Being pregnant can feel very strange and confusing – especially when you look at your medical notes. The midwives and doctors monitoring your pregnancy and labour use a series of important terms and abbreviations to communicate with each other which can seem like a scary secret language to the rest of us.
Don’t worry – this not to warn other medics that you are a difficult mum-to-be, that your baby is growing two heads or to simply keep you out of the loop. These terms are purely to standardise notes and ensure everyone who is caring for you knows all the key information about your health and that of your baby.
Here is what those baffling letters and words all mean…
Stands for abdominal circumference – the size of your baby’s stomach. An ultrasound machine combines your AC with your baby’s head size and leg length to calculate his estimated weight.
Stands for artificial rupture of membranes. This is when the midwife breaks your waters, to try and help birth along.
Stands for blood pressure (the amount of force exerted on your artery walls) and will consist of a fraction. The top number is the systolic blood pressure reading – this represents the maximum pressure exerted when your heart contracts. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure reading – this represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart’s at rest. A normal reading is around 110/70, but it varies. Pre-eclampsia is related to an increase in blood pressure so your midwife will be concerned about any changes like this.
Stands for complete blood count (it is also called FBC: full blood count). This checks the levels of haemoglobin (which carries oxygen) and platelets (which help with clotting) in your blood. A lack of red blood cells results in anaemia.
Stands for crown-rump length and is usually calculated at your scan. Your midwife uses this figure to work out foetal age in the first trimester, measuring on your bump from the top of your baby’s head to his bottom.
Stands for cardiotocograph – a machine that monitors your baby’s heartbeat. You might be put on one if you notice any reduced movement, to check all is well.
Stands for estimated date of delivery – your due date.
Stands for engaged. Your baby is engaged when his head has dropped into your pelvis, ready for the birth. This does not always mean that labour is imminent however and some women will not engage until they are already having contractions.
Stands for full blood count. See CBC above.
Stands for fundal height. It’s also called referred to as ‘height of uterus’. This is the distance in centimetres from the top of your pubic bone to the top of your womb or bump, which is know as the fundus (not be confused with fungus!). It gives your midwife an idea of how your baby is growing. After 20 weeks, the measurement should be roughly the same number of centimetres as you are weeks, give or take 2cm either way, and this will be checked at every appointment. SFD means ‘small for dates’, LFD means ‘large for dates’.
Stands for foetal heart heard or foetal heart not heard. Your embryo’s heart starts beating 22 days after conception, but only becomes audible to your midwife around week 10. A normal foetal heart rate is between 120 and 160 beats per minute. Your midwife will listen to the heart rate at every appointment and the speed will slow as the pregnancy progresses. She may record the number of beats in your notes too.
Stands for fetal movements and refers to whether you or the midwife have felt your baby move.
Stands for gestational age – the age of your pregnancy. This will be written as two numbers – weeks + days. For example, 24 + 3 is 24 weeks and three days pregnant.
G and P
G stands for Gravidity – that’s how many pregnancies you’ve had. P stands for Parity – the number of births you’ve had. For example, G2 P1 means it’s your second pregnancy and you’ve had one birth.
Stands for last menstrual period. This helps your midwife work out your EDD – estimated date of delivery.
Stands for meconium. This is the first poo your baby produces, made up of materials he ingests in the womb. Sometimes your baby may pass this poo while still inside you and it can get into your waters. Your baby may then inhale it during labour, so doctors will react quickly to treat this and prevent any infection.
Stands for nothing abnormal detected – a nice abbreviation to see!
Oedema or Oed
Stands for swelling. Some swelling around your feet and hands is normal. If there’s swelling along with high blood pressure or protein in your urine, it may be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
Presenting part or lie
This is the position your baby is lying in.
Ceph or VX means he’s in the cephalic position, so head down
Br means he’s in the breech position, so bottom down
Tr means traverse, so lying sideways
In addition, to this you may see LOA, LOP, ROA or ROP. These are all abbreviations relating to where your baby’s head is. L and R refer to left and right, O stands for occiput (back of the head), A stands for anterior (towards the front of your stomach) and P stands for posterior (towards your back).
It’s normal for your baby to keep changing position, so ignore this before 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Short for primipara, which means a woman who is giving birth for the first time. This term is actually another language – Latin! A woman who has given birth before is a multip, a shortening of multiparous.
Relation to brim
This is how much of your baby’s head can be felt above the brim of your pelvis and how much has descended into your pelvis, or ‘engaged’. It’s measured in fifths – if all your baby’s head can be felt, then he hasn’t descended, and it’ll be written as 5/5. When your baby’s engaged it’s 2/5.
Stands for spontaneous rupture of membranes – your waters breaking naturally.
Your urine is tested for protein (P) and glucose (G). Protein in your urine can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, if accompanied by a rise in blood pressure or swelling (oedema).
Glucose in your urine can be a sign of diabetes. ‘NAD’ means nothing abnormal detected, ‘trace’ or ‘+’ means some is present.
Stands for vaginal delivery (not VD for obvious reasons!).
“Sectioned or C-Section?”
“I’ll never forget the midwife telling me that if my baby’s head didn’t engage, I might have to be sectioned! I panicked, assuming she meant under the Mental Health Act, until she apologised and explained that she meant a caesarean section.”
Lucy, 34, mum to Josh, 4 months
“I haven’t got an STD”
“I was horrified to see ‘SPD’ on my notes. I thought I had a sexually transmitted disease until I found out it meant ‘symphysis pubic dysfunction’.”
Samantha, 28, mum to Violet, 3, and Ashley, 3 weeks
“Midwife or vet?”
“I was completely baffled to see ‘PET bloods taken’ on my notes. It was as though I’d seen a vet, not my midwife. My friend, who’s a midwife, explained that it stands for pre-eclampsia.”
Anya, 28, mum to Daniel, 3, and 8 months pregnant