Getting involved early in your wife’s pregnancy will not only ease her journey, you won’t feel like you’re missing out. And the best place to start is to have a proper understanding of pregnancy terms and what to expect during labour!
We’ve rounded up a basic list of terms to get you started…
Amniotic fluid Refers to the liquid in the water bag (or amniotic sac, which is located inside the womb). The amniotic fluid cushions the foetus from sudden blows and movements and protects it from injury. It also helps your foetus maintain a constant body temperature and prevents heat loss. Too much or too little amniotic fluid can be a cause for concern as these are known signs of possible foetal distress.
Baby blues In the first couple of days following the baby’s birth, a new mum may get upset over trivial things, feeling low and sad. The baby blues can be triggered by physical changes, emotional factors, or both. Your hormone levels drop after delivery. If these emotions extend beyond the first two weeks, she is most likely experiencing a bout of postnatal depression (see below).
Big baby Also called macrosomia or large-for-gestational-age-baby, a baby is considered “big” when he weighs 4kg or more at birth. The average weight of a newborn is typically between 3 and 3.2kg. Your ob-gyn will usually carry out a pelvic examination to examine the size of your foetus and then decide if vaginal birth is still a viable option.
Bloody show The release of a small amount of blood or blood-tinged mucus (see mucus plug below) through the vagina near the end of pregnancy. It can occur just before labour or in early labour as the cervix changes shape, freeing mucus and blood.
Breech You deliver your mini-me buttocks or feet first, instead of head first.
Braxton Hicks contractions Also referred to as a false labour, these are irregular contractions of the uterus that can start from as early as the fourth month of pregnancy or during the second trimester. Unlike actual labour, this tightening of the abdomen comes and goes and does not increase in frequency, duration or intensity. To ease these contractions, you can try changing the position you are seated in, drink sufficient fluids and get enough rest.
Chemical pregnancy An early miscarriage that happens before 6 weeks.
Cervix The passageway of tissues and muscles that connect the vagina to the uterus. The cervix produces cervical mucus, which changes in consistency to promote or prevent pregnancy. It also dilates during childbirth to allow the baby to pass through.
Contractions Often one of the first signs of labour and feels like more intense menstrual cramps felt in the lower abdomen. Even when you change positions or relax, labour contractions don’t stop. The frequency and intensity of these contractions increases progressively during labour.
Cravings These are caused by the fluctuations in hormones and the way your wife perceives tastes and smells. Cravings usually start in the first trimester, peak in the second and declines in the third. More importantly, her cravings may be a sign that her body is pining for a certain food nutrient. For instance, a yen for pickles and processed cheese can be her body’s way of signalling a need for more sodium in her diet. The good news is you’ll definitely be able to find a 24-hour eatery near your place.
Caesarean section The gynae makes an incision in the mother’s belly, so as to remove the baby. Also known as C-sections, this surgical procedure can be elective — your wife has chosen this method of delivery — or non-elective —the ob-gyn performs the op because of a medical emergency. Like vaginal birth, C-sections also come with its own risks like deep vein thrombosis. This is a serious health condition where a blood clot forms in the vein — often in the thigh or lower legs.
Colostrum A creamy liquid that’s yellow or orangey in colour may seep from your breasts in the final days of your pregnancy and persist well into the first two weeks when you breastfeed. Colostrum is rich in vital antibodies that’ll guard your kewpie’s young immunity from infections.
Congenital disorder Also referred to as a birth defect, it is present during or before the birth of your baby. The causes of a congenital disorder can be genetic in nature or the result of an infection during pregnancy.
Dilation During labour, the cervix gradually opens up — referred to as dilation — to a length of about 10cm to enable your baby’s head to pass through the vagina. As the cervix opens up, your wife is in active labour and is inching closer to delivering your bundle of joy.
Ectopic pregnancy The fertilised egg gradually makes its way down the fallopian tube and attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg implants itself in the fallopian tube and in some cases, causes it to rupture. Symptoms include heaving vaginal bleeding, light-headedness, fainting and pain in your shoulder. See the doctor immediately.
Epidural A commonly used form of pain relief that is injected into your epidural space — the area close to the membrane that protects one’s spinal cord. The solution removes any sensation from the waist down without leaving the patient unconscious.
Episiotomy A surgical cut made at the perineum — the area between the vagina and the anus — to avoid vaginal tearing and any damage to the rectum after birth. The ob-gyn makes the cut right before your baby emerges and stitches you up after birth.
Foetus This term refers to your unborn baby from around the tenth week of pregnancy until his or her birth.
Forceps birth A medical instrument used to grab and manoeuvre your baby from the birth canal during delivery. Needless to say, forceps use during birth can result in birth injuries for both the mother and child. Sometimes referred to Instrumental Delivery or Assisted Delivery.
Fraternal twins A result of two fertilised eggs. Unlike identical or monozygotic twins when a fertilised egg (ovum) splits and develops into two babies with exactly the same genetic information, fraternal twins don’t share the same placenta nor the same water bag. Also called dizygotic twins.
Gestational diabetes This develops during pregnancy (gestation). Just like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). This condition causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health.
Group B Streptococcal (GBS) Infection A kind of bacteria that’s found in the rectum and vagina. If left untreated, the GBS bacteria can move through the birth canal and result in a serious infections in your foetus like meningitis, eye infections that can lead to blindness, developmental problems and pneumonia. Mothers who are chronic smokers, produce unusual vaginal discharge, have low immunity or an autoimmune disease are at a higher risk.
Heartburn Your baby exerts additional pressure on the stomach and uterus and pushes acid up the oesophagus causing a burning sensation in the chest. Progesterone also causes the valve separating the oesophagus from the stomach to relax, causing heartburn. Encourage your wife to avoid eating before bedtime and refrain from lying down after a meal.
Hormones The reason for your spouse’s inexplicable and sudden change in mood and behaviour. One moment she is laughing, the next, she’s sobbing uncontrollably because you left the toilet seat up again. Just take it in stride because her hormonal angst is temporary.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Levels A vital pregnancy hormone the placenta produces. It can be detected through a blood test or in your urine from as early as two weeks of conception. Your doctor will continue to monitor the hCG levels in the body as it is a useful indicator of any possible issues. It is also the hormone that causes morning sickness.
Incontinence The lack of control over your pee, which may occur because the foetus is putting pressure on the bladder. Your spouse may accidentally pass urine when she sneezes, laughs or coughs. Carrying out Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to minimise incontinence. Incontinence may also continue for some time after giving birth.
In utero Latin phrase for in the womb.
Lightening By the end of the third trimester, your baby moves lower into the mother’s pelvis. This process is called lightening or sometimes also referred to as dropping. Women in their first pregnancy can experience this from as early as two to four weeks before delivery. It was ease breathing while the heartburn might also subside. The downside is that you may feel the urge to pee more often.
Meconium For the first three days of your baby’s life, his poop will be black or green in colour, is thick and sticky in consistency like molasses. It’s made of everything he has consumed in the womb. If there is foetal distress, your baby may empty his bowels in the womb, such that he’ll inhale the waste substance during his first cry ― your newborn may suffer from respiratory issues as a result.
Morning sickness A feeling of nausea from as early as four weeks and subsides usually by the second trimester. Caused by rapid hormone production in your wife’s body, certain smells, foods and odours can lead to also lead to a gag reflex.
Mucus plug A type of cervical fluid produced to seal the entrance to your womb. This “plug” from the cervix is passed out from the vagina as a blood-tinged jelly-like substance and is a sign that your wife’s labour is progressing well.
Oxytocin A type of medication used to kick-start the process of childbirth. When injected, the hormone can trigger contractions during labour. It’s also called the “love” hormone, produced by the body after getting a kiss or a hug from someone. It creates the warm feelings of being loved and doted on.
Placenta An organ attached to the wall of the uterus that’s responsible for supplying your baby with oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord. The placenta also removes waste products from baby’s blood. It’s sometimes used as a tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine for women who are trying to conceive. The placenta is usually expelled from the body following birth.
Preemie or premature baby Babies born before 37 weeks are considered to be premature — also called a preemie. Preterm births often occur during the third trimester but can also happen as early as 24 weeks. Premature babies will require additional physiological support from machines to provide this like warmth, oxygen, respiratory and cardiac support.
Prenatal tests Your other half will have to undergo a number of prenatal tests during the three trimesters to detect if your child suffers from any birth defects or Down syndrome. These tests usually begin from as early as 10 weeks.
Progesterone A hormone released by the ovaries that’s responsible for ensuring the fertilised egg is implanted in the uterus. Can be used to expand the cervix during ripening.
Postnatal Depression The condition can start with the first two months after baby is born or several months later. The signs include feeling low, lethargic, moody and suffering from insomnia.
Quickening The term used to refer to the kicks one should start to feel around 20 to 22 weeks — around 4 months — into pregnancy. Generally, in a 12-hour period, a healthy foetus is expected to move — through jabbing, punching, kicking or simply stretching — at least 10 times. If you sense a decrease in the movement of the foetus or no movement at all, it is vital to consult your gynae immediately. Otherwise, it may be too late to save your child.
Ripening The softening of the cervix as it gets ready for labour.
Spotting Small amounts of blood produced “down there”. If you and your spouse have sex during pregnancy, it can irritate the cervix, which can result in spotting. Spotting can also occur when the embryo attaches itself to the uterine wall. These signs are not considered to be life-threatening but if you’re unsure, consult your doc immediately.
Spontaneous abortion Another term used to refer to a miscarriage.
Transverse lie Your foetus is found to be in a transverse lie his head and feet is on either side of the mother’s body in a horizontal position, instead of vertical. Most babies will bring themselves into a head down position by the end of the last trimester. Your doctor may offer to turn your baby by hand if he is found to be lying in this position after 36 weeks. Otherwise, he may also advise you to opt for a C-section.
Trial of labour If your wife is considering a vaginal birth after having a C-section, the birthing process is referred to as a trial of labour as everything is considered to be carried out in a manner of a “trial” or try-out. Since your pelvis has never been subjected to the rigours of natural birth, your doctor cannot be sure that you’ll have a successful vaginal birth after a C-section.
Trimester Life as a pregnant mum and a growing foetus is measured in trimesters. There are three trimesters in pregnancy, each lasting about three months. A normal pregnancy lasts about 38 to 40 weeks.
Umbilical cord The placenta is connected to the foetus’s body through an umbilical cord, which is, in turn, linked to abdomen opening. Following birth, the cord will clamped and cut close to your baby’s body. Cord blood is also rich in stem cells that can be used to fight diseases such as cerebral palsy and thalassemia. The stump that’s left following the cord cutting will dry up and drop off on its own in about one to three weeks.
Ultrasound scan A prenatal ultrasound — also called a sonogram — uses sound waves to create an image of your baby, the placenta and the womb. Usually an early ultrasound will be carried out at about six to 10 weeks — referred to as a dating scan — to identify how far along the foetus is in terms of gestational development. At about 20 to 22 weeks, a more comprehensive ultrasound scan will be done to detect abnormalities in baby’s bones, heart, brain, spine or kidneys. You’ll also be able to learn your baby’s gender during this scan.
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