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The following are important terms that every woman should know before going into labor.

AMNIOTIC FLUID: a protective fluid which surrounds the fetus within the uterus

AMNIOTOMY: a procedure in which the amniotic sac is artificially ruptured

AMNIOCENTESIS: medical procedure in which amniotic fluid is drawn from the amniotic sac

BACK LABOR: a situation during labor in which the baby is in a posterior position, causing extreme labor pains in the back due to the position of the baby's head

BILIRUBIN: a yellow substance created by the break down of old red blood cells

BIRTH CANAL: what the baby passed through during birth

BIRTH PLAN: a set of wishes and intructions concerning the conditions of labor and delivery, written by a pregnant woman and usually signed by her doctor or midwife

BRADLEY METHOD: a method of childbirth which emphasizes natural childbirth and partner involvement

BRAXTON HICKS CONTRACTIONS: contractions which occur in the weeks before labor begins which serve to strengthen the uterus and prepare it for labor

BREECH: a condition in which the baby is positioned upright in the uterus with the feet or buttocks presenting first for delivery

CESAREAN SECTION: major surgery in which an incision is made in the abdomen and the baby is manually extracted from the uterus

CERVIX: the mouth of the uterus

CHORION: outer membrane of the amniotic sac

COCCYX: triangular bone at the base of the spine

COLOSTRUM: the first fluid in the mother's breast before her milk comes in

CONTRACTION: a tightening of the uterine muscle which causes the cervix to dilate

CPD: cephlo-pelvic disproportion; baby's head cannot pass through the mother's pelvis

CROWNING: the appearance of the baby's head in the vaginal opening

DILATION: opening of the cervix

DOULA: a woman who serves as an advocate and a support person for the laboring woman

EFFACEMENT: thinning out of the cervix

ENDOMETRIUM: lining of the uterus

ENGAGEMENT: point at which the baby's head descends into the mother's pelvis

EPIDURAL: method of pain relief during labor

EPISIOTOMY: an incision made to the perineum

EXTERNAL VERSION: outside manipulation of the baby's position within the uterus

FETAL BIOPHYSICAL PROFILE: test of fetal physical functions

FETAL DISTRESS: stress to the fetus during labor due to lack of oxygen

FONTANEL: soft spot on the newborn's head

FUNDUS: top of the uterus

HEMORRHAGE: excessive bleeding

HYPNOBIRTHING: method of childbirth in which hypnosis is used to prepare for labor as well as for relaxation and pain relief during labor

INDUCTION: artificial start of labor

INTRAUTERINE: within the uterus

JAUNDICE: a condition in which a newborn's skin and eyes appear yellow due to a build-up of bilirubin

LAMAZE: a method of childbirth emphasizing a series of breathing techniques

LANUGO: fine hair that covers the fetus

LOCHIA: discharge of blood and the lining of the uterus after the placenta is delivered

MECONIUM: the baby's first bowel movement

MIDWIFE: a birth professional who provides prenatal care and attends labor and birth

MOLDING: shape of the baby's head from the pressure of birth

MUCUS PLUG: the substance which protects the opening of the cervix

MYOMETRIUM: uterine muscle

NATURAL CHILDBIRTH: childbirth without the use of medical pain relief

OXYTOCIN: hormone that causes the uterus to contract

PERINEUM: the sensitive area between the vagina and the anus

PLACENTA: short term organ which attaches to the uterine wall and through which nourshment flows to the fetus

POSTERIOR PRESENTATION: position in which the baby's back is to the mother's back

POSTPARTUM: after birth

PROLACTIN: hormone that stimulates lactation

PROLAPSED CORD: condition in which the umbilical cord passes through the cervix before the baby does

STRIPPING THE MEMBRANES: separation of the amniotic sac from the uterine wall by a doctor or midwife

TACHYCARDIA: rapid heart rate

UMBILICAL CORD: cord which connect the fetus to the placenta

UTERUS: muscular organ in which a fetus develops

VAGINA: muscular passage connecting the cervix to the external genitalia

VBAC: vaginal birth after cesarean

VERNIX CASEOSA: cheese-like substance covering a newborn baby

WHARTON'S JELLY: substance within the umbilical cord

WOMB: uterus