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Jargon Buster

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


1st stage of labour

The time from the beginning of labour until the cervix is fully dilated to 10cm. This can vary from few hours to 12 hours or more.

3D/4D scans

Scanning machines that use computer imaging to create a three dimensional picture of the baby in the womb. 4D simply means that you can see the baby in real time.

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Active birth (rooms)

The mother-to-be is encouraged to move around freely and take up any position that makes her feel comfortable.

Albumin (ALB)

Protein present in your urine, it may be a sign of pre-eclampsia or of an infection such as cystitis.

Alphafetoprotein (AFP)

A substance present in the blood of pregnant women. You may need further tests if your levels appear higher or lower than normal.

Alternative positioning

Adopting different positions during labour to help ease pain or make the mother-to-be more comfortable e.g. squatting, lying on her side or semi-reclining.


This test is usually done around the 16th week of pregnancy. A needle is passed through the mother's abdomen into the uterus, under ultrasound guidance to collect small sample of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.

Amniotic fluid

Is the fluid that surrounds the baby in the uterus and protects the baby during pregnancy and labour.

Anencephaly (anenkefally)

Anencephaly describes a condition when part of the baby’s skull and brain does not form properly.

Antenatal care

Health care, screening tests and counselling provided to women during pregnancy. Also referred to as prenatal care.

Antenatal class

Classes for women in the third trimester focusing on labour, birth and how to look after a baby. Partners can attend and some classes may be specifically for young mothers or mothers-only.


A drug which reduces nausea and vomiting.

Apgar score

Is a quick test performed at 1 and 5 minutes after birth. The 1-minute score determines how well the baby tolerated the birthing process. The 5-minute score assesses how well the newborn is adapting to their new environment.


Antepartum haemorrhage and means bleeding before the birth.

Aplasia (a-playsia)

Total or partial failure of organ or tissue development.


Temporary pause in breathing for about 15 to 20 seconds or more, especially during sleep.


Artificial rupture of membranes.


Complimentary medicine that uses oils from certain aromatic plants to help relieve pain. The oils can be massaged or used in baths.

Artificially rupturing of the membranes

Breaking the membranes holding back the fluid around the baby to speed up labour.

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Baby blues

A short period of mild depression, tearfulness, anxiety, headache and irritability which affect almost half of all mothers in the first few days after birth.


Mask placed over the nose and mouth to manually pump oxygen from an inflatable bag and oxygen source to inflate a baby’s lungs.


A drug which slows down the heart rate and can be used in people with abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, angina, high blood pressure and several other conditions.

Birth mat

A cushioned mat.

Birthing ball

The labouring woman is able to sit, relax and move by squatting on a ball. Gently moving on the ball helps to relieve contractions.

Birthing stool/chair

Helps to keep mothers upright while pushing.

Blood gas

Blood test assessing acid/base balance and oxygenation level in the blood. They are commonly used in the NICU.

Blood pressure (BP)

In pregnancy, a normal blood pressure range is between 95/60 and 135/85. A raised blood pressure could indicate a problem.

Bloody show

A sign of labour preparation that appears light reddish or brown coloured mucus that is released from the cervical area.


Baby-led weaning


Birth mother


Process of parent-infant attachment occurring at or soon after birth.

BPD (biparietal diameter)

Measurement of two bones in the skull used by sonographers to help calculate a baby's gestation.


Slowing of the heart rate, usually to less than 80 beats per minute for a premature baby.

Braxton hicks contractions

Irregular tightening of the uterus sometimes referred to as 'practice contractions'.

Breech (BR)

Breech presentation. A baby who is lying in a bottom or feet down position in the uterus.

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Caesarean section – surgical birth.

Centile chart

Chart used to assess babies and children's physical development. The lines of growth on the chart are called centiles.


Cephalic presentation. A baby who has their head in the lower part of the uterus.

Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD)

When a baby’s head or body is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis.

Cleft Lip and Palate

A developmental problem in babies when the upper lip or palate (roof of the mouth) is not joined properly.

Cochlear implant

A surgically implanted device which allows people who are profoundly deaf to detect and interpret sound. It does not cure deafness but provides sound impulses which users can learn to interpret.


Highly concentrated creamy milk which is brimming with antibodies, proteins, vitamins and anti-infective agents. It is the first milk your breasts produce during pregnancy before the onset of true lactation.

Combitrac system

A piece of equipment that promotes active birth. A sling supports the woman's weight and a birthing ball helps to position her for a normal birth.

Community Care

Care services provided in the community for people who require support and care to live independently and free from social isolation.


When the egg is available for fertilization and 350 million sperm is released inside or near the woman’s vaginal area, about 200 sperm will reach the egg. Of those 200 sperm, only one will actually penetrate the egg, thus causing conception.


A maternity unit where the consultant has overall clinical responsibility for patients, particularly those who are assessed as high risk.


The intentional prevention of pregnancy or conception through hormones, technologies, sexual practices, or surgical procedures.

Corrected age

Baby's age based on due date used to measure developmental milestones. This is calculated by deducting actual age in birth from weeks premature.


When women become pregnant they soon may feel repeated pains, similar to those during a menstrual cycle. During the second trimester, women can also feel cramping due to the stretching of the abdominal muscles.

CRL (crown rump length)

Measurement of baby from top of the baby's head to its bottom used in ultrasound to help calculate the gestation.


Refers to when the widest part of the baby’s head (or their crown) is emerging. The sensation as your baby’s head stretches the birth opening can be intense and painful, but does not last long.

CT (Computed Tomography) scan

Using X-rays to provide pictures of the internal structures of the body.

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D & C (Dilatation and Curettage)

A procedure in which the cervix is gently opened and a loop shaped instrument is inserted to scrape away the inner lining of the uterus.

D & E (Dilatation and Evacuation)

Terminations of pregnancy under general anaesthetic in which the cervix is dilated and the uterine contents are removed by implements and gentle suction.

Delivery suite

Area located within the maternity unit where the mother-to-be goes through labour and birth.

Delivery without intervention

Vaginal birth without the use of forceps or ventouse and is also known as spontaneous delivery. Though it does not mean the mother was not induced.


Medical term for enlargement or expansion of the cervix during labour.


A drug which increases the frequency of urination.


Small handheld machine that picks up your baby’s heartbeat by ultrasound.

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Exclusively breastfeed(ing) or extended breastfeed(ing), depending on context


Estimated blood loss

Ectopic Pregnancy (EP)

Pregnancy that develops somewhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube.


Expected date of delivery - when your baby is due. Sometimes called EDC (expected date of confinement).

Elective caesarean section (ELCS)

A planned caesarean agreed in advance. The operation takes place before the natural onset of labour.

Electronic fetal monitor

An instrument used to record the heartbeat of the unborn baby and the mother’s contractions through transducers that are attached by belts to the mother’s abdomen, or by a scalp electrode inserted through the mother’s vagina and attached to the baby’s scalp.


For the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, the developing offspring is called an embryo. After this it becomes a foetus.

Emergency Caesarean section (EMCS)

When the need for a Caesarean is urgent which is triggered by complications with the pregnancy, or labour or if labour has stopped or is very slow.

Engaged (ENG)

The widest diameter of the baby's head has passed into the pelvis in preparation for giving birth.


The swelling of breast tissue due to an increase in blood and lymph supply to the breast preceding true lactation. This goes away once the body better regulates milk production.


Pain relief - a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide, inhaled through a mask or mouthpiece by the mother during labour.


A surgical cut through the tissues of the mother’s perineum to make more space for the baby to be born. This is stitched after the birth and the stitches can be uncomfortable for a few days.


Egg-white cervical mucus.


Use of a breast pump or your hands to extract breast milk.

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Fallopian tube

Part of the female reproductive system. The eggs produced in the ovaries have to travel down the fallopian tubes before embedding in the lining of the uterus.

False negative

Some women are told that tests have shown that their baby does not have a particular problem, only to find out when the baby is born that this is not true.

False positive

Some women are told that tests have shown that their baby may have a problem. If further tests then show that this is not the case, that result is called a false positive.

Family planning

The conscious effort of couples or individuals to plan the number of their children and to regulate the spacing and timing of their births through contraception, as well as the treatment of involuntary infertility.

Fetal (foetal) medicine

The branch of medicine concerned with the growth, development and treatment of the fetus and with any factors that may harm the fetus.

Fetal blood sampling (FBS)

If a baby appears to be in distress during labour a small amount of blood can be taken and checked.

Fetal distress

Sometimes the strength of labour contractions can reduce the baby’s oxygen supply, causing the baby to become distressed. This is usually indicated by a persistently abnormal heartbeat or an irregular rhythm.

Fetal heart (FH)/Fetal heart heard (FHH)

You may see 'FH heard' or 'FHH' on your notes - that means your baby's heartbeat has been heard.


A special fibre optic instrument is passed through the abdomen of a pregnant woman to examine the baby. If required, it is usually done in weeks 18-20 of pregnancy.

Fetus (Foetus)

The term for the unborn baby from the end of the 8th week after conception until birth.


Formula-feeding or forward-facing (as in car seat), depending on context.


Fetal heart not heard (which probably means your baby was just lying in an awkward position).


Non-cancerous tumors of the muscle wall in the uterus which are sometimes painful. They can potentially cause miscarriages, trouble in the growth of the baby, and trouble in the delivery.

FL (femur length)

Measurement of thigh bone, used in ultrasound to help calculate a baby's gestation.


Fetal movement, fetal movement felt and fetal movements not felt. It indicates your baby had been felt to move or not.

Folic acid

The Department of Health recommends that women should take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid while they are trying to conceive, and should continue taking this dose for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's spine is developing.


The two soft spots on a newborn’s head where the skull bones do not yet meet.


An instrument that looks like a pair of tongues. The blades (which are not sharp and are also known as branches) are positioned around the head of the baby. They are then used to gently pull him/her out while the mother pushes with contractions. When this happens, it is known as a forceps delivery.


This is the milk at the beginning of a feeding.


Fetal scalp electrode (used to directly measure the baby’s EKG/heartbeat).


Failure to progress.

Full term

Babies born at 37 weeks or more.


This is the top of the uterus. The 'fundal' height helps assess the growth of the baby and how many weeks pregnant you are. It's the length in centimetres between the top of the uterus and the pubic bone.

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Gestational age of the pregnancy.

Grand multiparous

Woman who has given birth to at least 4 or 5 babies before.


The number system to say how many pregnancies a woman has had, and the outcomes of the pregnancies.


The study of diseases of women and girls, particularly those affecting the female reproductive system. A gynaecologist is the specialist in this area.

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Haemoglobin (Hb)

This gives an indication of iron levels in your blood. If it's too low it could mean you have anaemia and need more iron supplements and advise of iron fortified foods.


Sudden and severe bleeding. In pregnancy it is usually called antepartum haemorrhage and after the birth it is called postpartum haemorrhage.

Height of fundus (FH)

The fundus is the top of your uterus (womb). The midwife will measure how far the top of your uterus has grown and record this in centimetres.


Describes how characteristics are transmitted through families within the chromosomes of the fertilising egg and sperm.

High risk

A pregnancy that is assessed as at risk of complications.


This is the higher-in-fat breastmilk that is available at the end of the feeding.

Holoprosencephaly (HPE) (holoprosenkefally)

The front part of the baby’s brain fails to develop into clearly separate right and left halves. There are varying levels of severity.

Home birth

Community midwives deliver the baby at the mother’s home. This only occurs if the pregnancy is low risk.


Health visitor.

Hydrotherapy / Birthing pool / water birth

Using water to help ease labour pains. Women in labour can use showers or bath/pool.


High blood pressure.


This occur when breathing becomes too shallow or too fast, causing dizziness and feelings of faintness. In labour it can upset the baby’s blood gases so that he does not breathe readily at birth.


A programme that teaches women self-hypnosis, breathing and relaxation techniques to use during labour and birth.


Low blood pressure.

Hypovolemic shock

Shock caused by a reduction in the volume of blood, as from haemorrhage.


When inadequate oxygen is reaching the tissue. For example, a hypoxic brain injury is a brain injury caused by the brain being starved of oxygen.

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Describes illnesses for which the cause is unknown.


Artificially starting labour undertaken if the pregnancy has lasted over 42 weeks or if there are health risks to mother or baby in continuing the pregnancy up until the due date.

Infant feeding / breastfeeding co-ordinator

Someone who works with local authorities to develop and implement the local and national breastfeeding targets.

Instrumental delivery / assisted birth

When either forceps or ventouse are used to deliver a baby.

Integrated test

The integrated test is a screening test for Down’s syndrome performed in two stages.

Intramuscular injection

Painkiller is injected into the muscle, rather than the bloodstream.

Inverted nipples

Nipples that do not protrude when cold or during sexual stimulation. Babies can still breastfeed from an inverted nipple and often breastfeeding itself will help the nipples protrude.


Rolling or turning inward; the reduction in size of the uterus following childbirth.

IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction)

A condition which leads to a baby being born extremely small for its gestational dates.

IVF (in vitro fertilisation)

A fertility treatment which involves using drugs to stimulate ovulation (release of an egg) in the mother which are harvested and fertilised by sperm in a laboratory medium (in vitro). The fertilised egg or zygote is then implanted into the uterus or womb with the hope of establishing a successful pregnancy.

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Covering of tiny hairs over the baby’s body at birth. Premature babies often have a great deal of this fine hair which eventually falls out.

Latching On

When the baby takes the nipple and areola properly into his mouth to begin nursing. Proper positioning is critical because your nipple needs to touch the roof of your baby’s mouth to stimulate him to latch on, suck and swallow.

LDRP room

Labour, delivery, recovery, postpartum room. It means that labour-birth-recovery occurs in one room.

Let-down reflux

Pattern of stimulation, hormone release and resulting muscle contraction that forces milk into the lactiferous ducts, making it available to the infant.

Levels of care

The “levels of care” are used to describe the complexity of care provided in a particular neonatal care centre; Level 1 - care of healthy newborn infants born at 35 to 37 weeks who are medically stable but do not require either intensive or high dependency care. Level 2 - high dependency care of infants born at more than 32 weeks gestation and weighing more than 1500g who have needs relating to prematurity. Level 3 - Intensive care provided for babies who are the most unwell or unstable and have the greatest needs.

Lithotomy position

A position used for assisted deliveries, where the mother lies flat on her back with her legs raised and apart, supported by stirrups.


Last menstrual period. This date is used to work out how many weeks pregnant you are.


For a couple of weeks or more after the birth the woman loses a mixture of blood and mucus through the vagina, like a very heavy period at first but lessening over time.

Low birth weight

The "normal" weight for a baby varies according to the gestational age, or number of weeks of pregnancy. A baby born weighing less than 2500g (5lb 8oz) is of low birth weight (LBW) regardless of gestational age.

Low risk

A problem-free based on medical/obstetric history.


Long term variability (how the baby’s heart beat line looks on the monitor – it should be fairly squiggly, which suggested good/average/moderate LTV).

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Maternal death

Death of a pregnant woman or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy, due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth.

Maternal health

Health of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

Maternal morbidity

Any injury, condition or symptom that results from, or is worsened by pregnancy.

Medical abortion

A safe option for terminating a pregnancy using medications.

Membrane sweep

Membranes that surround the baby are separated from the cervix during an examination by the midwife to help stimulate labour.

Meptid (meptazinol) injection

A newer drug that is an alternative to pethidine.


Maternal fetal medicine specialist, perinatalogist, deals with high risk pregnancies.

Micro preemie

Baby born before 26 weeks gestation or weighing less than 1 pound/12 ounces (800 grams).

Microcephaly (microkefali)

A condition in which the brain is not fully developed and the head is very small in relation to the rest of the body.


Maternity care is co-ordinated by midwives. This type of care is for women whose pregnancies do not develop complications.

Miscarriage (MC)

Loss of the pregnancy which may cause bleeding and cramping.

Multigravida / Multipara / Multiparous

A woman who has given birth at least once.

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Nothing abnormal detected.


Term for newborn child in the first four weeks of life. A neonatologist is the specialist in this area.

Neural tube

The structure in an embryo from which the brain and spinal cord form.

Neural tube defect (NTD)

An anomaly where the spine has not closed over the central nervous tissue. This hole is known as a lesion.

Newborn health

The health during the first four weeks of a child’s life.

Newborn physical examination screening programme

A full physical examination of the heart, hips, eyes and testes in boys of the newborn baby. A GP will normally carry out a second examination at six-eight weeks.


NHS Litigation Authority, which handles negligence and claims.


Neonatal intensive care unit.

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

This kind of testing uses a maternal blood test to analyse cell free fetal DNA present in the mother’s blood.

Nuchal translucency scan

Between 11 and 13 weeks of pregnancy the fluid at the back of the baby's neck, the nuchal translucency, is measured.

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Obstetric fistula

It leaves women unable to control their bladder and bowel movements and occurs as a result of complications during childbirth and prolonged or obstructed labour.

Occipito Anterior

When the back of your baby's head is toward your front.

Occipito Posterior

As above but the baby's head is toward your back.


The medical term for swelling, which most commonly occurs in your feet, ankles or hands during pregnancy. This often occurs because your body retains more fluid. It can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

Oily fish

Oily fish are rich in Vitamins A and D as well as omega 3 fatty acids. Examples include sardines, salmon, trout, anchovy and mackerel.


A condition in which there is too little amniotic fluid. This can affect the baby’s growth.


Occurs two weeks, or an average of 14 days, before the beginning of a woman’s period. This is the most probable time frame to get pregnant.

Ovulation induction

The use of medication to activate the ovaries to produce ova (eggs).

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The branch of medicine concerned with child health. A paediatrician is the specialist in this area.


When the midwife or doctor feels the baby by moving their hands over your abdomen.


The period immediately before and after birth. The exact period of time covered by the term varies according to the context from 20 to 28 weeks of pregnancy to 7 to 28 days after birth.


The area of skin between your vagina and anus.


Pain relief injection into a muscle or beneath the skin. It can only be given in the early stages of labour.


Indicates if your urine sample contains Protein, Glucose or anything else (Other).


Pregnancy-induced hypertension, which means that your blood pressure is high.


Connects the mother to the baby at the end of the umbilical cord and transports nourishment.

Placenta praevia

When the placenta is low down and sometimes covers the cervix and blocks the baby's exit. A caesarean section will be required to deliver the baby.


A condition in which there is too much amniotic fluid. It can lead to premature delivery and sometimes indicates other anomalies.


How the baby is lying, for example to the right or left of the pelvis.


The different ways a baby is held or situated when breastfeeding.

Post term

>42 weeks.


After the birth.

Postnatal care

Midwife-led care for mother and baby when they go home.


The first days after birth.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

A type of depression some women experience after giving birth.

Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)

PPGP is a collection of uncomfortable symptoms caused by a misalignment or stiffness of your pelvic joints at either the back or front of your pelvis.

Premature / Preterm

Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.


Refers refers to which way up your baby is: C or Ceph (cephalic) or Vx (vertex) - head down, Br (breech) - feet or bottom first.

Preterm labour (PTL)

Occurs when your body starts getting ready for birth with regular contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Primary Care

Defined by the World Health Organisation as "essential health care; based on practical, scientifically sound, and socially acceptable method and technology; universally accessible to all in the community through their full participation; at an affordable cost; and geared toward self-reliance and self-determination." In the UK this typically refers to care provided by General Practitioners.

Primigravida / Primipara / Primiparous

Sometimes called the prim or primip - a woman pregnant and giving birth for the first time.


Premature rupture of membranes (water breaks) before labour begins.


A pessary releases the artifical hormone next to the cervix to stimulate labour.


The period after completion of the third stage of labour until involvement of the uterus is complete, usually 6 weeks.


The method of extracting breastmilk with the help of an external pump. There are both manual and electrical breast pumps.

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First movements of the baby that you can feel.

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Complementary therapy in which pressure is applied to the soles of the feet to relax other parts of the body. For women in labour, reflexologists can apply pressure and stroke points on the foot. This action is said to release pain-killing hormones from the pituitary glands.

Rhesus (Rh)

The rhesus blood group system is a way of categorising your blood type.

Rooming in

Most maternity units now recommend that babies stay with their mums 24 hours a day. This helps with feeding and bonding. It also reduces the risk of infection.

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Shoulder dystocia – where the baby’s shoulder is stuck during birth.

Secondary care

Medical care provided by specialists (consultants) in a particular field of medicine, whether in a hospital or community setting. Patients are referred to these specialists by another doctor, commonly a General Practitioner (GP). Examples of specialists include cardiologists, gynaecologists or psychiatrists.


Skin-to-skin contact with your baby after birth (your baby is dried and put straight onto your chest).


Brown or reddish tinted discharge. This is when the endometrium (the uterus lining) has started to pull away from the uterus, anticipating a monthly period before realizing that there is a pregnancy.


Spontaneous rupture of the membrane (broken bag of water).


When a full-term baby is dead at birth.


Spontaneous vaginal delivery (no forceps or vacuum).


A synthetic hormone given during the third stage of labour to assist with delivery of placenta. It is given intravenously, straight to the bloodstream.


A slowly progressive disease of the spinal cord. Cysts or cavities form in the spinal cord, usually in the cervical or neck region. This can happen for different reasons and leads to varying patterns of muscle weakness and sensory disturbance.

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Tens machine (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

Pain relief - uses an electrical current, which pulses through the body via electrodes.


40 Weeks or thereabouts from the first day of the last menstrual period.

Tertiary care

More specialised medical centres offering specialist care in a particular field, in a centre with special facilities for investigation and treatment and often covering a much wider area than primary or secondary care services. Examples could include specialist centres in neurosurgery, paediatric cardiac surgery or cancer care.

The lie

The 'lie' refers to the position of the crown of your baby's head within your pelvis: O (occiput) - this refers to the back of your baby's head, which could be facing right of left, A (anterior) - to the front, P (posterior) - to the back and L (lateral) or T (transverse) - to the side.


Fear of childbirth by pregnant women.


First: <12 weeks Second: 13-28 weeks Third: >28 weeks


The presence of a full extra set of chromosomes. Sadly babies with this condition do not usually survive after birth.

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Ultrasound scan (U/S)

This is a technique used routinely in most hospitals to monitor the growth and development of the baby before birth. Scans before 16 weeks are useful for dating the pregnancy (and are able to detect some major fetal anomalies). Detailed scanning at 18 to 21 weeks checks for a range of fetal anomalies.

Urinalysis (urine testing)

A urine sample will be tested at every antenatal visit for the following things: Sugar traces (may be a sign of diabetes in pregnancy), Albumin (Alb) (protein may be a sign of pre-eclampsia), Ketones (may happen if you've got gestational diabetes, you're not eating enough, or you have pregnancy sickness).

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Vaginal breech delivery

Allowing the woman to deliver normally, even if the baby is in breech position.


Vaginal birth after C-section.


Vaginal examination.


A suction cap that is placed on the baby’s head and a vacuum is formed to help deliver the baby.


Stands for vertex, which means the crown or top of the baby's head.

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Weeks by dates (by LMP)

Weeks or gestation

The length of your pregnancy in weeks, from the first day of your last monthly period (LMP). Babies are considered full-term from 37 weeks, and usually born at 40-42 weeks.

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