Medical Terms: Learn the Lingo and Speak Like a Pro
Isn’t it frustrating when you hear doctors and nurses speaking in medical terms and it seems like they are aliens speaking another language? It probably feels like they are speaking way over your head. I believe you deserve to know what they are talking about, especially when it involves your care.
I will share the meaning of medical terms and lingo that birthing professionals often use while caring for pregnant and postpartum patients.
Don’t hesitate to ask your own health care provider if you don’t understand something. Sometimes we, as health care providers, don’t realize how much medical jargon we use, and it can be really confusing for women and their families.
Health care professionals are immersed in this language day in, and day out, and sometimes we forget that you don’t understand it. For you, the patient, it can be like travelling to a foreign country! This post is your dictionary.
Pitocin – Syntocin – Oxytocin
No, they’re not talking about your armpit. Pit is an abbreviation for Pitocin, which is the trade name for the hormonal drug oxytocin. Another trade name used in some parts of the world is Syntocin. The doctor or nurse might say they are “pitting” you. This does not sound pleasant, but what it actually means is you are receiving oxytocin to increase the strength, duration and amount of contractions.
It is essentially used to induce or augment your labour.
More from Babytalk: Four Ways to Naturally Induce Labour at Term
Pitocin is a synthetic drug, but your body also produces this hormone naturally. Often times once you come to hospital, and sometimes after you get an epidural, your labour might slow down. If this happens you might hear your doctor or nurse say they are “going to pit you”. This just means that they will give you the drug intravenously.
Any time you get oxytocin it is given through an IV and started at a low dose and then increased incrementally. There is no way to know how much your body will need. If your labour is well established, you might only need a little bit. If you don’t have any contractions whatsoever, you might need more. There’s no telling how much Pit you’ll need, it varies between each woman.
That’s an acronym for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. Some doctors will also use the acronym, TOLAC, which means trial of labour after cesarean. Depending on the reason you had a cesarean, your doctor or midwife might ask you whether you would like to try to have a vaginal birth the second time around. This will make you a VBAC. Health care professionals tend to make every patient into a noun that describes their situation. For example you might hear: “Can you please go check on the VBAC in room 315?”
More from Babytalk: What to Expect When You’re Getting a Cesarean Section
There is a minimally increased risk of uterine rupture when you labour after having a c-section. A uterine rupture is when your old scar on your uterus tears open, and let me tell you, you DO NOT want that to happen. Ask your doctor or midwife about those risks. Some women opt to go straight for c-section the second time around while others like the option of trying to have a vaginal delivery. Every woman is different. Don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself and ask your health care provider about your options.
This abbreviation is used for the medical term Rupture of Membranes.
Basically, it means the breaking of amniotic waters. You’ll be feeling wet, because the sac around the baby is broken and the amniotic fluid is leaking out! Even though it’s often portrayed in movies as the start of labour, usually your water won’t break on it’s own until after you’re in labour and sometimes you need the doctor to break it closer to the time of birth. On very rare occasions, the baby can be born in the amniotic sac. That is called being born “en caul”. While in hospital, you might overhear the doctor or nurse asking whether you are “ruptured”.
If your water breaks on its own, it’s called SROM, which stands for spontaneous rupture of membranes. The doctors or nurses might say, you “sromed”. You might have a slow leak, or a large gush of fluid. Some women describe it like they’ve peed themselves. If you think your water broke, call you health care provider, or the hospital. It all depends on their practices, but sometimes if your water breaks and you don’t go into labour on your own, you might need to have your labour induced. The reason for this is that the chances of you or your baby getting an infection increases as the time from ROM increases.
AROM – ARM
AROM is an abbreviation for the medical term Artificial Rupture of Membranes. This is when the doctor breaks the labouring woman’s water. It is often done during an induction, or to help labour progress.
More from Babytalk: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Inductions
Most of the time, an amino hook is used to perform this. An amino hook looks like a long crochet needle. It nicks the amniotic sac, the bag of water that your baby has been growing in for the last 9-10 months. When this happens, hormones are released that can make your labour stronger and more effective. It doesn’t hurt you or the baby! It basically just feels like an internal vaginal examination that takes a little bit longer than ususal.
This acronym stands for the medical term postpartum hemorrhage. It basically means when a woman who has just given birth, bleeds more excessively than normal. If this happens to you, there are a few things your doctor or midwife might have to do.
First, it can usually be managed with medication. When you have your baby in hospital, you will usually get oxytocin after delivery. This medication helps your uterus contract and shrink back down, which prevents bleeding. You might get it through the IV, or as a shot in your thigh.
There are other meds your doctor might give you. Some are given down below (in your vagina or bum) as well as intravenously or a shot in your thigh. Usually if you are bleeding excessively, things will happen very quickly, because the doctor wants to manage things in a timely manner.
Worst case scenario, they might take you into the operating room for a procedure to scrape everything out of your uterus (called a D&C). You might need to get a blood or iron transfusion if you loose a lot of blood.
You are more at risk for a PPH if you have a bleeding disorder, if you’ve had more than 4 children or if you are in labour for a long time. Also, if you receive oxytocin for a long time while in labour, you are at a higher risk.
Primip – Multip
Primp is short for the word “primipara” (in Latin), which means pregnant for the first time. So if a medical professional calls you a primip, don’t be offended! It just means your haven’t given birth before.
They might also call you a G-1, where G stands for gravida. Gravid means pregnant in Latin.
If you hear the word parity it stands for the number of babies that you have birthed that were more than 20 weeks gestation. It is written with a capital P.
Example, if you’ve been pregnant 3 times but only have one baby you are a G3P1.
Why is this important information? Well if you are a primip, your delivery will most likely take a little bit longer. Especially the pushing part. So it helps nurses and doctors prepare for your birthing process!
Multipara or multip, is another medical term used quite frequently. This is a rather simple one. Multip means your having your second or any subsequent baby. Basically if your doctor or nurse calls you a multip, you currently have one or more children. If you are a multip, you will have a higher gravida number than 1. For example if you’ve been pregnant 5 times you will be referred to as a G5, or gravida 5.
You become a grand multip when you’ve delivered 5 or more babies.
Bilirubin is a yellow substance that normally occurs when red blood cells are broken down in the human body. Excess bilirubin can cause jaundice, which is common in newborns.
Jaundice is a yellow discolouration of the skin or eyes because of buildup of bilirubin. All babies born in hospital will be tested for jaundice before being discharged home. If too much bilirubin is in their system, it can cause serious harm.
The treatment for high bilirubin levels is phototherapy. If your baby has this, he or she will be placed under fluorescent lights. This will help break down the bilirubin in the blood. Simple as that!
This is the medical term abbreviation for postpartum depression, sometimes only called “postpartum.” I really don’t think that shortening is appropriate, because it really stigmatizes the disease by not addressing it head on. Anybody that has had a baby can be postpartum, but not everybody has postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is very common. Approximately 1 in 5 women experience it after having a baby. If you have mental health issues, or have had PPD in the past, you are also at an increased risk.
It’s normal to have some emotional mood swings right after the birth of your baby. But if those mood swings last longer than a few days to a week, you should seek medical attention. It is not good to suffer in silence during your postpartum period. You might feel unattached to your baby in the postpartum period. You can and deserve to get help. Start with your family doctor. Advocate for yourself and get the help that you need. You want to enjoy your life with your new baby, not suffer!
Also, surprisingly enough, you parenting partner can suffer from PPD as well, so keep an eye on each other.
Mec is short for meconium which is basically baby’s first poop. It’s really black and tar looking, very thick and sticky. Sometimes, your baby might poop in the amniotic fluid before he or she is born. Then, the amniotic fluid becomes “mec stained” and can look brown, green or yellow-ish. If that happens, there is a slightly higher risk that baby will have a hard time breathing after birth. Usually some extra support staff, such as a pediatrician or respiratory therapist, will be at the delivery to help your baby if need be.
So if you hear the doc say there’s “mec after your ARM”, you’ll totally know what’s up!
More from Babytalk: Skin-to-Skin. The One Place Your Baby Wants to Be After Birth
So, there you have it! This is by no means an exhaustive list of abbreviations, only the most common ones in hospital.
What other terms have you heard your doctor use that you have no idea what means? Please contact me, send me along those weird words that you have no idea what mean! I’ll post it so we can all help each other. Going into the hospital environment can be intimidating, but knowing the medical terms and lingo really helps ease that anxiety.