January 1, 2024

Birth Terms and What They Mean

When you're newly pregnant, there's a good chance you'll hear some words that you've never heard before and don't understand. In this blog post we will cover the most common words or phrases that are related to pregnancy and childbirth so that you don't have to be left wondering what is being said. 

Mucus Plug/Bloody Show

During pregnancy, your body will form a “plug,” in the cervical canal to prevent infection and bacteria from getting into the uterus and causing harm to the growing baby. As you near the end of your pregnancy, you will eventually lose the mucus plug. This could be an indication of labor, but it also could be nothing. Sometimes women lose their mucus plug weeks or days before labor starts and the plug will regenerate until it’s time to have the baby. 

When your mucus plug is tinged with blood, it may look pink or a light red and this is called the bloody show. The mucus plug may come out while you're using the bathroom, or you may notice it on your underwear. When you lose your mucus plug, give your midwives a call to let them know and update them if you begin to have contractions.

Dilation, Effacement, and Station 

Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may opt in to have a vaginal exam performed to see how dilated and effaced you are and what station your baby is in. The midwives measure your cervix with their fingers and determine how dilated you are in centimeters from 0-10. Some women dilate slowly, and others may dilate from 1 cm to 10 cm in a matter of hours. When the cervix is almost fully dilated but there is still a small portion blocking the way it’s called a cervical lip. Depending on the situation, the midwives may ask to manually push the cervical lip out of the way so the baby can continue their journey out. 

Effacement refers to how thick or thin your cervix is and is measured by a percentage. When your cervix is 100% effaced (or thinned out) it is safe to push. Just like with dilation, your cervix may begin to efface in the weeks or days leading up to labor. 

When the baby is at station 0, their head is aligned with the mother's ischial spines in the pelvis.

The fetal station determines how far the baby has descended into the pelvis and ranges from degrees of -5 to +5 with one centimeter between each station. When the baby is engaged in the pelvis, they are at station 0 and during birth they're at stations +4 and +5. 

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions are a tightening of the uterus and are like practice contractions. They come in irregular intervals and are not painful. Braxton Hicks Contractions can be uncomfortable at times, or you may not even feel them. 

You may notice an increase in these contractions if you are dehydrated or exercising hard. If you want them to stop, try drinking some water and taking a moment to rest.

Prodromal Labor

Prodromal labor, or false labor, can occur in the weeks leading up to true labor. Prodromal Labor helps your body prepare for the real thing but can be very frustrating and sometimes even painful. 

So how can you tell if you are in true labor or experiencing prodromal labor? With true labor, your contractions will increase in intensity and frequency as time passes and prodromal labor will stay consistent. Prodromal labor contractions can be as long as one minute and as frequent as every five minutes but will not progress past that. True labor will also have accompanying signs such as losing the mucus plug and water breaking. If you aren't sure whether you are in true labor or prodromal labor, it's always a good idea to check in with the midwives. 

Fetal Presentation

Fetal presentation refers to the position the baby is in inside the uterus and can affect the way labor transpires. The optimal birth position for babies to be born in is with their head down, facing the mother's spine and turned slightly to the side. If the baby is facing the mother's belly, also referred to as sunny side up, it can be extremely painful and cause labor to last longer as the baby will usually need to turn to face the other way. In some cases, midwives will reach into the vaginal canal and turn the baby themselves. This maneuver is called manual rotation. 

Some fetal positions, such as breech and transverse breech, would disqualify women from giving birth at the birth center and they would have to transfer care to an OBGYN if the baby has not moved into a head-down position by 37 weeks. If you need help turning your baby head-down, read our previous blog post on Tips and Tricks to Turning a Breech Baby

To learn more, contact our midwives today! 

Dakota Collins
Dakota Collins is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of two precious little girls who is passionate about freedom in pregnancy and childbirth.
Ogden address
5319 South 500 East
Suite C
Ogden, UT 84405
Layton address
1660 W Antelope Dr.
Suite 205
Layton, UT, 84041.
Monday: Layton 9 am – 2 pm Tuesday: Ogden 9 am – 5 pm Wednesday: Layton 9 am – 5 pm Thursday: Layton 9 am – 5 pm  
Friday: Ogden 12 pm – 4 pm
schedule a tour & consultation
Let's discuss what you are looking for with your birth. Our goal is to help you have the information to help you have a better idea of what you'd like to do moving forward.
Thank you! Your message has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.