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BabyCentre - Glossary of childcare
Category: Health and Medicine > Pregnancy, babies
Date & country: 13/10/2007, UK
Words: 475

A birth abnormality in which a boy's urethra, through which urine and semen pass, opens on the underside of the penis rather than at the end. It is almost always correctable with surgery.

Limp, slack muscles in a baby.

Surgical removal of the uterus.

A test used to evaluate the health and patency of the uterus and Fallopian tubes. Dye is injected into the uterus and an X-ray is taken. A hysterosalpingogram can locate blockages or tumours which may be treated with surgery or medication.

A procedure in which a doctor uses an endoscope to examine the health of the uterus.

identical twins
Two offspring born at the same time who look exactly alike. Identical twins are also called monozygotic twins because they develop from the same egg: a single fertilised egg splits early in development and becomes two separate fetuses.

immune system
The network of cells and organs which defends the body against infections and foreign invaders.

Natural immunity provided by antibodies or induced immunity via inoculations.

The ability to resist a disease because the body produces antibodies to it.

Implantation occurs when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus.

in loco parentis
This is Latin for 'in place of a parent', referring to the rights and duties of a guardian or organisation with regard to a child.

in utero surgery
This is surgery to correct an abnormality in a developing fetus, carried out while the fetus is still in the uterus.

in vitro fertilisation
IVF is an assisted conception treatment in which eggs and sperm are mixed in a petri dish in a laboratory in the hope that the eggs will be fertilised. Up to three developing embryos can then be transferred to the woman's uterus with the aim of achieving pregnancy. 'In vitro' is Latin for 'in glass', and refers to the glass dish in which fertilisation takes place.

incompetent cervix
Incompetent means that the cervix is not able to function properly. It generally means that the muscles of the cervix are too weak to hold a baby in the uterus throughout pregnancy. A stitch may be placed at the opening of the cervix to keep it together.

The inability to control one's bladder or bowels. Incontinence is a common, temporary postnatal symptom which may be helped by pelvic floor exercises.

incubation period
Time during which a virus or bacteria develops in the body before symptoms appear

A box-like apparatus in which premature babies are kept at a constant and suitable temperature.

A child under one year of age.

infant mortality
The death of a baby during the first year of life.

The inability to conceive or carry a child to term.

Injections are used to put medicine into the body via a syringe and a needle.

intensive care unit
A department of a hospital where an individual can be constantly and closely monitored. Also sometimes called the Intensive Therapy Unit.

intracytoplasmic sperm injection
An assisted conception treatment, undertaken as part of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, in which a single sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm of an egg to achieve fertilisation.

intranatal care
Care for a pregnant woman throughout labour.

intrauterine device
A birth control method in which a small plastic or metal device is placed in a woman's uterus to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg.

intrauterine growth retardation
The slow growth of a fetus in the uterus, possibly resulting in a low-birthweight baby.

intraventricular haemorrhage
Bleeding into the ventricles of the brain, common in premature babies.

Medical tests which involve gaining entry into the body via a needle, tube, or hand.

A mineral which works with protein in the body to make haemoglobin, essential for the blood.

Similar to an incubator

Jaundice can bring a yellow tinge to a newborn's skin; it is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. Newborn jaundice usually begins on the second or third day of life and starts disappearing when the baby is 7-10 days old. It is sometimes corrected by special light treatment but it is harmless and soon passes.

kidney and urological disorders
The kidneys are the organs in the body which filter away waste and produce urine. 'Urological' refers to the urinary system; disorders range from urinary tract infections to renal failure.

Severe curving of the spine which produces a hump on the upper back.

The process of childbirth, from the dilation of the cervix to the delivery of the baby and the placenta.

labour suite-room
The labour suite is where a woman goes through labour and delivers her baby. If the mother is staying in hospital, she will then be transferred to a postnatal ward.

The production of breast milk.

lactose intolerance
A digestive disorder; the body is unable to break down milk sugar.

Landau's reflex
When laid face down, a 3- to 12-month-old baby will arch his back and raise his head.

Downy-like, fine hair on a fetus. Lanugo can appear as early as 15 weeks of gestation, and typically begins to disappear sometime before birth.

A surgical procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted through an incision in the abdomen to view internal organs. A laparoscopy is frequently used to check for potential causes of infertility.

latching on
To 'latch on' to the breast, a baby needs to open his mouth wide. When a baby latches on to the breast successfully, he will be feeding from the breast and not just the nipple. It should not hurt when your baby feeds, although you may experience a strong sensation of sucking.

lead poisoning
This occurs when lead is ingested in the body and damages organs.

learning disabilities
A person with learning disabilities is characterised by slower than normal or limited intellectual and emotional development.

leg cramps
Leg cramps occur most often in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, when the calf muscle cramps up. The exact cause is unknown but may be related to insufficient calcium in the diet.

legal parent
The parent who has legal charge and control of a child.

Let-down is the release of milk in a breastfeeding mother as a response to the suckling of her baby. About 50% of women feel this as a tingling or warm sensation in the breast.

Leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood where the white blood cells take over in the bone marrow. It is generally diagnosed in children aged between one and 14 years and is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in children.

Lice are tiny parasitic insects that feed on blood and are highly contagious through direct contact. Head lice are the most common.

This occurs when a fetus positions itself lower in the pelvic cavity during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

linea nigra
A dark line which may develop during pregnancy, running from below the breasts, over the abdomen and the navel. It often fades after delivery but doesn't always disappear entirely.

liver and liver problems
The liver is the organ responsible for producing key proteins and other chemicals which regulate the chemistry of the blood. Potential liver problems range from hepatitis to jaundice.

This is the term used to refer to the vaginal discharge of mucus, blood, and tissue, which may continue for up to six weeks after delivery.

Severe curvature of the lower spine.

low birthweight
A term used to describe a full-term baby who weighs less than 5.5 pounds/3 kilograms at birth.

lumbar puncture
A procedure to draw spinal fluid from the spinal column to check for infections, tumours, and diseases such as meningitis.

lupus erythematosus acutus
An autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly attacks the connective tissue in the body.

luteal phase defect
A luteal phase defect can refer to one of two problems with the luteal phase - the second part of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation has occurred. First, the phase itself may be too short (only ten days rather than the average 12 to 16), which does not give an embryo enough time to implant successfully. Second, progesterone production in this part of the cycle may be too low, meaning that the lining of the womb will not get thick enough for an embryo to implant before menstruation begins.

luteinising hormone
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland which stimulates other hormones of the reproductive system; it stimulates the development of the corpus luteum in women and testosterone in men.

magnesium sulphate
Medication used to arrest premature labour.

An extreme case of malnutrition.

An inflammation of the breast, which sometimes develops into an infection. Symptoms include fever, soreness, and swelling. It occurs in about one in 20 breastfeeding mothers at some time during lactation, most commonly between the tenth and 28th days postnatally.

maternal deprivation syndrome
A condition in a baby who has been physically and emotionally deprived. Symptoms include failure to thrive and slow growth and development. It may occur in cases of severe postnatal depression or in other cases when a parent may be unavailable.

maternal mortality
The death of a mother immediately related to a pregnancy, either from the birth, a miscarriage, or an abortion.

maternity cycle
The period of time from conception through to the first six weeks after the birth.

maternity leave
Paid or unpaid time off work after a mother has given birth or adopted a child.

Measles is a serious, infectious virus characterised by fever, small red spots, and cold-like symptoms. It can be prevented by the MMR vaccine.

measles, mumps, rubella vaccine
The MMR vaccine is used to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella. It is given to children between 12 and 15 months, with a booster between three and five years.

The dark, sticky substance released from a newborn's intestines into his first bowel movements. If visible in amniotic fluid prior to delivery, it can be a sign that the fetus is in distress.

medical tests
These are procedures which enable medical experts to assess conditions in a patient. They range from non-invasive - listening to a heartbeat, for example - to invasive, such as injections or a spinal tap.

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.

A serious infection and inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may be caused by a virus or bacteria. Symptoms include high fevers, low energy, a stiff neck, headache and possible rash.

menstrual cycle
The regular growth and expulsion of the endometrium - the lining of the uterus - which occurs if no fertilised egg implants.

mental disorders
Dangerous, aggressive behaviour towards others, including non-communication, withdrawal, depression, and autistic, and psychotic tendencies.

metabolic disorders
These are genetic disorders which affect the way food is digested.

metatarsus valgus
Out-turning feet. This condition generally corrects itself.

metatarsus varus
In-turning feet; commonly known as 'pigeon toed'. This condition generally corrects itself but may need surgery in severe cases.

A small skull with small cranial capacity. Microcephaly usually indicates that a baby will have learning or developmental disabilities.

A birth defect in which the arms or legs are abnormally short.

Precise, delicate surgery, often performed to unblock Fallopian tubes or to reverse a vasectomy or tubal ligation.

The word literally means 'with woman'. Midwives provide care to women during pregnancy, labour, birth, and postnatally - usually for the first ten days, although this can be extended to 28 days if the new mother has particular needs. A Health Visitor then takes over care of the mother and baby.

Tiny, harmless white spots or pimples on a newborn. They usually go away by themselves.

Essential elements in a diet needed to maintain health and well-being, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and so on.

The involuntary expulsion of a fetus before the 24th week. After that, the loss of a pregnancy is called a stillbirth.

Mongolian spot
A large birth mark which looks light blue, usually on the lower body. It disappears or becomes less noticeable as the baby grows. They are more common in Asian and dark-skinned babies.

morning sickness
In the first weeks of pregnancy, many women suffer food and smell aversions, nausea and occasional vomiting, especially in the morning. For many affected women, the discomfort lasts all day.

morning-after pill
A pill (or pills) to prevent pregnancy, taken within hours of a woman having had unprotected intercourse.

Moro reflex
If a newborn is startled by a sudden, loud noise, the Moro reflex will cause him to extend his arms, legs, and feet, arch his back and move his head back.

Sometimes a baby who has a particular syndrome or disorder will have it in a mosaic form: some of the cells in the baby's body will have the extra genetic material which characterises the disorder, the others may be normal.

motor skills
Motions carried out by the combination of the brain, nervous system, and muscles.

mucous membrane
A wet layer of body tissue which lines internal parts of the body such as the nose and mouth

mucus plug
A plug of mucus which blocks the cervix during pregnancy. It is often released with the onset of labour.

multiple birth
A multiple birth occurs when more than one baby is delivered at the same time.

multiple pregnancy
A multiple pregnancy is one in which there is more than one fetus in the womb.

multiple sclerosis
MS is a neurological disease, chiefly of young adults, marked by speech disturbances, lack of muscular co-ordination, weakness, and numbness, caused by damaged patches in the brain and spinal cord. It varies in severity. No cure is available and the cause is unknown.

Mumps is a viral disease characterised by fever, headache, and inflammation of the salivary glands. It may lead to complications such as meningitis. The MMR vaccine can protect against mumps.

muscular dystrophy
Muscular dystrophy is a disease of unknown origin which leads to progressive muscular deterioration and wasting, usually in childhood.

A birthmark or mole on the skin, especially a raised red patch.

natural childbirth
A general term for a labour and delivery which is free of medical intervention.

natural family planning
Contraception without the aid of drugs or devices, based on the rhythm method, basal body temperature, or the cervical mucus (Billings) method.

The impression or scar left on the outside of the abdomen after the umbilical cord falls off.