Cramping pain during the first days after childbirth caused by the uterus contracting.
Alongside birth centre
A place to give birth that’s on the same hospital site as a maternity unit, but where care is provided by midwives and not doctors. Also known as an alongside midwife-led unit.
A private room on a postnatal ward, which you usually pay to stay in, and can move to when your baby is born. Amenity rooms won’t always be available, so ask about availability at your hospital.
A doctor specialising in giving anaesthetics for operations or setting up epidurals.
The period during pregnancy, before you give birth.
When the baby is born with the assistance of surgical instruments such as forceps or a ventouse. Also referred to as an assisted birth or an instrumental birth.
An intervention intended to increase the intensity of labour to make it progess faster. This can be done with drugs or by having your waters broken.
Short for Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat based on your weight and height.
The passage babies pass through during birth. Formed by the cervix, vagina and vulva.
Run by midwives, this is a place with an emphasis on birth without medical intervention. Birth centres often provide a more relaxed atmosphere than a labour ward.
Your partner, a relative or a friend who supports you emotionally and practically during labour and birth.
A wide, deep bath or pool filled with clean warm water, which can be used to help relieve pain during labour or to give birth in. They can be permanently plumbed in or portable.
An unborn baby lying with its bottom or feet downwards. A woman carrying a breech baby is likely to need extra support during labour.
An operation to allow your baby to be born through a cut in your abdomen.
Care Quality Commission (CQC)
The regulator for all health and social care services in England.
Where a midwife (or a pair of midwives) has full responsibility for your care throughout pregnancy, labour and after your baby is born. This type of care gives you the opportunity to get to know your midwife.
The local area for which the hospital provides its services. If you don’t live within this area, you might be referred to as ‘out of area’.
A urinary catheter is a thin, flexible tube gently inserted into your bladder along the path which urine travels down. Urine drains out of your bladder and is collected in a bag, so you don’t need to go to the loo while it’s in place. It’s usually inserted when you have an epidural.
Narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus. It effaces (softens and thins) and opens up to ten centimetres to allow the baby to be born.
Midwives who provide care outside the hospital, such as in a local clinic, GP surgery or your home.
Problems that occur during childbirth which could lead to you needing additional medical support.
Continuity of care
Having the same midwife (or doctor) look after you throughout your pregnancy, and sometimes during labour and after the baby is born.
The regular tightening of muscles during labour that push your baby down and open your cervix so your baby can be born.
The part of a hospital where both doctors and midwives are available to help women giving birth. Also known as a labour ward, obstetric unit or consultant-led maternity unit.
A pain-relieving drug that can be given by injection during labour.
Cervical dilation is when the cervix opens up. During childbirth, the cervix goes from being closed to ten centimetres dilated before the baby is born.
A woman experienced in giving emotional and practical support to women in labour, who can be hired as a birth partner. Doulas can also provide support during pregnancy and after your baby is born.
Also called gas and air, a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide that you can inhale to provide pain relief.
A local anaesthetic injected into your lower spine to provide pain relief in labour.
A surgical cut made just before the baby is born, widening the opening of the vagina to allow the baby to be born more quickly.
External cephalic version
A manual process where an obstetrician or midwife attempts to reposition a breech baby into the preferred ‘head-down’ position. Also referred to as ECV.
A surgical instrument put around a baby’s head to help you give birth.
Freestanding birth centre
A place to give birth that is run by midwives and isn’t on the same site as a hospital maternity unit. Also called a standalone birth centre or freestanding midwife-led unit.
General Medical Council. This keeps a register of qualified medical doctors.
Gas and air
Also called Entonox, a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide that you can inhale to provide pain relief.
The time, usually measured in weeks, between conceiving the baby and the birth. A baby is ready to be born between 37 and 42 weeks’ gestation, with the due date at about 40 weeks.
Group B Strep
An organism which is usually harmless, but which can cause a serious infection in newborn babies. Women who test positive for Group B Strep (Streptococcus) are usually recommended to give birth in a labour ward.
Registered nurse or midwife who has additional training in community public health nursing, working with families to look after the health of children from birth until they start school.
When you have your baby at home. There will usually be two midwives there to support you.
A method that helps prepare women for birth by reducing fear of the event and encouraging relaxation.
A fully qualified, self-employed midwife who can provide paid-for private midwifery care.
Having labour started artificially rather than letting it start by itself. This can be done with drugs or by having your waters broken.
When the baby is born with the assistance of surgical instruments such as forceps or a ventouse. Also known as an assisted delivery or assisted birth.
A system where midwives work both in the hospital and in the community.
A local neonatal unit provides special care for newborn babies in the local area, except for those who are critically ill and need intensive care.
The part of a hospital where both doctors and midwives are available to help women giving birth. Also known as a delivery suite, obstetric unit or consultant-led maternity unit.
When a baby puts its mouth around the mother’s nipple and begins to feed.
Vaginal discharge after giving birth containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue; typically continuing for four to six weeks after childbirth.
A condition which causes breast tissue to become painful and inflamed, usually affecting women within the first three months after giving birth.
Notes your midwife or doctor will take throughout your pregnancy.
The part of a hospital or midwife-led facility dedicated to caring for women before, during and immediately after childbirth.
A dark green substance forming the first faeces of a newborn infant.
An action taken by a doctor or midwife that involves medical equipment or drugs to help you give birth to your baby.
The brand name for meptazinol, this is a pain-relieving drug similar to pethidine. It can be given by injection during labour to help you cope with the pain of contractions.
The health professional who is the expert in straightforward pregnancy and birth.
Where the main health professionals you see throughout your pregnancy and labour are all midwives. Women at a low risk of complications don’t usually need to have maternity care from a doctor unless a problem arises.
Another name for a birth centre, it’s a place to give birth with an emphasis on birth without medical intervention, where care is led by midwives.
An opioid painkiller sometimes called Oramorph. It provides pain relief and can help you sleep during the early stages of labour.
A neonatal intensive care unit provides special care for newborn babies in the local area and also for critically ill babies from the surrounding area who need the highest level of nursing and medical care.
Nursing and Midwifery Council. This keeps a register of qualified nurses and midwives.
The exact definition can vary, but in general it means a birth that doesn’t need the kind of medical interventions available only in a hospital maternity unit, such as induction or epidural.
Doctors who specialise in looking after newborn babies who need medical care.
A birth where labour starts on its own, the woman doesn’t have any anaesthetic such as an epidural, and she gives birth without a caesarean, forceps, ventouse or cut (episiotomy).
A place to give birth where both doctors and midwives are available. Also called a labour ward or delivery suite.
A doctor who specialises in pregnancy and births. If you have no problems during pregnancy and birth, you’ll be looked after by midwives and won’t need to see a doctor.
Also called opiates, a group of similar pain-relieving drugs including pethidine, diamorphine and meptid.
A medicine containing the painkiller morphine sulphate. It provides pain relief and can help you sleep during the early stages of labour.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service offers confidential support and advice to help you resolve concerns and problems when you’re using the NHS. PALS can also give you information about the NHS complaints procedure.
Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that the bladder, bowel and uterus lie on.
The area between the vagina and the anus. It sometimes tears as the baby is born, or a cut might be made in it (episiotomy) to help the baby be born more quickly.
An opioid pain-relieving drug that can be given by injection during labour.
Also called the afterbirth, this is the organ provides the baby with food and oxygen throughout the pregnancy through the umbilical cord.
A serious pregnancy condition that occurs when the placenta is attached and embedded too deeply into the uterine wall, increasing the risk of heavy bleeding after the baby is born.
A rare pregnancy complication where the placenta attaches in the lower part of the uterus, very close to or covering the cervix. It can cause heavy bleeding during pregnancy or birth.
A caesarean scheduled to take place before labour starts, also called an elective caesarean or planned c-section. A caesarean can be planned for medical reasons, or sometimes at a woman’s request.
The time after your baby is born. Synonym to postpartum.
A type of depression affecting one in ten women within a year of giving birth. With the right support – which can include self-help, therapy or antidepressants – most women make a full recovery.
The ward within the maternity unit that you will be moved to after giving birth. You’ll stay there until you’re ready to go home.
The period of time following childbirth. Synonym to postnatal.
A rare complication where you bleed heavily from the vagina after your baby’s birth.
A fully qualified midwife who’s employed by an organisation other than the NHS or is self-employed. You usually have to pay for their services.
A baby born live at any time, or a stillbirth after a gestation of 24 weeks.
A fast-acting, pain-relieving opioid, usually given through a drip controlled by the woman that can be used as an alternative to an epidural. It acts only for a few minutes, so can be given in short bursts when needed for contractions.
If you have rhesus D negative blood, you’ll be offered two sets of injections while you’re pregnant to protect your baby and any future children you may have from rhesus disease.
A special care unit provides neonatal care for babies in the local area who need extra support but who don’t require high dependency care.
When the baby is placed naked on the mother’s chest after birth. Skin-to-skin contact has been proven to be beneficial for newborns.
Where you receive care from a team of midwives whom you get to know throughout your pregnancy. This same team may also be responsible for your postnatal care and, in some cases, for looking after you in labour.
Tens stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A Tens machine gives pain relief during labour using electrode pads on your back and a mild electric current.
Moving to a labour ward during labour or shortly after birth for extra medical help. You may be taken in an ambulance if you planned birth at home or in a freestanding birth centre, or it will be a short transfer within a hospital if you planned birth in an alongside birth centre.
The long flexible tube that connects an unborn baby to its mother.
Also called an emergency caesarean, this is a caesarean that needs to take place quickly because of an unexpected problem with the mother or baby.
Also called the womb; the part of a woman’s body where the baby grows before it’s born.
Vaginal birth after caesarean. Around two thirds of women who try to have a VBAC are successful, but this rate varies depending on circumstances and the care received.
Also known as a vacuum cup, this can be used to help you give birth to your baby. The vacuum cup is held on the baby’s head by suction, so the baby can be pulled out during a contraction.
Giving birth to your baby in a birth pool.
Also called the uterus, the part of a woman’s body where the baby grows before it’s born.