Colostrum: The protein-rich yellowish fluid produced by the breasts in the first two to three days after delivery, before milk proper is secreted.
Contraindication: A reason why a particular procedure or drug should not be used.
Cordocentesis: The act of taking blood from the umbilical cord during pregnancy. It is done in specialist centres for diagnostic purposes.
Crowning: The appearance of the leading part of the head at the perineum or vaginal opening in the second stage of labour. As a rule, a crowning head does not retract back into the vagina once it has appeared.
Depo-Provera: This is a form of long-term contraception, given in the form of injection. Each injection is effective for twelve weeks, hence the term Depo.
Dilatation: The opening of, normally but not exclusively used in reference to the cervix.
Ectopic pregnancy: Pregnancy occurring outside the uterine (womb) cavity. The most common ectopic site is the fallopian tubes.
Embryo: In the early weeks after conception, before the various body structures can be identified, the fetus is called an embryo.
Endometrium: This is the lining inside the womb cavity, on which an embryo implants. This is also the lining that is shed every month if pregnancy does not occur hence menstruation.
Engagement of the head: When the largest diameter of the fetal head descends into the pelvis, it is said to be engaged. Normally, once this occurs, it stays there. Contrary to widespread belief, engagement of the head
has no predictive value for labour onset. It could equally occur one month or one hour before the onset of labour.
Episiotomy: The incision or cut that is made on the perineum to increase the size of the opening, thereby facilitating delivery.
Erosion of the cervix: An unfortunately misleading but widely used term to describe a condition of the cervix that causes easy bleeding of the cervix. It is influenced by hormones and is therefore most common in pregnancy and with use of the combined contraceptive pill.
Expected Date of Delivery (EDD): This is the date calculated starting from onset of the last period and which falls exactly forty weeks later (the average pregnancy duration). It is also called the Expected Date of confinement (EDC). It is more of a guide than an accurate prediction of when the baby will be delivered.
Fallopian tubes: Tubes which transport sperm toward the egg and also transport the fertilized egg or zygote towards the uterine cavity, where implantation ought to take place.
Fetus: The growing baby in the womb. Also spelt foetus.
Follicles: The cysts on the ovaries, which contain eggs. Normally, one follicle matures to release an egg every month.
Fontanelles: The soft areas on the baby's skull, which represent the meeting points of the various bones constituting the skull. The one to the front is called the anterior fontanelle and the one at the back the posterior fontanelle. At vaginal examination, one tries to locate these landmarks in order to determine how the baby's head is positioned in the birth canal.