Third Trimester Medical Jargon

effaEach new trimester of pregnancy brings with it new terminology and jargon. Just as soon as you’re feeling comfortable with one set of terms, the calendar page flips, your surrogate is in a new trimester, and it’s time to learn a new batch of vocabulary words. The jargon will be familiar to her as someone with pregnancy experience and she may not think to explain these terms without prompting.  Here’s a look at a few things you may be hearing over the next three months as you approach the birth.

Viability- Viability refers to the date in pregnancy in which the odds of a premature labor resulting in a live birth become greater than the odds of that same labor resulting in a still birth. Usually this date falls in the 24th week of pregnancy. Despite the odds, it is still highly unfavorable for a woman to go into labor this early. From 24 weeks until full term (40 weeks) the odds of survival continue to increase weekly.

Cervical Mucous– The body creates a thick mucous over the top of the cervix during pregnancy in order to keep the risk of infection low. Sometime during the third trimester the surrogate’s body will begin to prepare for labor and the cervix may begin to soften or open. When this happens cervical mucous may be seen on toilet paper after urinating. This is often no sign for concern. Sometimes, if the mucous is tinged with blood, this can be a sign that the cervix is ripening and that labor may be nearing. This can also be called “show” or the cervical plug.

Effacement– This is the term given to the ripening of the cervix. Through most of the pregnancy the cervix maintains a long and hard consistency. As labor nears however, the cervix begins to shorten and become soft to the touch. This often happens as labor approaches, though a partially (or, in some cases, a fully) effaced cervix does not predict the onset of labor on its own.

Dilation– This is the term give to the opening of the cervix. Once in labor the cervix will go from no opening at all, to ten centimeters across. Many women will dilate from 1cm (roughly the size of a Cheerio) to 3cm (roughly the size of a banana slice) long before going into labor. At full dilation, a woman’s cervix will open to the size of a bagel.

Glucose Screening– Sometime in her third trimester your surrogate will undergo a glucose tolerance screening. This one hour test is administered at a lab in order to test for gestational diabetes. If the test comes back elevated, the surrogate will return for a three hour test in order to confirm the results. The test consists of drinking a sugary compound and then having blood drawn.

Group B Strep Testing– Also in the third trimester, your surrogate will be tested via vaginal swab for the Group B Streptococcus bacteria. The bacteria is present in up to 25% of healthy adult women. As the bacteria can be passed to the child during child birth, it is important to screen for the bacteria prior to the onset of labor. The bacteria is generally treated with Penicillin. It is not related to the bacteria that causes strep throat.