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BabyCentre - Glossary of childcare
Category: Health and Medicine > Pregnancy, babies
Date & country: 13/10/2007, UK
Words: 477


afterbirth
The placenta is commonly called the afterbirth once it has been delivered.

alpha-fetoprotein
This is a protein, produced by the fetus's liver, which can be detected in the mother's blood most accurately between the 16th and 18th weeks of pregnancy. High levels of AFP may be associated with a neural-tube birth defect called spina bifida; low levels may be associated with Down's syndrome.

amnio
An amniocentesis is a diagnostic test used to determine possible genetic abnormalities, usually performed between Week 15 and Week 18 of pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the amniotic sac by inserting a hollow needle through the abdominal wall.

amniocentesis
An amniocentesis is a diagnostic test used to determine possible genetic abnormalities, usually performed between Week 15 and Week 18 of pregnancy. Amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the amniotic sac by inserting a hollow needle through the abdominal wall.

amniotic fluid
The clear straw-coloured liquid in the amniotic sac in which the fetus grows. It cushions the baby against pressure and knocks, allows the baby to move around and grow without restriction, helps the lungs develop, keeps the baby at a constant temperature, and provides a barrier against infection.

amniotic sac
The sac or 'bag of waters' filled with amniotic fluid in which the developing baby grows. The membranes which make up the sac may occasionally rupture naturally as labour begins, but usually remain intact until the end of the first stage of labour. The membranes may also be broken by a midwife or doctor to speed up labour.

anencephaly
A rare condition in which the baby's brain does not develop properly while in the womb, resulting in little or no brain and a malformed skull.

antenatal care
Medical care for a pregnant woman and her developing baby for the duration of the pregnancy.

antenatal classes
A method of emotional and physical preparation to reduce pain in childbirth.

antenatal tests
Medical tests conducted during pregnancy to determine any genetic disorders in the fetus or to check the well-being of the woman.

anterior position
The baby's spine faces the front of the pelvis during pregnancy and/or labour.

antibiotics
Drugs used to control bacteria. Antibiotics cannot treat a viral infection.

antihistamine
Drug that controls the effect of histamine, released in an allergic reaction.

antioxidant
vitamin or mineral which helps to mop up harmful molecules called free radicals in the body, so helping to fight infections and other conditions, including cancer

Apgar score
The APGAR test is routinely used one minute and five minutes (and sometimes ten minutes) after birth to assess a newborn baby's health. It assesses five basic indicators of health: activity level, pulse, grimace (response to stimulation), appearance and respiration. The baby is given a score of 0,1 or 2 on each indicator and the scores are added up to give an overall 'Apgar score' out of a possible ten.

APGAR test
The APGAR test is routinely used one minute and five minutes (and sometimes ten minutes) after birth to assess a newborn baby's health. It assesses five basic indicators of health: activity level, pulse, grimace (response to stimulation), appearance and respiration. The baby is given a score of 0,1 or 2 on each indicator and the scores are added up to give an overall 'Apgar score' out of a possible ten.

areola
The areola is the dark area on the breast surrounding the nipple, which may spread or darken further during pregnancy.

assisted conception treatment
Any procedure which involves medical intervention to aid conception.

asthma
Asthma is a chronic lung and breathing disorder, ranging from mild wheeziness to serious constriction of the bronchial tubes. It is the most common respiratory disorder during pregnancy.

atopic
A tendency to allergies which often runs in families

baby blues
The 'baby blues' is a mild depression which many women experience three or four days after giving birth. Weepiness, mood swings, anxiety and/or unhappiness can result from the dramatic drop in hormones after birth and from a feeling of anticlimax after the anticipation and excitement of having a baby. See also postnatal depression.

baby teeth
A child's first set of teeth. A child will have around 20 by the age of three.

bacteria
Organisms that may cause infection, usually treated by antibiotics. Not all bacteria are harmful: beneficial bacteria, for example in the gut, can aid digestion.

bag of waters
The sac or 'bag of waters' filled with amniotic fluid in which the developing baby grows. The membranes which make up the sac may occasionally rupture naturally as labour begins, but usually remain intact until the end of the first stage of labour. The membranes may also be broken by a midwife or doctor to speed up labour.

bilirubin
Bilirubin is a by-product of the normal breakdown of old red blood cells. Some newborn babies cannot metabolise it quickly enough, so it builds up under the skin to cause a harmless and temporary type of jaundice. If the bilirubin levels get too high it is stored in the brain and can cause brain damage, which is why some newborns are treated under phototherapy lamps to break down the bilirubin.

birth canal
The passage between the cervix and the outside world through which the baby travels on the way to being born; usually called the vagina.

birth centre
An alternative to a hospital where a woman can go through labour and delivery for a low-risk birth.

birthing room
A birthing room is a place designed and equipped for women giving birth.

blastocyst
The fertilised egg at around the stage when it enters the uterus. The blastocyst continually and rapidly divides into more and more cells on the way to becoming an embryo.

bloody show
A 'show' or 'bloody show' is the discharge of mucus tinged with blood that results from the mucus plug dislodging from the cervix as labour approaches.

bradycardia
A slow heart-rate, usually less than 60 beats per minute.

Braxton Hicks contractions
The irregular 'practice' contractions of the uterus that occur throughout pregnancy, but can be felt especially towards the end of pregnancy. They can sometimes be uncomfortable and intense, but are not usually painful.

breast pump
A breast pump is designed to extract milk from a mother's breasts so that she, or someone else, can bottle-feed her baby later with the expressed milk. Pumps range from inexpensive manual models, battery or mains-powered models, to powerful machines which can empty both breasts at the same time within a few minutes.

breastfeeding counsellor
An individual trained in assisting with breastfeeding.

breathing monitor
A device used to monitor a baby's breathing to help prevent cot death (which is also known as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS).

breech position
A baby is said to be breech presentation, or breech position, when it is 'bottom down' rather than 'head down' in the uterus just before birth. Either the baby's bottom or feet would be born first. Around 3-4% of full-term babies are positioned this way.

breech presentation
A baby is said to be breech presentation, or breech position, when it is 'bottom down' rather than 'head down' in the uterus just before birth. Either the baby's bottom or feet would be born first. Around 3-4 per cent of full-term babies are positioned this way.

c-section
A caesarean or c-section is when the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus. It is used when a woman cannot give birth vaginally or if the baby is in distress or danger.

caesarean section
A caesarean or c-section is when the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus. It is used when a woman cannot give birth vaginally or if the baby is in distress or danger.

carpal tunnel syndrome
A condition associated with swelling and weight gain during pregnancy. The nerves in the wrist become compressed resulting in a tingling, burning or numbness in the hands. It usually goes away after delivery.

cephalopelvic disproportion
This is when a baby's head is too large to pass through the mother's pelvic opening. It can occur because the baby is disproportionately large, the baby is not in the best position for birth resulting in a larger head diameter than normal, the mother's pelvis is small or abnormally shaped, or as a result of abnormalities of the birth canal. It is a common cause of obstructed labour and can result in delivery by caesarean section.

cerebral palsy
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the term used to describe a physical impairment that affects movement. It is usually caused by brain damage in the developing fetus, during birth, or from illness just after birth. No two cases of CP are the same, and the term is used to describe a variety of conditions depending on which part of the brain was damaged. For example, some people with CP may have learning disabilities, speech problems, hearing impairment or epilepsy. For more information, visit the SCOPE website, www.scope.org.uk.

cervical cap
A cervical or Dutch cap is a birth control device (similar to a diaphragm, but smaller) which fits over a woman's cervix and keeps sperm from entering. It must be fitted by a doctor or nurse and checked yearly for a proper fit.

cervical dysplasia
Cervical dysplasia is the abnormal growth of cervical cells, usually with no symptoms. It has been linked to a sexually transmitted disease called human papillomavirus (genital warts). Mild cases of dysplasia usually resolve by themselves, while more severe cases require surgical removal of the abnormal cells.

cervical incompetence
The condition in which the cervix, under pressure from the growing uterus, painlessly opens before a pregnancy has reached full term. A weak or incompetent cervix can cause miscarriage in the second trimester or premature labour in the third, but can be treated by surgical reinforcement of the cervical muscle (called a cervical stitch).

cervical mucus method
The rhythm or cervical mucus method is a form of natural birth control which can work by timing intercourse according to the consistency of the woman's cervical mucus. Mucus similar to raw egg white signifies a time close to ovulation, when a woman is most fertile, while thick and cloudy mucus indicates a time when conception is less likely.

cervical stitch
A cervical stitch is used to close a weak cervix (called an incompetent cervix) to support a pregnancy to term. It is most successful in preventing miscarriage and premature labour when put in during early pregnancy - at about 18 to 20 weeks.

cervical weakness
The condition in which the cervix, under pressure from the growing uterus, painlessly opens before a pregnancy has reached full term. A weak or incompetent cervix can cause miscarriage in the second trimester or premature labour in the third, but can be treated by surgical reinforcement of the cervical muscle (called a cervical stitch).

cervicitis
An inflammation of the cervix, cervicitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, or irritation of the cervix during childbirth or surgery. Symptoms include abnormal discharge, pain, and spotting.

cervix
The lower end or neck of the uterus which leads into the vagina, and gradually opens during labour.

CF
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a relatively rare inherited genetic disorder which affects the lungs and digestive system. Treatment is most effective when the disease is recognised early. Most children diagnosed with CF now reach early adulthood due to improvements in nutrition, physiotherapy and antibiotic treatment; some reach their forties and fifties.

chickenpox
Chickenpox or varicella is a mild, highly contagious disease characterised by fever and itchy blisters all over the body. It is caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is very common in children but can affect people of all ages.

chlamydia
Chlamydia trachomatis is a common sexually transmitted disease, which often has no visible symptoms. If untreated, chlamydia can make a woman infertile or be passed to a baby during childbirth, causing pneumonia, eye infections and, in severe cases, blindness. Chlamydia is not routinely tested for but can be treated with antibiotics.

chlamydia trachomatis
Chlamydia trachomatis is a common sexually transmitted disease, which often has no visible symptoms. If untreated, chlamydia can make a woman infertile or be passed to a baby during childbirth, causing pneumonia, eye infections and, in severe cases, blindness. Chlamydia is not routinely tested for but can be treated with antibiotics.

chloasma
Brown markings on the skin of a pregnant woman caused by hormonal changes, often seen on the face, in a pattern called 'butterfly' marking. These fade after pregnancy.

chorionic villus sampling
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a diagnostic test carried out in early pregnancy, usually between Week 10 and Week 12 of pregnancy. Some of the cells which line the placenta, the chorionic villi, are removed through the cervix or abdomen using a needle or catheter. The cells are tested to see whether the developing fetus has Down's syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. Early results may help parents decide whether to terminate a pregnancy in the event of severe birth defects.

chromosomal abnormalities
A chromosome is a collection of genes which determine how a baby will develop. An abnormal chromosome may result from an inherited problem, or be caused by a mutation, and can lead to disorders such as Down's syndrome. Chromosomal abnormality is the most common cause of miscarriage.

chronic
A chronic condition is one which is ongoing or recurring. Chronic medical conditions include diabetes, epilepsy, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

circumcision
The surgical removal of the foreskin which covers the head of a boy's penis. It is performed in some religions (such as the bris of Judaism) or for cultural reasons, but rarely for medical reasons.

cleft lip
A cleft palate is a condition in which the lip, or the lip and palate (roof of the mouth), do not grow together. About one in 600 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Clefts can be repaired with surgery, usually performed within the first year after birth.

cleft palate
A cleft palate is a condition in which the lip, or the lip and palate (roof of the mouth), do not grow together. About one in 600 babies are born with a cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Clefts can be repaired with surgery, usually performed within the first year after birth.

club foot
Congenital talipes equinovarus is the most common form of club foot and describes a deformity of the foot and ankle present at birth. The condition results in one or both feet pointing down and inwards. It is much more common in boys. Club foot can be treated with physiotherapy, strapping, splinting or, in severe cases, surgery.

CMV
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection transmitted by saliva, breast milk, or urine. Relatively rare and relatively mild, the infection does occasionally cause deafness, visual impairment and neurological problems in a developing fetus.

co-parent
A person who shares parenting responsibilities for a child, such as a step-parent or unmarried partner.

coeliac disease
Coeliac disease or gluten-sensitive enteropathy is an inherited disease caused by an allergic reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The immune system attacks the lining of the intestines in response to the allergy. This common disease, if left untreated, can leave the intestine unable to absorb essential nutrients and vitamins leading to anaemia, bone disease and, rarely, forms of cancer.

cognitive development
The development of the brain and its functions - including perception, memory, and knowledge.

colic
Colic is the name given to long, unexplained bouts of crying in a baby - usually beginning between the second and third weeks of life and disappearing by four months. It is estimated that about 20% of babies are colicky.

colostrum
Colostrum is the first 'milk' the breasts produce as a precursor to breast milk. It is rich in fats, protein, and antibodies, which protect the baby against infection and kick-start the immune system. Most women produce colostrum a few days before and after childbirth; some women produce small amounts of it from the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. It is gradually replaced by breastmilk over the first week or so of breastfeeding.

comfort habits
Comfort habits are actions, such as thumb-sucking, hair-twirling, or blanket-carrying, which a baby or toddler uses to soothe himself.

computerised tomography scan
A computerised tomography or CT scan is a medical diagnostic test which uses a high-speed X-ray machine connected to a computer to get 3-D views of organs, tumours, and bones.

conception
Conception or fertilisation is the moment when sperm and egg meet, join and form a single cell. It usually takes place in the Fallopian tubes. The fertilised egg then travels into the uterus, where it implants in the lining before developing into an embryo and then a fetus.

congenital heart problems
These are heart problems which are present from birth. They may include ventricular septal defect (a hole in the septum) and transposition of the great vessels, where the pulmonary artery and the aorta are reversed. They may be corrected with surgery soon after birth, usually with a high rate of success.

congenital problem
Any problem with a baby that is present from birth or has developed during pregnancy and is not inherited.

connective tissue
A body tissue which makes up the main part of bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons, and surrounds other tissues and organs

contraction
The tightening of a muscle. In labour, the strong, rhythmic contractions of the muscles of the uterus open up the cervix and push the baby out. Any contractions before labour begins are usually irregular and don't increase in intensity or duration.

controllable disease
A disease or illness which is controllable is one which can't be cured but which can be managed with diet, exercise, or medicines.

convulsion
A convulsion is a violent, involuntary muscular contraction.

cot death
This term is used to describe the abrupt and unexpected death of a baby, often with no apparent and concrete reason. Cot death is the main cause of death among infants over one month of age. You can reduce the risk by putting your baby to sleep on his side or back and making sure that he does not become too hot.

coverline
The coverline is the line drawn just above the six highest readings preceding a spike in a basal body temperature chart.

CP
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the term used to describe a physical impairment that affects movement. It is usually caused by brain damage in the developing fetus, during birth, or from illness just after birth. No two cases of CP are the same, and the term is used to describe a variety of conditions depending on which part of the brain was damaged. For example, some people with CP may have learning disabilities, speech problems, hearing impairment or epilepsy. For more information visit the SCOPE website, www.scope.org.uk.

cradle cap
Seborrhoeic dermatitis, commonly known as cradle cap, is a condition of the skin (usually on a baby's scalp) which causes crusting, scaling, and discolouration. It usually disappears during the baby's first year.

craniosynostosis
This term refers to the premature closing of joints or sutures in the skull.

croup
An illness caused by a viral infection in the area of a child's vocal cords. It is recognised by a tight, dry, harsh, 'barking' cough. Croup generally lasts for five or six days and most commonly affects children aged under three.

crowning
During labour, when the baby's head can be seen at the opening of the vagina, it is said to 'crown'.

CT scan
A computerised tomography or CT scan is a medical diagnostic test which uses a high-speed X-ray machine connected to a computer to get 3-D views of organs, tumours, and bones.

CVS
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a diagnostic test carried out in early pregnancy, usually between Week 10 and Week 12 of pregnancy. Some of the cells that line the placenta, the chorionic villi, are removed through the cervix or abdomen using a needle or catheter. The cells are tested to see whether the developing fetus has Down's syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. Early results may help parents decide whether to terminate a pregnancy in the event of severe birth defects.

cyanosis
A bluish colouration of the skin caused by lack of oxygen in the blood.

cystic fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a relatively rare inherited genetic disorder which affects the lungs and digestive system. Treatment is most effective when the disease is recognised early. Most children diagnosed with CF now reach early adulthood due to improvements in nutrition, physiotherapy and antibiotic treatment; some reach their forties and fifties.

cytomegalovirus infection
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection transmitted by saliva, breast milk, or urine. Relatively rare and relatively mild, the infection does occasionally cause deafness, visual impairment and neurological problems in a developing fetus.

deficiency diseases
Any disorder caused by a lack of essential vitamins or minerals.

dehydration
Dehydration occurs when there is too little water in the body's tissues. Babies can become dehydrated very quickly as a result of vomiting and diarrhoea.

delivery room
A room in a hospital or birth centre that is equipped for childbirth.

Depo-Provera
This injected form of birth control requires injections of progesterone every 12 weeks.

depression
A mental condition characterised by feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, apathy, fatigue, and anxiety.

DES
Diethylstilboestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of oestrogen once given to women to prevent miscarriage. Its use was discontinued in the late 1960s when it was found to cause serious side effects, including cancer, infertility, and miscarriage.

developmental milestones
These are the major and minor social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills acquired by children as they grow up.

diabetes
Diabetes is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough insulin (the hormone which converts sugars into energy), resulting in too much sugar in the bloodstream. It can usually be controlled with appropriate treatment, diet, and exercise.

diaphragm
1. The flexible sheet of muscle and fibre that divides the chest from the abdomen. 2. A contraceptive device for use by women; the diaphragm is a circular barrier which is placed over the cervix before intercourse takes place.

diaphragmatic hernia
A hole in the diaphragm can allow abdominal contents to push up into the chest cavity. In severe instances, a baby's stomach and part of the large intestines will displace the heart and lungs, requiring emergency surgery.

diarrhoea
Loose, watery, and frequent bowel movements - often associated with a virus or bacterial infection. In babies, diarrhoea can quickly cause dehydration.