Commonly Used Birth Terms

Posted by  cheryl  Oct 6, 2014

We birthy people have a tendency to toss out crazy words that leave people looking at us like we have three eyes.  So here is a short guide to help you navigate what the heck we are talking about! This list is in no way a complete guide to birth and does not replace a comprehensive birth class.  Educate yourself!

  • Cervix: We are always talking about the cervix...dilation, effacement, bishop score, centimeters...what the heck is it anyway?  The cervix is the neck of the uterus.  During pregnancy it is firm, closed, and tight.  As labor begins the cervix softens and starts to open (dilation is measured in centimeters) and thin out (effacement is measured in percentages)When you are dilated to a 10 and 100% effaced you have completed first stage labor and with an urge can start pushing out your baby!


  • VBAC (pronouced Vee-Back): Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.  An increasing number women who have had a previous cesarean decide to have a vaginal birth the next time around. There are many online and community resources for women seeking a VBAC.  Here, here, and here are great links to start with. Educate yourself if you are wanting to achieve a VBAC.
  • Posterior: This refers to the position of the baby in relation to the pelvis.  The back of the baby is to the back of the mother. This is a variation, not a complication but also not an optimal position for baby to be in as it can cause back labor due to the back of the baby's head resting on his mother's spine.  Babies CAN be born "sunny side up" but it is a more difficult position.  Avoid reclining, sleeping on your back, and any other position that could rotate baby to the back.  Doing pelvic tilts, hands and knees (this is a great time to do some nesting and scrub the floors!), and Spinning Babies techniques are all good ways to keep baby in a position that is best for birthing.

  • ROM (Rupture of Membranes): Simply means your bag of waters broke.  There are 3 ways your waters can break... SROM (Spontaneous Rupture of Membranes): Your bag of waters broke on its own.  PROM (Premature Rupture of Membranes): This refers to your water breaking on its own but before labor starts.  AROM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes): This is when your care provider breaks your water, usually with a tool called an amniohook.
  • Augmentation: To speed up the labor process.  Pitocin is often used to hasten labor.  You may want to discuss your care provider's thoughts on augmentation as it can quickly land you on the cascade of interventions roller coaster.


  •  Perineum: The muscle and tissue between the vagina and the rectum.  This is where an episiotomy is cut.  It is important to find out what your care providers thoughts are on this procedure as studies have shown that it is not as necessary as once thought, in fact, tearing naturally is usually preferable. Talk to your care provider about ways to prevent tearing


I hope this little vocabulary lesson was helpful to you.  Check out all the links, too, so you can be super knowledgeable next time you end up in a conversation with a birthy gal or more importantly, you'll know what the heck your care provider is talking about.  Being informed is so important.  Read all you can, take a Birth Boot Camp class, talk to as many experienced mamas as possible, keep learning.  Birth is a big event.  Cheers to you, mama!

Happy learning!