Medical jargon about your bump explained

Our midwife clears up the confusing medical jargon relating to your bump, your baby’s position and starting labour…


You’ve got through bloods, written your BP, and now there’s talk of how the baby’s lying. Surely head down, ready for labour, you think to yourself. If not, here’s what you might hear:


Back to back

If your midwife has a feel of your bump and then mutters something about it being ‘back to back’, this doesn’t mean that your bump is the wrong way round. It simply means that your baby is lying with her back turned round facing your back, rather than the more common position of her back being against your bump.


No, she’s not checking whether you’re going to marry the father! This is when your midwife has a feel of your bump to see if your baby’s head has started to move down into your pelvis in preparation for labour. If it is low down in the pelvis then it is referred to as ‘engaged’.


Having felt your bump, she may well announce that your baby is ‘cephalic’ or ‘vertex’. Sounds scary, but both just mean the baby’s ‘head down’, rather than breech (bottom first) – good news!

Going into labour

The big day’s arrived – and so have a whole host of strange new words! And now it’s not just what the midwife’s saying that sounds like nonsense…


Hands up who’s now thinking they’re allowed a ‘medicinal’ something for the pain? Sorry ladies, no can do. Liquor is another name for the water around your baby. You probably know it as the amniotic fluid.

Stretch and sweep

She says sweep, you get ready for her to appear with a small brush… But this has nothing to do with cleaning. It’s a vaginal examination where the midwife uses two fingers, placed inside the vagina to (gently) stretch the cervix and run a finger around the bag of waters, close to the cervix. This can sometimes help to kick start labour.


If your midwife tells you to expect a ‘bloody show’ towards the end of your pregnancy, or even asks you if you’ve seen ‘the plug’, she’s not talking about whether you plan to swear during labour, or that she’s lost part of the birthing pool. What she’s referring to is a blob of mucus that’s formed around your cervix during pregnancy. Sometimes it’s covered in blood, which some women notice when they use loo roll shortly before labour.

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