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Learning the Lingo of Pregnancy and Childbirth

When you first become pregnant, it is like joining some strange new secret society- suddenly there is a new language everyone around you seems to be speaking. Acronyms? They are everywhere.

Other moms, your doula, your childbirth educator, your care providers- they all seem to be throwing out terms you have never heard of before and nobody takes the time to explain what they all are!

You shouldn’t have to feel left out during this whole pregnancy and parenting journey. Here is a helpful list of birth and baby related acronyms so you can know what those around you are talking about and feel confident navigating the new world of birth and baby.

Here is some help with learning the lingo of pregnancy and childbirth.


American College of Nurse Midwives- ACNM is a professional organization that represents nurse midwives and certified midwives in the United States.


American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists- ACOG is a professional membership organization for obstetricians. While they don’t make laws, ACOG will make position statements that can be highly influential in the world of birth.


APGAR stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration- the five things generally measured at the birth of the baby a to determine health. The APGAR is named for Dr Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist, who coined the term in an effort to determine the effects of anesthetics on newborns. Generally, this is measured and one and five minutes after birth.


Artificial rupture of membranes- AROM refers to artificially breaking the bag of water that surrounds the baby with a tool, called an amniohook. Curious what that is? Check out this video about the amniohook!


Biophysical profile– A biophysical profile is an ultrasound performed in which fluids and the baby is measured, usually to assess health. The BPP involves a “rating” that gives some idea of the possible health of the baby. The BPP is usually combined with a non-stress test.


Cesarean birth after cesarean- This refers to a woman who has had a previous cesarean, is planning a VBAC, (see below) and after laboring has another cesarean birth.


Complete blood count- CBC refers to the test that checks for numerous things, including anemia, and is almost always done during pregnancy.


Certified nurse midwife- A CNM is typically a registered nurse (RN) who has advanced training, often an masters degree, in midwifery. CNMs often work in a hospital setting, but you will find some who attend home births. ACNM, mentioned above, is their professional organization.


Cephalopelvic disproportion- CPD is a term used to indicate that the head of the baby (cephalo) doesn’t fit in the pelvis (pelvic) of the mom, either because the head is too big or the pelvis is too small or positioning makes the fit too tight. CPD is sometimes given as a reason for a cesarean section but can be difficult to diagnose without a generous trial of labor.


Certified professional midwife- A CPM is a care provider who, after book schooling and apprenticeship, takes a test and is deemed proficient to catch babies and is certified through NARM (see below). CPM training varies somewhat, but national licensure is standardized. CPMs generally attend home or birth center births.


Exclusively breastfed- EBF refers to a baby who is only fed breast milk and no other infant formulas


External cephalic version- ECV refers to a medical procedure in which an attempt is made to manually turn a baby from the outside of the mother (external). The C, for cephalic refers to the turning of the head, because ECV is done to turn a breech (head up) baby to a head down position, which is generally considered safer for vaginal delivery.


Group B Streptococcus or group beta strep, is a bacteria found in the vaginal or rectal area of about 25% of pregnant women. Generally, women are tested for this bacteria at their 36 week checkup.

Learning the Lingo of Pregnancy and Childbirth


Gestational diabetes- GD can manifest in women who don’t normally have diabetes but have blood sugar issues only during pregnancy. GD is tested for with a blood test during pregnancy and can often (but not always) be controlled through a healthy diet.


Home birth after cesarean- Sometimes women who have had a previous cesarean birth opt for a home birth for subsequent children.


Intrauterine growth restriction- IUGR is a term referring to a baby who is not growing at a normal rate within the womb. More than a small baby, a growth restricted baby is in the bottom 10th percentile and is often (but not always) characterized by a larger sized head and a smaller body.


Intrauterine pressure catheter- An IUPC measures the strength of contractions internally, via a catheter inserted inside the uterus.


Licensed midwife- An LM typically refers to state licensing. Some midwives will have multiple letters after their name, eg, Suzy Babycatcher, CPM, LM, showing that Suzy is both a CPM and certified by NARM and a licensed midwife in her state.


Left occiput anterior- LOA refers to the position of the head of the head of the baby in relation to the mother. The occiput is the back of the head and the anterior is which way it is facing. If the baby was LOA, the back of the baby’s head would be towards the front of mom’s pelvis on her left side.


Occiput posterior- OP, as above refers to the position of the baby, only this time, the back of the head is facing the tailbone, and if delivered this way, the baby will present, “sunny-side up.” This can cause back labor and increased pain.


Midwives Alliance of North America– MANA is a professional membership organization for midwives which strives to promote and strengthen the profession. 


North American Registration of Midwives or NARM sets the standards for CPM testing for out of hospital midwives in north America


Non-stress Test- During pregnancy, a care provider may perform a NST in order see how the baby is doing. Using ultrasound, a NST monitors the baby’s heart rate, while another band, measures contractions. A NST checks to see how the baby responds to the contractions.


Obstetrician- An OB is a medical doctor specializing in childbirth and problems associated therewith.


Postpartum anxiety- Under the umbrella of postpartum mood disorders, including PPD (below), postpartum anxiety can include feelings of restlessness, worry, disturbing thoughts and more and can be combined with PPD.


Postpartum depression- PPD refers to the condition of depression, beyond the “baby blues” that can occur postpartum, or after the baby is born. Check out Postpartum Progress for a more detailed description.


Postpartum hemorrhage- bleeding from the placental wound within the uterus which can occur just after the birth and delivery of the placenta.


Postpartum mood disorders- Including postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar  disorder, and postpartum psychosis. You can read more here.


Premature rupture of membranes- PROM refers to the situation when the bag of water or amniotic sac breaks prior to the onset labor.


Routine infant circumcision- When circumcision is performed routinely on babies just after birth without medical reason.


Right occiput anterior- ROA, like LOA above, refers to the position of the baby’s head in relation to the mother- in this situation the baby’s back is more to the mother’s right. For a detailed explanation, check out Spinning Babies.

Learning the Lingo of Pregnancy and Childbirth


Right occiput posterior- ROP, as above refers to how the baby sits in the womb, in this case, with the baby’s back to the mother’s right side. For a detailed explanation, check here.


Spontaneous rupture of membranes- SROM is when the amniotic sac or bag of water ruptures on its own.


Trial of labor after cesarean- TOLAC is a term used to refer to women who have had a previous cesarean and are “allowed” to labor for a while with another baby.


Ultrasound- there are various types of ultrasound used during pregnancy and birth, from the doppler, to external fetal monitoring. You will learn more about these in your birth class!


Vaginal birth after cesarean- VBAC is a commonly used term in the birth community.


Vaginal birth after multiple cesareans. Sometimes this is more specific, such as VBA3C, VBA2C, etc.


Knowledge is power when it comes to your birth- and knowledge helps remove fear. You shouldn’t feel like everyone around you is speaking a different language when you are in the middle of labor! Hope these birth acronyms help. If you have found any others, leave them in the comments and we will add them!