The A-Z of Pregnancy

Ever heard of LMPs, EDDs or rhesus -/+? We hadn’t, either. Pregnancy is filled with more jargon and indecipherable acronyms than a Government White Paper and can confuse even the most savvy and informed mamas. So, here is our A-Z of pregnancy. We hope it’s helpful and are happy to receive any suggestions for further terms you’d like cleared up! Just add these in the comments section below or head over to our Facebook page where you can message us.

Right, without further ado…

A: Amniocentesis/CVS. These procedures will be offered to you if there is an abnormality in your early scan or booking bloods, or if you have a family history of an inherited condition. The most common conditions screened for are Down’s, Edwards’ and Patau’s syndromes. Both procedures carry roughly a 1% chance of miscarriage and we recommend you discuss both in detail with your healthcare professionals.
CVS*: Carried out at 11-14 weeks, using a fine needle to extract cells from your placenta (through your abdomen)
Amniocentesis: Carried out after 15 weeks of pregnancy and takes fluid from the amniotic sac.

Your samples are taken to the laboratory on the same day and your length of wait depends on the type of test. Rapid testing (for the more common conditions listed above) often produce results within four days. A ‘full karyotype’ test takes 2-3 weeks as the cells have to be grown under a microscope in order for the results to be clear.

* Jo recently had a CVS at 11 weeks. You can read about it here.

B: Blood. You will have blood taken at your first midwife appointment (known as your ‘booking bloods’). This will be used to test the following:  your blood type, Rhesus D status*, full blood count* (checks iron levels), red cell antibodies*, HIV, syphilis, Hep. B and rubella.
(You will have bloods taken again at 28 weeks to retest anything marked with a *)

You may experience further blood tests if you need your baby sexing (done at 7-11 weeks); if you are showing signs of gestational diabetes; if you have any inherited disorders. It can feel, at some points, that all people want is your blood and wee during pregnancy!

C: Common conditions.
Hyperemesis gravidarum: Also known as extreme morning sickness, suffered by 1% of women. Excellent advice on dealing with HG can be found here.
Pre-eclampsia: Affecting 2%-8% of women, this is a combination of high blood pressure and the presence of protein in your urine. Information on what to look out for and the treatment for both mild and extreme cases can be found here.
Gestational diabetes: This is caused by the production of certain hormones in pregnancy and is usually diagnosed at 24-28 weeks, though a family history of diabetes or GD in a previous pregnancy may lead to earlier diagnosis. This page is an absolutely brilliant guide to understanding GD, how to manage it and what to do if you want a water or home birth despite being told you are ‘high risk’.

D: Diary. Clear it, because here come the appointments! Booking appointment, midwife appointments, scans, whooping cough vaccine, Health Visitor visits. And that’s for a straightforward pregnancy! Jo had increased appointments early in pregnancy due to genetic testing. It can feel like your life is one long appointment so make sure you add some extras in to look forward to! We’re talking massages, haircuts and maybe a reflexology session or two!

E: Exercise. Whilst it can be tempting to stop exercising and start eating for two, taking care of your diet and fitness is crucial. Your body is preparing for a major event and, although it is designed for this job, you need to help it prepare. Both Lauren and Jo, along with the whole Tribe, highly recommend some form of pregnancy yoga/pilates. Can’t get out of the house? Get yourself a mat and some comfy clothes and take your pick from the huge variety of pregnancy exercises on YouTube.

Whilst starting a new high impact exercise isn’t recommended in pregnancy, it is fine to continue with most if you already do them regularly, though worth mentioning to your midwife. Obviously, any discomfort or pain means you should stop immediately and switch to a gentler form of exercise. Regular swimming and walking are great ways to help you practice your breathing techniques for labour, whilst keeping you toned and healthy 🙂 Many people will tell you your body has more chance of getting back to its pre-pregnancy self if you are fit during pregnancy.

F: Fundal height. This is defined as the measurement from the pubic bone to the top of your uterus. After 16 weeks, it is generally assumed that your fundal height (in centimetres) should match the number of weeks you’ve been pregnant. However, there are lots of factors that can affect this, such as your height and pre-pregnancy weight, fundal fibroids, or if you are carrying multiple babies.

After 26 weeks, fundal height will be measured and plotted on a chart each time you visit the midwife and she will ‘palpate’ the fundus, too; applying gentle pressure to assess the position of your baby/babies. This shouldn’t hurt – say if it does! And it’s best to give your urine sample beforehand as it often puts pressure on the bladder(!).

Jo and Lauren both had one measurement done by a trainee midwife and were sent for a growth scan. With hindsight, Jo says she could feel the point from where the measurement was taken was different to usual but didn’t say anything. Whilst there is no harm in an additional scan, she wishes she’d asked her midwife to double check.

G: Gravidity and parity. This appears on the form you fill in from your GP, in order to book in with the midwife. I had to look it up, of course!
Gravidity: How many times you’ve been pregnant, even if that pregnancy has ended in miscarriage, stillbirth or termination.
Parity: The number of pregnancies you’ve had that have reached viable gestational age (legally defined in the UK as 24 weeks, despite some babies surviving when born before this stage). Includes live births, still births and late term miscarriages. Multiple births count as one, even though you were carrying more than one baby.

H: Hypnobirthing. We both used the Wise Hippo training programme, and will write in more depth about this in another post. Yes, it aids your all important rest, mindfulness and relaxation, but it gave us so much more. For empowerment, for understanding how your body works, for trusting your body and your baby and for learning about your rights, it is invaluable. Whatever birth you end up having, hypnobirthing makes you feel completely in control, removing the anxiety and apprehension that so many women often feel before birth. Finally, it gives your partner a clear role during labour, so they don’t feel powerless to help you.

I: Iron levels. These will be checked throughout you pregnancy – if they are low, your body will struggle to produce the additional red blood cells needed. Many women suffer from mild anaemia but some cases are more serious. If you feel lethargic, short of breath, are suffering from heart palpitations or look unusually pale, visit your GP or midwife.

J: Junk. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may experience the urge to ‘nest’ – you will clean things that you haven’t seen in years, organise cupboards and spice racks, and generally going about making your home as tidy and clean as possible. In Jo’s case, nesting took the form of wanting to declutter and get rid of all the junk that she’d hoarded! After Primrose was born, she began rehoarding… who knows what form her nesting will take this time around! For Lauren, nesting meant getting on her hands and knees to clean the grout between the bathroom floor tiles with a toothbrush; something she has never considered repeating since!

K: Kegels. We can’t not mention the old pelvic floor exercises, but we will both admit to not doing enough of these in pregnancy or since! DO THEM! Yes, they’re a faff, but download an app (‘Squeezy’, ‘Kegel’, ‘Kegel Trainer’ or ‘Elvie’) that will send you reminders and practise everyday. Trust us on this one!

L: LMP/EDD. Of about a billion acronyms you’ll see during your pregnancy, these are two of the first. LMP means the date your Last Menstrual Period began. EDD means your Estimated Due Date. This is calculated by adding 40 weeks to your LMD, assuming that you have a 28 day cycle, meaning that, should your baby arrive on its EDD it will actually be only 38 weeks, not 40. Despite this, you will be routinely offered a ‘stretch and sweep’ once you hit your EDD and an induction when you become two weeks ‘overdue’. It is worth researching both in finite detail to decide if you want to go down either route. In France, babies are not classed as ‘overdue’ until 43 weeks (when the baby is actually at 41 weeks).

M: Maternity Rights. It is crucial to understand these. Make sure you’re fully au fait with your own contract and make an appointment to speak to your boss and/or HR department about your pregnancy and planned maternity leave. Note that, if you are on a zero hours contract, work for an agency or are classed as a ‘casual’ worker, you will not be entitled to maternity leave. If you work for yourself or as a director of a limited company, you may be entitled to statutory maternity pay or statutory maternity allowance. Lauren will post a bit more about this in the future.

If you are in any doubt about your rights, the gov.uk website has some excellent information, as does the Citizens Advice Bureau.

N: Nuchal screening. This is usually part of your 12-week scan – during the ultrasound, your sonographer will look closely at the baby’s nuchal fold (at the back of its neck) to check for any fluid build up. If this is thicker then normal (more then 2.5mm thick), it can be a sign of Down’s Syndrome, Edwards’ Syndrome or other heart defects. This scan forms part of a ‘combined test’, along with a blood test, which all women in the UK are now offered.

If the nuchal fold appears thickened, you will be given the option of further diagnostic tests (see Amniocentesis and CVS, above) to ascertain whether or not your baby is carrying any condition.

O: Oblique/Longitudinal/Transverse. These terms refer to how your baby is lying in the womb in the latter stages of pregnancy, and will often be heard alongside their ‘presentation’.
Longitudinal or long lie: Baby is ‘upright’ within your womb. Ideally, they will be ‘cephalic’ (head down) rather than ‘breech’ (feet down) and facing your spine (anterior), rather than ‘back to back’ (posterior).
Oblique lie: Baby’s head is facing your hip, so they are almost diagonal in your womb.
Transverse lie: Baby is lying horizontally across your womb, in a typical ‘sleeping’ position.

If your midwife explains that your baby is breech/oblique/transverse/back to back, it is important not to panic. Do not automatically assume that you’ll need a C-section or even an ECV (when a doctor applies hard pressure to your womb (externally!)) to encourage your baby to spin around. Many babies turn before birth and there are lots of exercises you can do to help them. A good prenatal yoga instructor can guide you, and hypnobirthing instructors will be able to offer guided meditations, affirmations and music to gently encourage a somersault from baby.

This article is very helpful, and makes it clear that, often, time is all it takes, with 30% of babies being breech at 30-32 weeks and just 3% remaining that way at 37 weeks.

P: Plan/Preferences. We’ve heard many women say they’ll just ‘see what happens on the day and, of course, it is your choice. However, you wouldn’t venture into any other huge event – a new career, new house or wedding, for example – without having a plan in place. Furthermore, none of those events have quite as much of a lasting impact on your body, mind or future as birth.

Our Wise Hippo instructor encouraged us to write our birth preferences, rather than a plan. This, she said, would help us visualise the type of birth we would like and empower us to cope with whatever labour we ended up having, knowing it was right for us on the day. A ‘plan’ is much more rigid and can lead to disappointment, anxiety and fear.

Planning, however, is crucial in the lead up to labour for other reasons… Do some research into your body and how labour works. Be militant about perennial massage (Google it, get over the embarrassment and DO IT – you will thank us, much like the pelvic floor exercises!). If you hope to breastfeed, don’t leave it to chance – go to a La Leche League meeting or two, visit your local breastfeeding café and read books such as ‘Baby Led Breastfeeding’ by Gill Rapley. Preparation is a huge part of empowering yourself to feel positive about your labour, birth and beyond. Aim to spend as much time researching it as you spend on, say, decorating the nursery or buying/washing/sorting baby clothes and you’ll be as prepared as you can be!

Q: Quickening: The name given to the ‘fluttering’ when you start to feel your baby move, usually between 16-24 weeks, you’ll begin to feel the wonderful fluttering and swishing movements of your baby. Jo felt this at 19 weeks with Primrose but much earlier, at 12 weeks, with this baby… right at the time when she was awaiting the result of his genetic testing!
These become much more prominent up until 32 and some women can even make out the outline of a tiny foot, hand or face under their skin! After 32 weeks, these movements usually stay the same until you give birth.

You will get to know the times of day that your baby moves. Currently, Jo’s baby begins grooving just after she’s climbed into bed to get some kip! Get to know these patterns and rhythms and, if you feel any reduction in them, contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately – do not put this off. Even if you’ve called them dozens of times before, call! They would rather hear from you over and over again than risk anything happening to your baby.

Further information, including why you should not use a home Doppler kit, is available at Kicks Count.

R: Rhesus -/+: This one took Jo by surprise when she was first pregnant; she’d never heard of it before! If you have rhesus negative blood, you do not have what’s known as ‘D antigen’ on the surface of your red blood cells. Thus, if your baby is rhesus positive, and its blood transfers into yours (inevitable during labour but also if you have a CVS, amniocentesis or any kind of trauma or accident in pregnancy)  your immune system can start producing antibodies to ‘fight off’ their antigens. Whilst this isn’t a problem in your first pregnancy, if you conceive again, your body will attack the red blood cells of the foetus.

Fortunately, your blood type is picked up in your booking bloods and an ‘Anti-D’ injection can be administered at 28 weeks, then again after the birth if your baby is rhesus positive.

S: Scans: A straightforward pregnancy will involve two scans. The first will be at approximately 12 weeks, known as a ‘dating scan’, which will give you an EDD.  The second will be at around 20 weeks and is known as an ‘anomaly’ scan, where any abnormalities are picked up. This second scan is also the time when you can find out the sex of your baby BUT some hospitals have a strict policy against telling parents their baby’s gender and, even when it’s a possibility, your baby may not want to reveal itself! Often they are lying in a position that inhibits the sonographer’s view 🙂

Possible additional scans:
– If you are carrying multiple babies;
– If you carry a genetic condition;
– If you have a low-lying placenta;
– If your midwife thinks your baby is measuring big or small from your fundal height;
– If you feel reduced movement;
– If you are involved in any kind of accident or trauma;
– If you opt to have a private 3D or 4D scan

 T: Travel: More on this in a longer post soon but there is nothing to stop you travelling until you are fairly close to your EDD.
– In your first 12 weeks (if you know you’re pregnant), the nausea and increased risk of miscarriage in the early weeks often stops people from flying.
– Your second trimester is regarded as the safest time to fly. Always pack your medical notes, wear compression socks/move around on the flight, stay well hydrated and be vigilant about immunisations, hygiene and food safety in foreign countries.
– Once you hit 32 weeks, if you’re carrying multiples, most airlines will not let you fly. For single babies, this is 37 weeks. After 28 weeks you will need a note from your midwife or doctor to say you’re fit to fly.
As an example, Jo is planning on flying to the Isles of Scilly at 36 weeks… ‘I have checked the airline policy and compared it to getting the ferry… As my flight back at 37 weeks, I can only fly from St Mary’s to Lands End (25 minute flight). However, if I want to take a three hour ferry, there are no restrictions and no doctor’s note is needed!

Suffice to say – you must check the quirks and policies of your particular airway, including any additional domestic flights within your destination country!

U: Urine: Other than feeling like you need to pee MUCH more frequently then usual, we’ve mentioned this because you’ll need to give a sample at every midwife appointment. Drink plenty of water before you go so you’re not sat twiddling your thumbs, waiting to go 😉

V: Vaccinations: Your midwife will discuss these with you. The two that are recommended are whooping cough and the flu vaccine (depending on whether you’re pregnant during the flu season). The former will pass antibodies to your baby, to help protect them from birth. The latter is to protect you whilst your immune system is weakened in pregnancy; women who have flu can more likely to suffer complications.
Any other vaccinations must be discussed with your midwife or GP. As with everything we’ve talked about on this page, research is key!

W: Weight: Whilst some weight gain in pregnancy (roughly 22lb-28lb) is inevitable and normal, it pays to be vigilant. The baby, amniotic fluid, uterus and placenta make up some of this, but your body will store maternal fat in order to produce milk in the final months of pregnancy. You also have more blood in your system and extra fluid is likely to be retained too.

Contrary to the popular ‘eating for two’ myth, you need only eat according to your appetite until after the six month mark (boo!). Then, it’s only an additional 200 calories each day that is required. Check out this visual to see just how little that is!
Being overweight in pregnancy can lead to increased discomfort – backache, hip pain, varicose veins, cramp and heartburn all tend to worsen in overweight women. You are at higher risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and high blood pressure, as well as ongoing obesity in the future.

X: X-rated (AKA: sex in pregnancy): In short, it’s your choice. You may feel no different to normal; you may not want your partner within five feet of you. That said, sex is best avoided if you’ve experienced any heavy bleeds (risk or further bleeding), a low-lying placenta, or if your waters have broken (risk of infection).

Y: Your Wellbeing: Aside from the aforementioned exercise, healthy diet, hypnobirthing and understanding how labour happens, we’d also recommend taking a pregnancy vitamin as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Folic acid is a must for at least three months to protect your baby from neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Most pregnancy vitamins, such as Zita West Vital EssencePregnacare and Wild Nutrition Food Grown pregnancy supplement contain folic acid along with essential vitamins for your wellbeing.
Taking some time to practise mindfulness can also really help slow you down and bond with your unborn baby. Too often, ladies are working right up to their due date, cramming in decorating, shopping trips, baby showers and ‘nesting’, leaving no time for relaxation and calm. If apps are your thing, ‘Quility’ or ‘Headspace’ have a big following. Otherwise, take a look at our previous post on self care for more ideas on how to s-l-o-w down a little. Which leads us nicely onto our final letter…

Z: Zzzzz. Everyone will tell you to get as much rest as possible before baby arrives and it’s true. Your body is going through a lot and giving it downtime is important. In the final month, many women experience sleeplessness, either because they are uncomfortable/can’t stop peeing/are anxious or a combination of all three! You may feel like you can carry on as normal, which is great, but do rest up. Be kind to yourself – ensure that your body is ready to birth your baby.

The Mother Side xxx

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