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Pregnancy generally comes with lots of vocabulary. But one phase where you are bound to come across a unique set of words and phrases is during labor. This is the last stage right before childbirth and the body normally undergoes extreme changes. If you are an expectant mom, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these terms and definitions because they will be important during labor. Whether you are expecting normal childbirth or C-section, some of the common labor terms that you will come across include:

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Contractions: they are rhythmic tightening and relaxing of your uterus. Contractions happen so that the cervix can dilate to give the baby a better passage. During labor, they are usually strong, very close together, and last longer.

Epidural: it’s a type of local anesthesia that’s infused like the IV but it has a different appearance. Epidural usually goes into the epidural space that’s found in the back. The anesthesia makes some parts of the body numb i.e. from the breasts down to the knees. This local anesthesia has a varying degree of effectiveness. Some women may feel totally numb while others may end up experiencing a certain level of fair pressure.

Anesthesia: local anesthesia is the most common and it’s used to provide pain relief during labor. General anesthesia is a medically-induced type of coma that’s rarely used during labor. 

Spinal Block: It’s a process that’s similar to epidural although the anesthesia is directly injected right into the spinal fluid so as to relieve labor pains.

Induction: this is a medical procedure that’s performed by an obstetrician to artificially initiate labor. Induction can be initiated by using oxytocics or amniotomy. It’s normally performed at 40 weeks of pregnancy or at least 39 weeks.

Effacement: a reduction in the cervix’s vaginal portion. At this point, the walls of the cervix get thin as delivery nears. Note that during labor, the baby is usually very close to the cervix and this causes it to shorten, soften, and eventually reduce in thickness. Effacement could also be referred to as cervical thinning or cervical ripening. 

Note: At first, effacement is very important for first-time moms compared to dilation. This is because the cervix needs to be very soft in order for it to dilate. But if you have had a baby before, the cervix usually opens or dilates easily. 

The Mucous Plug: this simply means an accumulation of mucus. The mucous plug is normally found inside the cervix after months of accumulation in order to protect the baby and your body from infections. The mucous plug is witnessed during labor because the cervix is now dilating and effacing. It may have a tinge of blood or a pinkish color because the cervix is usually sensitive at this time. 

Dilation: It’s a psychological process that causes an increase in the cervix’s diameter. 


Episiotomy: if the dilation isn’t enough, a surgical procedure which involves incision is made in the perineum in order to enlarge the opening of the vagina. This process is what is called episiotomy.

Crowning: this is the last stage of labor. During crowning, the fetal head can be viewed at the vagina’s introitus. The labia are stretched out to form a crown shape around the baby’s head, right before birth.

Cesarean Birth: It’s a procedure that’s done by creating an incision in the abdominal wall plus the uterus in order to remove the baby. It’s an alternative to vaginal birth.

Umbilical Cord: it is a conduit that connects the baby to the placenta.

Fetal Distress: the period during labor (and sometimes during pregnancy) when the fetus doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Fetal distress can be detected via an abnormal heart rate.

Breech: this is an intrauterine position where the feet or the buttocks of the fetus emerge first. If this happens, a C-section is usually done.

Caphalopelvic Disproportion: It occurs when the baby’s body or head is so big and can’t fit through the pelvis.

False Labor: it’s also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. False labor normally manifests itself with irregular contractions. The contractions are not very painful and they subside with a change in activity.

Prodromal Labor: it’s also known as false labor. Prodromal labor is classified in between active labor contractions and Braxton Hicks contractions.

Apgar score: It’s a test that’s done to evaluate the physical condition of the newborn. The Apgar score is done twice: one minute and five minutes after the child is born. It involves five rating factors.

Circumcision: It’s a surgical procedure that involves the removal of the penis’ prepuce. It’s normally carried out on newborn boys.

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