Pregnancy Terms Cheat Sheet

Hospital Terms

These might be thrown at you during birth (because that's exactly when you want to be learning new vocabulary).


The baby's head is right there!


How wide your cervix has opened. Eventually you'll be 10 centimeters dilated, big enough for baby's head.


How to say this without scaring you? Sometimes even 10 centimeters is not enough, and the doctor, um, makes a little cut to help the baby through. You'll be too out of it to care.


This measures how baby drops down. She starts at -3 station, moves to zero when engaged in your pelvis, and is at +3 station when crowning.


Just do exactly what you do when you have to poop. Seriously. The same muscles shove baby out.

APGAR score

Number from zero to 10 indicating your newborn's brilliance. Kidding. It's just a quick judgment of his initial health, such as breathing and alertness; 7 to 10 is normal.


The thinning of your cervix in the lead-up to birth. You can be anywhere from zero to 100 percent effaced. But like so many early labor signs, it's pretty unreliable. Some women walk around 90 percent effaced for weeks before they give birth; others are not effaced one morning and yet give birth that evening.


If you go past your due date, your doctor might induce, or jump-start, your labor. It might involve breaking your bag of waters (forcing the amniotic fluid out), using a gel to ripen your cervix (making it efface), and/or giving you a drug called Pitocin, which starts contractions.


The baby is coming out feet first. These days, it usually means you're headed for a c-section.

Back labor

Baby is supposed to be born facing your spine, but sometimes comes out "sunny-side up," which sounds cute, right? But it means the back of her head is hitting your spine, which means you may be asking for drugs.


When someone hands over your newborn and says, "Go to Mom," you can't believe the power of that little word.

Kerry Egan is a mother of two in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Originally published in the February 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.

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