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Birth Injury Glossary of Terms

We want to share vital information with you about birth injuries, and the things that sometimes go wrong during the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Mothers spend time in the care of many doctors and other medical professionals as they prepare for the birth of their children, and when it is time for delivery of the child. When a mother or a baby suffers an injury that was caused by the negligent actions or failure to act on the part of any medical professional, they may be able to take legal action against the individual responsible for their injuries.

This glossary of terms is here to help you get a better understanding of some of the medical terms and expressions used when we talk about birth injury and medical malpractice related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Why are medical terms hard to pronounce and understand?

A

Abdomen: The area around your stomach.

Acid-base balance: When an individual’s blood and body fluids have the right amount of acids and bases to keep the pH within a neutral range (not too acidic, not too alkaline).

Aerobic: Oxygen is available.

Amniotic fluid: Fluid that surrounds an unborn baby inside of the womb.

Anaerobic: Oxygen is not available.

Anesthesiology: Refers to a group of medical professionals responsible for putting someone to sleep for surgery, placing a breathing tube in a patient, or helping reduce pain.

Axon: (neuron) A long fiber of a nerve cell that helps to send signals to other cells in the body.

B

Brachial plexus: Nerves in the spinal column.

Breech delivery: when a baby comes through the birth canal feet, or butt first.

C

Cardiovascular system: Responsible for circulating blood, oxygen, and other nutrients throughout the body.

Cell: The smallest part of a living organism.

Central nervous system: The entire group of nerves and nerve tissues found in the brain and spinal cord.

Cerebral palsy: A condition that affects the muscles of the body caused by damage to the brain.

Cervix: The opening to the uterus.

Chromosomes: Tiny structures that contain genetic information.

Conception: Occurs when the sperm from the male unites with a female’s egg. The beginning stage of pregnancy.

E

Ectoderm: The outer layer of an embryo.

Egg: Stored in the ovaries. The medical term for a female’s egg is “ovum.” During a woman’s reproductive years, one egg is usually released from an ovary every month. The egg is fertilized by a sperm, which begins the process of forming a baby.

Eighth cranial nerve: (vestibulocochlear nerve) The nerve necessary for hearing and balance.

Embryo: A baby in the beginning stage of developing. The unborn baby is called a fetus for the first two months of development.

Endoderm: The inner layer of an embryo.

Estradiol: A hormone produced by the ovaries.

Estrogen: A hormone produced by the ovaries. Estrogen levels are higher during pregnancy.

F

False-negative: when a test result fails to identify a condition that exists. An example of a false-negative is a negative pregnancy test when a woman is pregnant.

False-positive: when a test result states that a condition is present when it is not. An example of a false-positive is a positive pregnancy test when a woman isn’t pregnant.

Fetus: The developing baby is known as a fetus eight weeks after conception. Before the developing baby is called a fetus, it is an embryo.

Fifth cranial nerve: (trigeminal nerve) The nerve responsible for feeling, or sensation of the face. It is also necessary for biting and chewing.

First thoracic nerve: One of the nerves located in the upper body (chest area). Carries information between the spinal cord and other parts of the body.

G

Gestation: The period that a baby is growing inside of the uterus.

Glucose: Blood sugar.

H

Hypoxia: A condition which develops when the tissues in the body are not receiving enough oxygen.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE: A form of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen and blood to the baby’s brain.

I

Inflammation: Swelling.

L

Lacerations: Tears in the skin and body tissues.

M

Membrane: The thin, outer part of a cell.

Mesoderm: The middle layer of an embryo.

Metabolism: The physical and chemical processes that take place within the body.

Moro reflex: A certain type of response by a baby’s nervous system.

Myelin sheath: A soft fatty material that covers the axon.

N

Nerve: Bundles of fibers found throughout the body which send signals to the brain.

Nerve root: Part of the nerve that comes out of the spinal cord.

Neurological system: The group, or network, of nerves and cells that send messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body.

Neurapraxia: The mildest form of injury to a nerve.

Nutrients: What cells need to grow and develop.

O

Ovary: Part of the female reproductive tract. Most women have two of them and they are located in the pelvis. They are about the size of your thumb. They contain the eggs that are released (one egg a month) that can be fertilized by the sperm.

P

Palate: The roof of the mouth.

Placenta: A temporary organ located in the uterus that is only present during pregnancy. It provides nutrition, oxygen, and blood to the growing baby. It also removes waste from baby’s body. The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord.

Plaque: A sticky film that builds up on teeth.

Prenatal: The prenatal period is the time that a woman is pregnant.

Progesterone: A female hormone. The amount of progesterone increases during pregnancy.

Q

Quickening: Describes the earliest movements of a developing baby felt by the mother.

R

Receptor site: A specific area on a cell that attracts hormones.

Refractory power: How the eye focuses.

Reperfusion: Occurs when the flow of blood is restored to an organ or tissue.

S

Seizure: Unintentional, uncontrollable movements of the body caused by a problem with the electrical impulses in the brain.

Serum: Blood.

Shoulder dystocia: A condition when one, or both, of a baby’s shoulders are stuck during childbirth.

Sixth cranial nerve: (abducens nerve) The nerve necessary for eye movement in the outward direction (away from the nose).

Stroma: Special cells made of a spongy material that helps hold an organ in the body together.

Symphysis pubis: A joint made of special tissue located in the middle of the pelvis that holds it together.

T

Taxonomies: A disruption or disturbance in the axon due to an injury.

Traction: The act of pulling.

Translucency: Occurs when light can pass through an object.

Trimester: A specific period during pregnancy. A woman’s pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. The first trimester is the first 12 weeks. The second trimester the 13th week to the 28th week of pregnancy. The third trimester is from the 28th week of pregnancy until the baby is delivered.

Third trimester: The last of the three trimesters in pregnancy. It lasts from the 28th week of pregnancy until delivery.

U

Ultrasound: A test which allows you to look inside the body by using ultrasonic wand that shows a picture of organs on a screen.

Umbilical cord: A flexible, gel-like cord that connects the unborn baby to the placenta.

Uterine contractions: The tightening of the uterus.

Uterus: Located in the lower part of a woman’s body (the pelvis), the uterus is a hollow organ where a baby develops and grows until birth.

V

Vagina: The birth canal.

Variability: Fluctuations in baby’s heart rate seen on the fetal monitor.

W

Womb: A hollow organ where a baby develops and grows until birth Located in the pelvis. The medical term is the “uterus.”