Amniocentesis Used to detect a range of chromosomal defects, amniocentesis involces taking a sample of the fluid surrounding the baby in the uterus. Cells floating in the amniotic fluid will give an accurate chromosome count and denote abnormal chromosomal structure. The test can generally not be carried out until week 14-16, as before then there are unlikely to be enough cells to analyse.
Apgar score This is a measurement of a newborn's response to birth and life outside the womb. Ratings are based on Appearance (color); Pulse (heartbeat); Grimace (reflex); Activity (muscle tone) and Respiration (breathing). The score is taken at 1 and 5 minutes (sometimes also at 10 minutes) after birth, the high score being 10 and the low score being 1. This scale was named for its creator, Virginia Apgar (1909-1974).
Continuous monitoring (cardiotacograph) Although this type of monitoring does not have to be continuous, this is usually the case. This instrument consists of two transducers that are held in place on the abdomen by elastic belts and connected to a monitor. The monitor provides a print-out of the baby's heartbeat and the uterine contractions.
Dopplar A handheld device for listening to the baby's heartbeat. Unlike the pinnard, the sound is amplified.
Doula The word 'doula' comes from a Greek word meaning 'a woman care-giver'. It has come to mean a woman, experienced in childbirth, who provides emotional and practical support to another woman during and after birth. She is well informed and understands the physiology of birth. Her aim is to make the experience of labour and childbirth more positive. During labour she will help the woman with her breathing and relaxation and encourage different positions as labour progresses.
Epidural Anaesthetic is introduced through a fine tube, inserted by an anaesthetist into the base of the spine. It numbs the area from the top of of the bump downwards. The woman must keep still while it is adminstered and a drip must be set up in case blood pressure falls. It can slow contractions, so a drip may be necessary to speed things up. Movement is severely or totally restricted. The woman cannot feel contractions so may need to be told when to push. Although the epidural is the most effective form of pain relief it does increase the chance of an instrumental delivery (forceps or ventouse).
Episiotomy An incision made during childbirth to the perineum, the muscle between the vagina and rectum, to widen the vaginal opening for delivery.
Etonox Often referred to as "gas and air" nitrous oxide and oxygen is inhaled through a mouthpiece or facemask. It provides mild pain relief and relieves tension.
Forceps Forceps are a pair of metal intruments that link together. Placed inside the vagina, the forceps cradle the baby's head and guide the baby out. Episiotomy is nearly always necessary if forceps are used.
Internal fetal monitoring (Fetal scalp electrode) An FSE may be used if there are problems picking up an accurate and continuous reading of the heartbeat with the transducers, often because of the baby's position. A small metal clip is attached to the baby's scalp. This is then linked to a cardiotacograph.
Nuchal translucency scan This is a test used to assess the risk of Down's syndrome. A high-definition ultrasound scan is carried out to measure the collection of fluid at the back of a baby's neck. A higher than normal reading can be an indication of an increased risk of Down's syndrome. A high reading does not necessarily mean there is a problem, but would indicate the need for more tests to be carried out. The scan is normally carried out between weeks 11 and 13 of the pregnancy. When combined with the triple test the accuracy is about 90 percent.
Oxytocin The hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates contractions and the milk-eject reflex (let-down). Pitocin is the synthetic form of this hormone and is applied via a drip.
Pinnard A type of ear trumpet that the midwife places on the abdomen to hear the baby's heartbeat.
TENS machine The TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine consists of a small prtable handset and sticky electrode pads that you attach to your back. With every contraction the machine releases small electrical impulses that block the pain and encourage the body to release endorphins (natural pain killers). It is generally most useful in early labour.
Triple test The triple test measures hormones in the woman's blood, such as alph fetoproteina, oestriol and human chorionic gonadrophin. The test is usually done in the 16th week of pregnancy and combined with the nuchal translucency scan is used to predict the chance of a baby having Down's syndrome.
Ventouse A ventouse uses suction to help guide the baby out. A metal or plastic cup is placed on the baby's head. This cuo either gets its suction from a separate machine via a tube or from a handheld device. With each contraction the obstetrician will gently pull the cup.
The above information is taken from the following books: Labour & Birth, published by Hamlyn, 2006 New Pregnancy and Birth Book by Dr. Miriam Stoppard, published by Dorling Kindersley, 2004