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Pregnancy – Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to pregnancy:

Alpha-fetoprotein: A fetal protein normally present in the blood and amniotic fluid of pregnant women. High or low levels can be associated with certain birth defects. The protein is also abnormally present in adults with liver cancer.

Amniotic fluid: The fluid in which the fetus develops.

Amniotic sac: A thin, tough, membranous sac that encloses the fetus. It is filled with fluid in which the fetus is suspended.

Antibodies: A protein produced by the body in response to an infection.

Bilirubin: Orange or yellow pigment found in bile, the fluid produced by the liver. It is a result of the breakdown of hemoglobin. An excess of this produces jaundice.

Chromosomes: A threadlike linear strand of DNA and associated proteins in the nucleus of cells that carries the genes and functions in the transmission of hereditary information.

Ectopic pregnancy: Implantation and subsequent development of a fertilized egg outside the uterus, as in a fallopian tube.

Estriol: An estrogenic hormone found in the blood and urine during pregnancy.

Fallopian tube: A pair of slender ducts through which ova (eggs) pass from the ovaries to the uterus in the female reproductive system.

Gestational diabetes: Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin produced. As a result, glucose (blood sugar) increases in the blood and is passed out of the body through the urine.

Glucose: Blood sugar, also known as dextrose. Converted into energy for the body’s cells.

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG): A hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It is the indicator that shows up on both home and physician-administered pregnancy tests.

Hemoglobin: A red pigmented protein containing iron. Found in red blood cells. It carries oxygen to body tissues.

Karyotype: The chromosomal characteristics of a cell.

Macrosomia: A fetus with macrosomia has significant overgrowth and weighs more than 10 pounds.

Miscarriage: The expulsion of a nonviable fetus from the uterus in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Also called spontaneous abortion.

Neural tube defect: Any of various congenital defects of the brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida, resulting from incomplete closing or development of the neural tube in an embryo.

Oxytocin: Pituitary hormone that stimulates breast milk production.

Placenta: Spongy uterine material through which the mother provides nourishment to the fetus. The placenta is discarded after delivery and referred to as the afterbirth.

Preeclampsia: A condition of hypertension occurring in pregnancy, typically indicated by fluid retention and high blood pressure.

Rh-isoimmunization: When Rh -factor antibodies cross the placenta and affect the red blood cells of the fetus, causing anemia and other problems.

Surfactant: A wetting agent secreted by the cells lining the alveoli of the lungs to prevent the lung walls from sticking together.

Toxoplasmosis: A disease caused by the sporozoan Toxoplasma gondii, found in cat feces. It can be fatal to a fetus.

Ultrasound: The use of ultrasonic to monitor a developing fetus.

Uterine contraction: A rhythmic tightening in labor of the upper uterine musculature that contracts the size of the uterus and pushes the fetus toward the birth canal.

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