agent that activates something.

albuminuria Presence of albumin, a protein, in the urine.

allopathic care Traditional Western health care, which follows a disease-oriented model that uses technology and bioscience to treat illness and promote wellness.

alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) An antigen present in the human fetus. Elevated levels in amniotic fluid or adult serum during pregnancy may indicate a neural tube defect; decreased levels may indicate Down syndrome.

alternative therapies Forms of therapy that generally replace or substitute for a traditional treatment.

alveoli Small air sacs present in the lungs.

amenorrhea Absence of menstruation.

amniocentesis Removal of amniotic fluid by insertion of a needle into the amniotic sac. Amniotic fluid is obtained to assess fetal health and maturity.

amnioinfusion Infusion of warmed isotonic saline or Ringer’s lactate solution into the uterine cavity to reduce umbilical cord compression; also performed to flush meconium out of the cavity to reduce risk of fetal meconium aspiration.

amnion The inner of two membranes that form a sac containing the fetus and the amniotic fluid. (The outer membrane is the chorion.)

amnionitis Inflammation of the amnion, occurring most commonly after prolonged rupture of membranes.

amniotic fluid Fluid that surrounds the fetus within the amniotic sac and permits fetal movement, absorbs shocks, and prevents heat loss.

amniotomy Artificial rupture of the fetal membranes (AROM).

analgesic Drug used to relieve pain.

androgen Male hormone that stimulates the development of secondary male characteristics.

anemia Condition caused by a decrease in erythrocytes, hemoglobin, or both.

anesthesia Use of an agent that causes partial or complete loss of sensation, with or without loss of consciousness.

anoxia Deficiency of oxygen.

antagonist An agent that blocks something.

antepartum Occurring before birth; prenatal.

antibody Protein substance (immunoglobulins) made by the body that exerts restrictive or destructive action on specific antigens (e.g., bacteria, dust, Rh factor).

antigen Protein foreign to the body that stimulates the immune system to form antibodies.

anuria Failure of the kidney to produce urine.

Apgar score Numeric evaluation of the newborn obtained at 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth.

apnea Cessation of respirations for more than 20 seconds.

appropriate-for-gestational-age (AGA) newborn A neonate who weighs less than the heaviest 10% and more than the lightest 10% of neonates of the same gestational age.

AquaMEPHYTON Phytonadione; a fat-soluble vitamin K liquid necessary for formulation of coagulation factors.

areola Pigmented ring surrounding the nipple of the breast.

aromatherapy A form of treatment using essential plant oils that may be inhaled or massaged into the skin for therapeutic effects.

asphyxia A condition in which there is deficient oxygen in the blood and excess carbon dioxide in the blood and tissues.

assisted reproductive technology (ART) Techniques used to treat infertility; may include ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization, GIFT, and IV-ET.

asymptomatic Without symptoms.

ataractic Drug that promotes tranquility; a tranquilizer.

atelectasis Incomplete expansion of the lung or portion of the lung.

atony Lack of normal muscle tone or strength.

attachment A bond or relationship of affection between persons.

attitude The relation of the fetal parts to one another. See also fetal attitude.

augmentation of labor The enhancement of labor after it has begun through use of an oxytocic drug.

autoimmune disease A state in which the body produces antibodies against itself, causing cell damage.

autoimmunization Development of antibodies against constituents of one’s own tissues (e.g., a man may develop antibodies against his own sperm); an immune response to the body’s own tissues.

autolysis A self-digestive process by which cells are destroyed by enzymes.

autosomal inheritance The process by which characteristics are transmitted by genes on the autosomes, not the sex chromosomes.

autosome A chromosome that is not a sex chromosome.


bag of waters The membranes containing the amniotic fluid and the fetus; also called amniotic sac.

Bartholin’s glands Small, mucus-secreting glands located on either side of the base of the vagina.

basal body temperature (BBT) Body temperature at rest.

baseline fetal heart rate (FHR) Average fetal heart rate observed within a 10-minute period of monitoring.

biischial diameter Distance between the inner surfaces of the ischial tuberosities of the pelvic outlet.

bilirubin Yellowish pigment of bile produced from the hemoglobin of the red blood cells.

bilirubinemia Presence of abnormal amount of bilirubin in the blood when red blood cells are broken down or destroyed from a pathologic cause.

Billings method A technique for checking cervical mucus for elasticity, stickiness, wetness, and lubrication to provide information about the menstrual cycle; also called cervical mucus method.

biofeedback A method of training designed to enable an individual to control involuntary bodily functions.

birth The process of being born.

birthing centers Locations outside of the traditional hospital setting that provide comprehensive perinatal care, typically with midwives.

Bishop score A scoring system to determine whether labor can be safely induced.

blastocyst Stage of development of the embryo that follows the morula; the outer layer of the trophoblast to which is attached an inner cell mass.

blastula Stage of the fertilized ovum in which the cells are arranged in a hollow ball.

blood patch A small amount of a woman’s blood injected into the epidural space in the area of a spinal puncture that forms a seal and stops spinal fluid leakage that may be causing headache or discomfort.

bonding A process by which parents, over time, form an emotional relationship with their newborn.

bradycardia Slow heart rate (110 beats per minute in a fetus).

Braxton Hicks contractions Intermittent, painless uterine contractions that occur during pregnancy. They become stronger and more evident in the last trimester and are sometimes mistaken for true labor signs.

breasts Mammary glands.

breech presentation A situation when the fetus is turned so that the buttocks or feet (instead of the head) lead into the birth canal, nearest the cervical opening.

bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) Pulmonary condition affecting preterm newborns who have had respiratory failure and have been oxygen-dependent for several days.

brown adipose tissue (BAT) Fat deposits that provide greater heat-generating activity than usual fat in neonates; found around the neck, between the scapulas, around the kidneys and adrenal glands, and behind the sternum; also called brown fat.


calendar method The timing of sexual intercourse to avoid the fertile period associated with ovulation.

caput succedaneum Swelling or edema occurring under the fetal scalp (or presenting part) during labor.

carpal tunnel syndrome Pressure on the median nerve at the point where it goes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. The result is soreness and weakness of muscles in the area of the median nerve.

CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; collects statistics of diseases and deaths in the United States.

cephalhematoma Accumulation of blood under the periosteum of the newborn’s skull; caused by trauma of blood vessels during birth.

cephalic Pertaining to the head.

cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) A condition in which the fetal head is of a shape, size, or position that prevents it from passing through the maternal pelvis.

cerclage See cervical cerclage.

certified nurse-midwife A registered nurse who has received special education to care for the family during the normal pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum periods.

cervical cap Pliable contraceptive device that fits over the cervix.

cervical cerclage The use of sutures to close an incompetent cervix to prevent it from opening as the growing fetus presses against it.

cervical mucus method See Billings method.

cervix Lower portion of the uterus extending into the vagina.

cesarean birth Birth of the fetus (placenta and membranes) through an incision made into the abdominal wall and the uterus.

chemical predictor test An over-the-counter test kit for determining pregnancy.

Chlamydia infection A sexually transmitted infection with purulent vaginal discharge, burning on urination, and lower abdominal discomfort. It may cause sterility.

chloasma gravidarum Increased pigmentation of the face during pregnancy that fades after delivery; also known as the “mask of pregnancy” or melasma.

chorioamnionitis Inflammation of the fetal membranes.

chorion Outer membrane of the amniotic sac that is formed from the trophoblast.

chorionic villi Root-like, branching projections of the chorion containing capillaries that are the means by which substances (gases, nutrients, waste products) are exchanged between the maternal and fetal circulations.

chromosome Thread of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that carries the genetic code for each unique individual. There are 23 pairs in each soma cell; one chromosome in each pair is from each parent.

circumcision Surgical removal of part or all of the prepuce (foreskin) of the penis.

cleansing breath A deep breath taken at the beginning and end of each labor contraction.

cleft lip Congenital separation of one or both sides of the upper lip.

cleft palate Congenital incomplete closure of the roof of the mouth.

climacteric The physiologic and psychological alterations that occur around the time of menopause.

clinical pathway A multidisciplinary care plan for a specific diagnosis.

clitoris A female organ that is homologous to the penis of the male and made up of erectile tissue situated at the anterior junction of the vulva.

cognitive stimulation Activation of the conscious mind.

coitus Sexual intercourse.

coitus interruptus Removal of the penis from the vagina during sexual intercourse before ejaculation occurs.

cold stress Environmental chilling that causes increased metabolism and increased oxygen consumption in the body.

collaborative care Cooperative care between members of the multidisciplinary health care team and the patient.

collaborative practice A partnership with health professions other than medicine that uses a multidisciplinary team to provide care with parent participation.

colostrum Yellowish secretion from the breasts before the onset of true lactation.

colposcopy Examination of the vagina and cervix with a colposcope to identify neoplastic or other changes.

complementary therapy A nontraditional therapy that is used along with conventional therapy.

conception Union of the sperm and ovum resulting in fertilization; formation of the one-celled zygote.

conceptus Product of fertilization.

conditioning A process in which a person learns to modify behavior when certain stimuli are applied.

condom A soft, flexible latex sheath covering the penis or lining of the vagina to prevent sperm from entering the cervix and to prevent infection.

conduction The transfer of heat to a cooler surface, resulting in loss of body heat and chilling.

condyloma Sexually transmitted, viral, wart-like growth on the skin of genitalia.

congenital Present at birth.

conjunctivitis Inflammation of the mucous membrane lining of the eyelids.

contraception Prevention of conception or pregnancy.

contraction stress test (CST) Test to stimulate uterine contractions for the purpose of assessing the fetal heart rate in relation to uterine contractions.

convection Loss of heat from warm body surface to cooler air currents.

Coombs’ test Test used to detect sensitized red blood cells. The indirect test determines the presence of Rh+ antibodies in maternal blood; the direct test determines the presence of maternal Rh+ antibodies in fetal cord blood.

cord care Technique of preventing infection and promoting healing of the umbilical cord of the newborn.

corpus luteum Solid, yellow body that develops within a ruptured follicle; an endocrine structure that secretes primarily progesterone.

cotyledon Segment or subdivision of the uterine surface of the placenta.

crepitation Crackling sound of fractured bone ends rubbing against each other; frequently noted in fractured clavicle of the newborn.

crowning Visibility of the fetal head in the birth canal before delivery.

culdocentesis Aspiration of fluid from the cul-de-sac by puncture of the vaginal vault in the posterior fornix of the vagina.

culture An individual’s and family’s beliefs, attitudes, practices, and actions that direct their socialization within a specific group and in relations with others outside of the group.

cutaneous stimulation Activation of skin sensation.

cyanosis Blueness of the skin caused by a lack of oxygenation of the blood.

cytomegalovirus (CMV) A viral infection that may result in fetal anomalies.


deceleration Decrease in the fetal heart rate. See also early deceleration, late deceleration, and variable deceleration.

decidua The endometrium, or lining of the uterus, that thickens during pregnancy and is shed after delivery.

decrement Decrease of intensity (strength) of uterine contraction.

deep tendon reflexes A deep stretch reflex within the body often used to detect central nervous system irritability in women with eclampsia.

dehiscence Rupture of a surgical wound or scar.

deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) Intracellular complex protein that carries genetic information, consisting of two purines (adenine and guanine) and two pyridines (thymine and cytosine).

diagonal conjugate Distance between the sacral promontory and the lower border or the symphysis pubis; may be obtained by manual measurement.

diaphoresis Profuse sweating.

diaphragm A contraceptive device consisting of a latex dome that covers the cervix and prevents the entrance of sperm.

diastasis recti abdominis A separation of the rectus abdominis muscles in the midline.

dilation of cervix Stretching of the cervical canal to a size of opening large enough to allow the passage of a newborn.

disproportion Lack of normal relationship, in which the fetus is too large or the pelvis is too small for a normal vaginal birth.

disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) Coagulation disorder in which clotting factors are consumed and maternal blood does not clot.

diuresis Passage of large amounts of urine.

dizygotic twins Twins that develop from two separate fertilized ova and have different genetic constitutions; also known as fraternal twins.

documentation Verification of details of patient care given by writing in a permanent record.

dorsiflexion Movement of a body part backward (e.g., upward flexion of wrist).

doula A trained person who is a supportive partner during labor and delivery.

Down syndrome A congenital abnormality with specific physical characteristics and mental retardation; also referred to as trisomy 21.

ductus arteriosus A fetal vessel connecting the pulmonary artery with the aorta; transports oxygenated blood for distribution to the body.

ductus venosus A fetal vessel that connects the umbilical vein and the inferior vena cava; transports blood to the portal vein of the liver and the inferior vena cava.

Duncan mechanism Delivery of the placenta with the maternal side expelled first.

duration of contraction The length of a contraction, measured from the beginning to its completion.

dysfunctional labor Abnormally painful or prolonged labor.

dysmenorrhea Painful menstrual cramps.

dyspareunia Painful intercourse.

dyspnea Difficult or labored breathing.

dystocia Difficult or slow labor and delivery, or both; also known as dysfunctional labor.


early deceleration Periodic change in fetal heart rate pattern caused by head compression. Deceleration has a uniform appearance and early onset in relation to the maternal contraction.

ecchymosis A bluish black area on the skin associated with bleeding into that area.

eclampsia Severe form of gestational hypertension accompanied by convulsions.

ectopic pregnancy Implantation of the fertilized ovum outside of the uterus.

effacement Thinning and shortening of the cervix before and during labor.

effleurage A slight stroking movement of the fingertips over the abdomen during labor; used as a distraction for pain relief during contractions.

electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) Electronic surveillance of fetal heart rate by external and internal methods.

emancipated minor An independent person younger than 18 years who may be married and living away from family.

embryo Stage of human development occurring between the ovum and fetal stages, or from 2 to 8 weeks’ gestation.

endometriosis Endometrium located outside of the uterus.

en face A position in which parent and newborn have eye-to-eye contact within a 9- to 10-inch distance.

endometritis Infection of the endometrium.

endometrium Mucous lining of the uterus.

endorphins Endogenous opioids (morphine-like substance) secreted by the pituitary gland that act on the central and peripheral nervous systems to reduce pain.

engagement Descent of the fetal presenting part to at least a zero station (the level of the ischial spines in the maternal pelvis).

engorgement Vascular congestion and distention resulting in swelling of the breast tissue, brought about by an increase of blood and lymph supply to the breasts.

epididymis Coiled, oblong canal where the sperm mature and increase their motility.

epidural block Injection of local anesthetic into the epidural space of the spinal column.

episiotomy Surgical incision of the perineum before birth to permit delivery of newborn without lacerations to the area.

epispadias A congenital anomaly in which the urethral meatus is located on the dorsal surface of the penis.

Epstein’s pearls Small, white blebs found on the gums and at the junction of the soft and hard palates; commonly seen in newborns.

erythema Inflammation of the skin or mucous membranes.

erythroblastosis fetalis Hemolytic disease of the newborn usually caused by isoimmunization resulting from Rh incompatibility or ABO incompatibility.

estrogen Female sex hormone secreted by ovaries and placenta.

evaporation Conversion from liquid to vapor, resulting in loss of body heat when wet skin is exposed to the air.

evidence-based practice Practice based on scientific studies.

exfoliation The scaling off of tissues in layers.

expected date of delivery (EDD) Approximate date of birth (due date); usually determined by calculation using Nägele’s rule.

expiratory grunting An audible noise heard during each exhalation, often indicative of respiratory distress.

expulsion Pushing out or expelling.

extension Part of the birth process in which the fetal head changes position from chin on the chest to chin away from the chest (extension), enabling the infant’s head and face to emerge onto the perineum during the normal birth process.

external fetal monitoring Monitoring of the fetal heart by placing a monitor on the external surface of the maternal abdomen. See also electronic fetal monitoring.

external rotation The realignment of the fetal head with the shoulders after the head is delivered, and the alignment of the fetal shoulders with the mother’s pelvis before delivery of the newborn.

external version Changing the fetal presentation in the uterus, usually from breech to cephalic, by pressing on the woman’s abdomen.

extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) Heart-lung machine that provides a cardiopulmonary bypass for newborns with disorders such as meconium aspiration syndrome.


fallopian tubes (uterine tubes) Tubes extending laterally from each side of the uterus to the ovary, through which the ovum travels, after ovulation, to the uterus.

false labor Irregular uterine contractions that do not result in cervical dilation. They do not get longer or become stronger.

family A social group composed of parents and children living together and sharing common interests.

female condom See condom.

ferning (fern test) Formation of a palm-leaf pattern of cervical mucus as it dries at midmenstrual cycle.

fertility Quality of being able to reproduce, of being fertile.

fertilization Penetration of one ovum (single pregnancy) by a sperm.

fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) Disorder resulting from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. It is characterized by physical deficits and mental retardation.

fetal attitude Relation of the fetal parts to one another. Normal attitude is one of flexion of arms and legs.

fetal blood sampling Sample of blood drawn from the presenting part (usually the head) of the fetus during labor.

fetal heart rate (FHR) Rate of fetal heart beats per minute. Normal FHR is 110 to 160 beats per minute.

fetal heart rate fluctuations Tachycardia, bradycardia, accelerations, decelerations, or changes in fetal heart rate variability.

fetal lie Relation of the long axis of the fetus to the long axis of the woman. Fetal lie may be longitudinal, transverse, or oblique.

fetal lung fluid Fluid that fills the lungs during prenatal life, expanding the alveoli and promoting normal development of the lungs.

fetal position Relation of presenting fetal part to the front, sides, and back of the maternal pelvis.

fetal presentation The fetal body parts that enter the maternal pelvis first. Three potential presentations are cephalic, breech, and shoulder.

fetal pulse oximetry Fetal oxygen saturation measured by a transcervical catheter positioned against the fetal cheek; used when the amniotic membranes are ruptured and the cervix is at least 2 cm dilated.

fetoscope A stethoscope specially adapted for listening to fetal heart tones.

fetus Undelivered baby after the embryonic period of development.

fibrinogen A blood constituent necessary for the formation of clots.

fibrocystic breast disorder Benign breast disorder characterized by the formation of cysts.

fimbriae Finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tube.

flexion Normal bending forward of the fetal head (with the chin on the chest) in the uterus and uterine canal during the birth process.

floating A term used to describe the level of the fetal head (or presenting part) in the pelvis when it is above the level ischial spines.

fluctuate To move up or down, as a wave.

follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) Hormone produced by the anterior pituitary gland during the first half of the menstrual cycle, stimulating development of the graafian follicle.

fontanelle Unfused areas between fetal skull bones covered with strong connective tissue; allows for movement of bones and molding during birth.

foramen ovale Opening between the right and left atria in the fetal heart.

forceps A pincer instrument that is used to assist in rotating and extracting the fetal head in the second stage of labor.

foremilk Milk obtained at the beginning of each breastfeeding session. See also hindmilk.

foreskin (prepuce) Fold of skin covering the glans penis; removed during circumcision.

frequency of contractions Period from the beginning of one uterine contraction until the beginning of the next.

functional residual capacity (FRC) The amount of air that remains in the lung after a normal expiration.

fundus Upper portion of the uterus.


galactogogue An agent that promotes the flow of human breast milk.

galactosemia An increase of galactose in the blood from a congenital inability to metabolize galactose into glucose.

gamete Reproductive cell. The female gamete is an ovum; the male gamete is a spermatozoon.

gametogenesis The development of a sex cell such as an ovum or sperm.

gate control theory Theory explaining the neurophysical mechanism underlying the perception of pain, whereby the travel of the pain message to the brain is blocked by distraction or drugs.

gavage Feeding of liquid nutrients through a tube passed into the stomach through the nose or mouth.

gene Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) component on the chromosome that determines inherited characteristics from parents.

genetic code The information system in the cells that determines the amino acid sequence in polypeptides. This system specifies all of the genetic information transmitted to an offspring.

genotype Genetic makeup of an individual.

gestation Time from conception to birth; approximately 280 days.

gestational age Number of completed weeks of fetal development; calculated from the first day of the last normal menstrual period.

gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) Diabetes of variable severity with the onset or first recognition during pregnancy (usually first noticed because of altered carbohydrate metabolism).

gestational hypertension (GH) A hypertensive disorder of pregnancy or the puerperium, characterized by hypertension, proteinuria, and edema. It includes preeclampsia and eclampsia.

gestational trophoblastic disease Disorder classified as two types: benign and malignant (hydatidiform mole).

GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) A type of assisted reproductive technology.

glomerular filtration rate (GFR) Amount of plasma filtered by the glomeruli of both kidneys per minute.

glucosuria Presence of glucose in the urine.

gonads Male and female sex organs (testes and ovaries).

graafian follicle A mature follicle (containing a near-mature ovum) of the ovary to be released; secretes estrogen.

grasp reflex The newborn’s response of grasping lightly when the palms of hands are stimulated (by pressure).

gravida Woman who is or has been pregnant, regardless of outcome.

guided imagery A form of mind-body therapy that seeks to make beneficial changes in the body by repeatedly visualizing them; a technique that uses the imagination to think of a pleasant experience as a distraction to labor pains.

gynecoid pelvis A female pelvis in which the inlet is round.

gynecology The art and science of caring for a woman with a disorder of the female reproductive tract and associated structures.


habituation The newborn’s natural ability to diminish responses to specific repeated stimuli.

heel stick A method for obtaining a blood specimen by puncturing a small capillary in the newborn’s heel with a sharp microlancet.

HELLP syndrome An acronym for a variant of gestational hypertension involving Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, and Low Platelet count.

hematoma A collection of clotted blood in a confined space usually caused by breakage of a blood vessel.

hemolysis The abnormal destruction of a red blood cell and liberation of its hemoglobin.

hemorrhage An abnormally excessive loss of blood.

herbal medicine The use of plant material to promote healing and recovery from disease.

herpesvirus A virus that causes an infection and is spread by sexual contact.

hindmilk The milk an infant obtains after initial minutes of breastfeeding; contains a higher fat content than foremilk and is most hunger relieving.

holistic health care The comprehensive physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and economic care of a person.

Homans’ sign Pain or tenderness in the calf of the leg on dorsiflexion of the foot; an indicator of thrombosis or thrombophlebitis.

homeopathy Health care practice based on the premise that illness is an energy imbalance; uses plants, herbs, and minerals that are thought to stimulate the immune system to deal with specific health problems.

hormone A chemical substance originating in a gland or organ that is carried by the blood or lymph to another organ or tissue where it acts as a stimulator or accelerator.

hormone replacement therapy (HRT) Use of estrogen and progestin to decrease the symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis.

hot flashes Vasomotor changes related to menopause, resulting in feeling warm or sweating.

hotlines Telephone lines used to help in emergency maternal or infant care.

human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

hydatidiform mole A gestational trophoblastic disease that occurs when the chorionic villi form grapelike clusters and pregnancy does not progress; may be precancerous; also known as a molar pregnancy.

hydramnios Excessive amounts of amniotic fluid; also known as polyhydramnios.

hydrocephalus An abnormal condition in which there is an excessive amount of cerebral fluid within the brain cavities or surrounding the brain, or both.

hydrops fetalis Massive edema of the fetus caused by hyperbilirubinemia.

hydrotherapy Therapeutic use of water to promote relaxation.

hyperbilirubinemia Excessive amount of bilirubin in the blood; indicative of hemolytic disorder caused by blood incompatibility, intrauterine infection, septicemia, and other disorders.

hyperemesis gravidarum Excessive vomiting during pregnancy.

hyperglycemia An excess amount of glucose in the blood.

hypertonic uterine dysfunction Uterine contractions during labor that are frequent, painful, but poorly coordinated and nonproductive. Uterus may remain tense between contractions.

hyperventilation Decrease of carbon dioxide in the blood as a result of rapid and deep breathing. Relief may result from rebreathing in a paper bag or into one’s cupped hands to replace the carbon dioxide “blown off” during hyperventilation.

hypnosis An induced state of sleep involving an enhanced state of suggestibility.

hypocalcemia Low calcium level in the blood.

hypoglycemia Low glucose level in the blood.

hypospadias A congenital anomaly in which the urethra opens on the lower surface of the penis.

hypotension Low blood pressure.

hypothermia Below normal body temperature.

hypotonic uterine dysfunction Contractions of the uterus during labor that are too weak to be effective; often occurs with uterine overdistention.

hypoxia Reduced availability of oxygen to the body tissues.

hysterectomy Surgical removal of the uterus.


icterus neonatorum Physiologic jaundice of the newborn.

immune response Reaction of the body to foreign substances or substances the body interprets as being foreign.

immunodeficiency Decreased or compromised ability to respond to antigenic stimuli by production of antibodies.

immunoglobulin Closely related, although not identical, proteins capable of acting as antibodies.

implantation Process by which the conceptus attaches to the uterine wall.

impotence Inability of the male to achieve or maintain an erection.

inborn error of metabolism A hereditary deficiency of a specific enzyme needed for normal metabolism of specific chemicals.

incompetent cervix A cervix that is unable to remain closed during pregnancy, resulting in spontaneous abortion.

increment Increased intensity of a uterine contraction.

induction of labor Artificial initiation of labor.

infant mortality rate Number of deaths per 1000 live births that occur within the first 12 months of life.

infants of diabetic mothers (IDMs) Infants born to mothers who have diabetes. They often have health problems such as macrosomia and hypoglycemia and require close observation after birth.

infertility Diminished ability or inability to conceive.

integrative health care A combination of complementary and alternative therapy with traditional medicine to facilitate healing.

intensity (of contractions) Strength of contractions.

internal fetal monitoring See electronic fetal monitoring.

internal os An inside opening; the opening between the cervix and uterus.

internal rotation The turning of the fetal head until the occiput is directly under the maternal symphysis pubis in preparation for birth of the head.

intrapartum The time from the onset of true labor until the birth of the newborn and delivery of the placenta.

intrauterine device (IUD) A mechanical device inserted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

intrauterine growth restriction (or retardation) (IUGR) Failure of a fetus to grow at the expected rate.

intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) Bleeding within the ventricles of the brain.

involution Return of the reproductive organs to the nonpregnant state after the termination of pregnancy.

isoimmunization The phenomenon in which the Rh-negative woman develops antibodies against the Rh-positive fetus she is carrying

IVF (in vitro fertilization) A type of assisted reproductive technology.


jaundice Yellow pigmentation of the skin in response to excessive bilirubin in the blood.


kangaroo care A method of care that uses skin-to-skin contact of the newborn and parent to warm and calm the newborn and promote bonding.

karyotype An arrangement of a set of chromosomes in a standard order.

Kegel exercises Conscious tightening and relaxing of the pubococcygeal muscles, which strengthens the vagina and perineum.

kernicterus Accumulation of unconjugated bilirubin in the brain, resulting in brain damage.

kilogram (kg) 1000 g or 2.2 lbs.


labor Process by which the fetus, placenta, and membranes are expelled from the maternal uterus; also called parturition and childbirth.

laceration Tearing of tissue; during labor, tearing of vulvar, vaginal, and possibly rectal tissue as newborn is born.

lactation Process of producing and supplying breast milk.

lactose intolerance Inherited absence of the enzyme lactase, resulting in the inability to digest milk and milk products.

Lamaze technique A technique taught in childbirth education classes that teaches women ways to decrease their perception of pain during the childbirth experience.

lanugo Fine, downy hair found on the fetus and parts of the newborn after birth.

large-for-gestational-age (LGA) newborn Newborn of any weight who falls above the 90th percentile on the intrauterine growth curve.

latch-on technique The grasping of the entire areola of the nipple in the newborn’s mouth to enable effective breastfeeding.

late deceleration A decrease in the fetal heart rate that occurs after the acme of a uterine contraction.

lecithin/sphingomyelin ratio (L/S ratio) Chemical component of surfactant. A 2:1 ratio determines the maturity of fetal lungs.

leiomyoma A benign uterine fibroid tumor.

Leopold’s maneuvers A series of four maneuvers (abdominal palpation) designed to provide a systematic approach to determine fetal presentation and position.

let-down reflex Release of milk into the breasts in response to stimulation.

letting go A phase of maternal adaptation that involves assumption of a new role as a parent.

libido Sexual drive.

lie Relation of the long axis of the fetus to the long axis of the pregnant woman. The fetal lie may be longitudinal, transverse, or oblique.

lightening Moving of the fetus and uterus downward into the pelvic cavity; engagement.

local infiltration Insertion of a local anesthetic agent to numb the area before performing an episiotomy or suturing a laceration.

lochia Uterine (vaginal) discharge after delivery, typically lasting 3 to 6 weeks.

lochia alba Whitish yellow discharge, typically seen 10 to 21 days’ postpartum.

lochia rubra Bright red vaginal discharge, typically seen 1 to 3 days’ postpartum.

lochia serosa Pinkish vaginal discharge, typically seen 4 to 10 days’ postpartum.

lordosis Abnormal anterior curvature of the lumbar spine.

lunar month A period of 28 days (4 weeks).

luteinizing hormone (LH) One of the gonadotropic hormones produced by the anterior pituitary gland that stimulates development of the corpus luteum.


macrosomia Abnormally large fetal size; newborn weighing more than 4000 g (8 lbs, 13 oz).

male condom See condom.

managed care A system of health care delivery that has contracted services and cost containment with prescribed membership.

massage Therapeutic stroking of the body.

mastectomy Surgical removal of the breast.

mastitis Acute inflammation of the breast.

maternal mortality rate Number of maternal deaths within 42 days after giving birth per 100,000 live births.

maternity care Care of the childbearing family.

mechanism of labor A series of passive movements undergone by the fetus in passing through the birth canal.

meconium First greenish black, viscid stool of newborns; contains mucus, bile, and epithelial shreds.

meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) Aspiration of meconium by the fetus in utero or during the birth process.

meiosis Reduction cell division in gametes (ova and sperm) that halves the number of chromosomes in each cell.

menopause The permanent cessation of menses.

menorrhagia Excessive bleeding during menses.

menses See menstruation.

menstruation A cyclic sloughing of uterine lining.

meridians Conceptual channels along which chi energy flows in the body; used in acupuncture and acupressure.

metrorrhagia Bleeding from the uterus between menstrual cycles.

microcephaly A congenital anomaly in which the head of the newborn is abnormally small.

milia Tiny white papules or cysts that disappear in a few weeks, commonly over the bridge of the nose, chin, and cheeks of newborns.

miliaria Small red papules on the skin caused by obstruction of the sweat glands.

milk-ejection reflex Release of milk from the alveoli into the ducts; also known as let-down reflex.

miscarriage A lay term for spontaneous abortion.

mitosis Type of cell division in somatic cells in which each daughter cell contains the same number of chromosomes as the parent cell. It is the process by which the body grows and by which cells are replaced.

mittelschmerz Abdominal pain occurring at the time of ovulation.

molding Shaping the fetal head by overlapping of the cranial bones to facilitate movement through the birth canal during labor.

mongolian spots Benign bluish pigmentation over the lower back and buttocks that may be present at birth, especially in dark-skinned newborns.

monozygotic twins Twins who develop from one fertilized ovum; identical twins.

Montgomery’s tubercles Small glands situated on the areola around the nipple.

morbidity The state of being sick or diseased.

mortality Pertains to death rate.

morula Development stage of the fertilized ovum in which there is a solid mass of cells.

multifetal pregnancy Pregnancy involving more than one fetus (e.g., twins); also called multiple pregnancy.

multigravida A woman who has been pregnant two or more times.

multipara A woman who has delivered two or more babies after the period of viability, regardless of whether the babies were alive or stillborn.

mutation A permanent and transmissible change in a gene.

MyPyramid A guide for healthy daily food choices. Specific information is available at


Nägele’s rule Method to calculate the expected date of birth; count back 3 months from the first day of the last menstrual cycle, and add 7 days.

narcotic antagonist A compound, such as naloxone (Narcan), that is used to reverse the effects of narcotics.

nares Nostrils.

nasal flaring Widening of the nares on inspiration.

natural alternative care Practices, including self-care, journaling, and prayer, that may promote health but are not rooted in evidence-based research.

necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) Acute inflammation of the bowel that leads to necrosis.

neonatal sepsis An infection that spreads from a local site to the bloodstream, initiating a systemic response in a newborn younger than 1 month.

neonate Newborn from birth through the first 28 days of life.

nesting Enclosure of newborn in a blanket roll to increase feeling of security.

neutral thermal environment Environment in which the body temperature is maintained without an increase in oxygen consumption or metabolic rate.

Nitrazine paper test Use of Nitrazine paper to measure pH in assessing the presence of amniotic fluid.

nonnutritive sucking Sucking activity that is not related to the intake of nutrients.

nonreassuring heart rate pattern A fetal heart rate pattern that indicates fetal distress, such as late decelerations, bradycardia, or absence of variability.

nonshivering thermogenesis Heat production without shivering by oxidation of brown fat.

nonstress test (NST) A test used to assess the response of fetal heart rate to movement.

nuchal cord Term used to describe the umbilical cord when it is wrapped around the fetal neck.

nuclear family Family consisting of parents (husband and wife) and their dependent children.

nursing care plan A care plan containing specific patient data that is designed to identify, prioritize, and manage problems encountered with nursing interventions.

nursing process A series of steps describing a problem-solving approach nurses use to identify, prevent, or treat actual or potential patient problems. It includes assessment, nursing diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation.


obstetrics The art and science of caring for a woman during pregnancy, labor, and puerperium.

occiput The back part of the head.

oligohydramnios A decreased amount of amniotic fluid.

ophthalmia neonatorum Purulent infection of the eye or conjunctiva of the newborn, most often caused by gonococci or Chlamydia organisms.

opisthotonos Extension of the neck with an arched back, associated with central nervous system problems in the newborn.

opportunistic infection Infection in which organisms that do not usually cause disease become pathogenic (such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia).

oral contraceptives (OCs) Birth control pills that inhibit ovulation and contain progestins alone or in combination with estrogen.

Orem’s theory A self-care theory of nursing that emphasizes purposeful actions to promote life and well-being.

orgasm The climax of sexual intercourse.

orthostatic hypotension Decrease in blood pressure when shifting to sitting or standing from a lying down position.

Ortolani’s maneuver An assessment maneuver that is performed on the newborn to detect congenital hip dysplasia.

osteoporosis Increased spaces (porosity) in bone. The process greatly accelerates after menopause.

ovarian cycle Depicts the changes the follicle undergoes. There are two phases in the 28-day cycle: the follicular phase (days 1 to 14) and the luteal phase (days 15 to 28).

ovulation The maturation and release of the ovum from the ovary.

ovum (pl. ova) Female gamete, or sex cell.

oxytocin Hormone produced by the posterior pituitary that stimulates uterine contractions and the release of milk in the mammary gland by the let-down reflex.


paced breathing Learned breathing technique used during labor contractions to promote relaxation and increase pain tolerance.

palpation Examination performed by touching and exploring with the hands.

Papanicolaou (Pap) test (smear) Cytologic test of cervical cells used as a screening test for cervical cancer.

para The number of pregnancies that have reached the age of viability.

paracervical block Injection of local anesthetic into the lower uterine segment near the outer rim of the cervix.

parametritis An inflammation of tissue adjacent to the uterus.

parity (para) Number of pregnancies reaching viability regardless of the outcome.

parturition Childbirth.

passive acquired immunity Transfer of antibodies (immunoglobulin G) from the mother to the fetus in utero.

patent ductus arteriosus Congenital heart disease resulting when the opening between the pulmonary artery and the aorta does not close after birth.

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) Infection of internal reproductive structures and adjacent tissues usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection.

pelvic tilt exercise An exercise to strengthen abdominal muscles and reduce backache; often used during pregnancy.

penis The male organ of copulation and reproduction.

perinatal mortality rate The number of neonatal and fetal deaths per 1000 live births.

perineum Floor of the pelvis; area of tissue between the anus and vagina in the woman and between the anus and scrotum in the man.

periodic abstinence Refraining from sexual intercourse at specified intervals of time.

peristalsis Wavelike progression of muscular contraction and relaxation, propelling the contents through a tubular organ.

phenylketonuria (PKU) A metabolic disorder caused by an inborn error of metabolism of the amino acid phenyl-alanine. If PKU remains untreated, mental retardation occurs.

phimosis Tightening or narrowing of the foreskin on the penis.

phototherapy Treatment of jaundice by exposure to light rays; used to aid bilirubin clearance.

pica Consumption of substances ordinarily considered inedible (e.g., laundry starch or red clay).

placenta Flat, vascular structure that connects the fetus to the uterine wall for gas and nutrient exchange; also known as the afterbirth.

placenta accreta A placenta that is embedded into the uterine muscle, resulting in failure to separate and be expelled during the third stage of labor.

placenta previa Abnormal implantation of the placenta in the lower uterine segment.

placental separation A disconnection of the placenta from the uterine decidua in the third stage of labor.

polycythemia An excess of red blood cells.

polydactyly Presence of extra fingers or toes.

polyhydramnios Excessive amount of amniotic fluid; also called hydramnios.

position See fetal position.

postpartum After childbirth or delivery.

postpartum blues A nonpsychotic depression occurring within 2 weeks of delivery.

postpartum fatigue A weakened condition of the mother after the birth of her infant because of the failure to rest and adjust to the postpartum phase.

postpartum hemorrhage Loss of 500 mL or more of blood after vaginal birth.

postterm newborn A newborn who has completed 42 weeks’ gestation or more.

precipitate labor A rapid progression of labor that lasts less than 3 hours.

preconception care Health care and screening before pregnancy; can identify medical risks or lifestyle behaviors that can be managed before conception.

preeclampsia Hypertensive disorder of pregnancy or the puerperium with the three cardinal signs of hypertension, edema, and proteinuria.

pregestational diabetic A woman who had diabetes before conception occurred.

premature rupture of membranes Rupture of amniotic sac that occurs 42 hours or more before the onset of labor.

premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) A more severe type of premenstrual syndrome.

premenstrual syndrome (PMS) Cluster of symptoms experienced by some women. It typically occurs from a few days to 2 weeks before onset of menses.

prenatal Occurring before birth.

presentation See fetal presentation.

presenting part That part of the fetus lying closest to the internal os of the cervix.

preterm labor The onset of labor between 20 and 37 weeks’ gestation.

preterm newborn Newborn born before the end of 37 weeks’ gestation; also called premature newborn.

primigravida A woman pregnant for the first time.

primipara A woman giving birth to her first child at age of viability.

progesterone A hormone produced by the corpus luteum, adrenal cortex, and placenta that stimulates the growth of the endometrium for implantation, develops mammary glands, and maintains the pregnancy.

prolactin A hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary that stimulates and sustains lactation.

prolapsed umbilical cord Umbilical cord that becomes trapped in the vagina before the fetus is delivered. The cord is beside or ahead of the presenting part.

prophylactic eye care Eye medication administered to the newborn at birth to prevent ophthalmia neonatorum.

prophylaxis Protection from or prevention of a disease.

prostaglandin (PGE2) Substance present in many body tissues that has a role in many reproductive tract functions.

prostate gland A gland that surrounds the urethra of the male and contributes to semen secretion.

proteinuria Presence of protein in the urine.

psychoprophylactic method See Lamaze technique.

puberty Period of sexual maturation accompanied by the development of secondary sex characteristics.

pudendal block Anesthesia injected around the pudendal nerve for pain relief.

puerperal fever A maternal temperature of 38° C (100.4° F) or higher on any 2 of the first 10 postpartum days, excluding the first 24 hours.

puerperium The period after delivery until complete involution of organs (e.g., uterus); usually 6 weeks; also called postpartum period.

pulmonary embolism A blood clot that obstructs a vessel in the lung.

pulmonary vascular resistance Opposition (resistance) to blood flow in the blood vessels of the fetal lungs.

pulse oximeter Equipment that measures the level of blood oxygen saturation by a sensor placed on the skin.


quickening The first fetal movements felt by the mother, usually between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.


radiant warmer A newborn bed that supplies overhead heat to provide a stable thermal environment while providing open access for care.

radiation Heat loss that occurs when heat transfers to cooler surfaces and objects not in direct contact with the body.

radioimmunoassay A very sensitive method of determining the concentration of substances (hormones) in blood plasma.

reassuring heart rate pattern A fetal heart rate that reflects adequate fetal oxygenation.

REEDA scale A mnemonic used in assessing wound healing or inflammation. It includes Redness, Edema, Ecchymosis, Discharge, and Approximation.

reflexology A treatment that applies varying degrees of pressure to different parts of the body, commonly the hands and feet. Practitioners believe that zones (of organs and systems) used to promote body function run along the body and terminate in the hands and feet.

respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) Inability of newborn, especially preterm newborn, to maintain adequate respiratory effort, resulting from insufficient surfactant in the lungs.

retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) Retinal damage and blindness in the preterm neonate resulting from exposure to high oxygen concentrations; also known as retrolental fibroplasia.

retraction Abnormal “sucking in” of the chest wall during inspiration; also, the pulling back of the foreskin over the glans penis to expose the urinary meatus.

Rh factor An inherited antigen present on erythrocytes. The individual with the factor is referred to as Rh positive (Rh+), and an individual without the factor is called Rh negative (Rh−).

RhoGAM Rh (D) immune globulin given after delivery to an Rh(−) mother of an Rh(+) fetus to prevent the maternal Rh immune response.

rhythm method See calendar method.

rooting reflex An infant’s reflex to turn head and open lips to suck when one side of the mouth or cheek is touched.

rubella (German measles) An acute infection that can cause serious anomalies in the developing fetus.

rugae Folds of mucous membranes on internal surfaces such as the vagina.


sacral pressure A complementary therapeutic technique that involves massage or pressure on the sacral area to aid in pain management during labor.

salpingitis Infection of the fallopian tubes.

satiety A feeling of being full to satisfaction.

Schultze mechanism Delivery of the placenta in which the fetal side of the placenta is expelled first.

screening Multiple tests performed to rule out common abnormalities known to cause physical or mental disability.

semen Thick, whitish fluid ejaculated by the male during orgasm and containing spermatozoa; the transporting medium for sperm.

sex chromosomes Chromosomes responsible for sex determination. Females have two X chromosomes, and males have one X and one Y.

sexuality Refers to sexual behaviors and attitudes in the male and female.

sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Infections usually transmitted by direct contact (ordinarily by sexual activity) with an infected person.

show Vaginal discharge during the first stage of labor.

sickle cell anemia Inherited disorder caused by abnormal hemoglobin, resulting in a sickling of red blood cells.

sitz bath A warm water bath that covers the buttocks and perineal area only.

Skene’s glands Two glands opening near the meatus of the female urethra.

small-for-gestational-age (SGA) newborn Newborn whose weight falls below the 10th percentile of the intrauterine growth curve.

smegma An accumulation of cheese-like secretions that may be found under the foreskin of the penis and around the labia minora.

soma cells Body cells.

spermatogenesis Formation of male gametes (sperm) in the testes.

spermatozoon (pl. spermatozoa) The male reproductive cell (sperm) consisting of a head, or nucleus, and a flagellum, or tail.

spermicide An agent that kills sperm.

spina bifida A congenital defect involving failure in closure of the bony spinal canal.

spinal block Injection of a local anesthetic agent directly into the spinal fluid in the spinal canal; used in vaginal and cesarean births.

spinnbarkeit Refers to the elasticity of the cervical mucus that is present at the time of ovulation.

spontaneous abortion An abortion that occurs naturally; also called a miscarriage.

standards of care A statement of minimum safe care or conduct expectations determined by a professional organization.

station Relation of the presenting fetal part to the pelvic ischial spines of the birth canal.

sterility Inability to conceive.

sterilization A process of permanently removing the ability to reproduce.

stillbirth The birth of a dead newborn.

strabismus A turning inward (crossing) or outward of the eyes.

stress incontinence Involuntary loss of urine that occurs in situations such as sneezing or coughing. May be indicative of pelvic floor dysfunction.

striae gravidarum Irregular pinkish or purplish streaks (stretch marks) resulting from the stretching and tearing of connective tissue during pregnancy. They generally appear on the abdomen, breasts, and thighs.

subinvolution Delay of a structure (e.g., the uterus) to return to its normal size after enlargement (e.g., pregnancy).

supine hypotensive syndrome Lowered blood pressure and decreased pulse in the supine position resulting from compression of the inferior vena cava by pressure of the gravid uterus.

surfactant A substance formed in the lungs that reduces surface tension and helps keep the alveoli (air sacs) expanded and not collapsed.

suture Junction of the cranial bones.

symptothermal method A contraceptive technique that combines basal body temperature with the cervical mucus method.

syndactyly Webbing between two fingers or toes so that they are attached.

systemic vascular resistance Opposition to blood flow in the various vessels of the body.


tachycardia (fetal) Rapid fetal heart rate (above 160 beats per minute).

tachypnea Rapid respiration.

taking hold Second phase of maternal adaptation during which the mother assumes some independence in control over her body and some responsibility for newborn care.

taking in First phase of maternal adaptation during which the mother passively accepts care (dependency) for herself and her newborn.

teratogen (teratogenic agent) An agent or substance that causes abnormal development of an embryo.

term newborn A newborn born between 38 and 42 weeks’ gestation.

testosterone A male hormone.

therapeutic insemination A technique used to promote pregnancy in an otherwise infertile couple.

thermoregulation Maintenance of body temperature within normal limits.

thrombophlebitis Inflammation of a vein related to the formation of the thrombus (clot).

thrombus Blood clot obstructing a blood vessel. If detached, it becomes an embolus and can occlude a vessel at a distance from the original site.

tocolytic agent Drug that inhibits uterine contractions; commonly used with labor involving preterm newborns.

tocotransducer Electronic device used for measuring uterine contractions.

TORCH An acronym that refers to a group of infections that represent potentially severe problems during pregnancy: Toxoplasmosis, “Other” infections, Rubella, Cytomegalovirus, and Herpesvirus.

toxic shock syndrome (TSS) Infection predominantly caused by Staphylococcus aureus; found primarily in women of reproductive age who use tampons.

toxoplasmosis A parasitic infection acquired by contact with cat feces and transmitted through the placenta, causing fetal abnormalities.

transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) A form of energy therapy that emits low-level current to a body area; used to prevent nausea and other problems.

transition The last phase of active labor, from 8 to 10 cm cervical dilation, which is usually characterized by intense maternal discomfort.

translocation Alteration of a chromosome by transfer of a portion of it either to another chromosome or to another portion of the same chromosome.

transplacental Across the placenta, such as the exchange of nutrients, waste products, and hormones between mother and fetus. Drugs can also cross the placenta and be harmful to the fetus.

trial of labor A period of labor under close monitoring for complications in high-risk pregnancies.

trimester A 3-month period representing one third of the gestational time.

trophoblast The outer layer of the blastoderm that will establish the nutrient relation with the uterine endometrium.

true labor Uterine contractions with the intensity to cause effacement and dilation of the cervix.

tubal ligation Permanent blocking of the fallopian tube for purpose of sterilization.

tympanic membrane sensor A device used to measure temperature by inserting a covered plastic probe into the auditory canal.


ultrasound Use of high-frequency sound waves that may be directed, through use of a transducer, into the maternal abdomen; used in fetal assessment.

umbilical cord Cord containing two arteries and one vein that connects the fetus with the placenta.

umbilicus The navel.

uterine dysfunction A labor pattern that interferes with the normal progress of cervical dilation.

uterine rupture A tear in the uterine wall.


vagina The canal from the vulva to the cervix of the uterus.

vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) A labor management approach of providing close monitoring and support to encourage vaginal delivery and reduce the rate of cesarean births.

Valsalva’s maneuver Increasing pressure within the abdomen and thorax by holding one’s breath and pushing against the glottis.

variable deceleration A transient decrease in the fetal heart rate before, during, or after a uterine contraction. It is usually associated with a heart acceleration before and/or after the deceleration.

variability Normal irregularity of fetal cardiac rhythm; short-term beat-to-beat changes; long-term rhythmic changes or waves from the baseline (usually 3 to 5 beats per minute).

variances Deviations from an expected outcome in the expected clinical pathway of a medical diagnosis.

vas deferens Duct that transports sperm from the testes to the urethra.

vasectomy Tying or ligating of the vas deferens to prevent passage of sperm, thereby preventing pregnancy.

vasoconstriction Narrowing of the blood vessels.

vernix caseosa A protective, cheese-like, whitish coating found in varying quantities on the skin of the newborn.

vertex The top of the fetal head, between the anterior and posterior fontanelles.

viability Ability to live outside of the uterus. The minimum age of viability of a fetus is designated as 20 weeks’ gestation.

viscosity State of being thick and slow flowing, or thin and runny; compares the rate of flow of liquid through a tube, such as blood through blood vessels.

vulva The external female genitalia lying below the mons pubis.


warm lines Telephone advice lines that provide communication with the patient at home in non-urgent situations.

Watson’s theory A theory emphasizing the importance of caring and a holistic approach.

Wharton’s jelly Yellow-white gelatinous material surrounding the vessels in the umbilical cord.

womb Lay term for the uterus.


zygote A fertilized ovum (egg); cell produced by union of two gametes.

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Nov 26, 2016 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on Glossary
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