The lexicon of pregnancy : the vocabulary you need to know

Your pregnancy is an opportunity to discover new sensations, as well as a whole host of new words that are not always easy to understand. So, because it’s better when you understand what’s going on, here is a little lexicon of the main pregnancy vocabulary.

Amenorrhoea: the absence of periods and a term essential for dating your pregnancy

Amenorrhoea1 means “absence of periods”. You will hear this word a lot during your pregnancy, because pregnancy is counted in weeks of amenorrhoea. This means that the start of your pregnancy, medically, is dated from the first day of your last period. And because “weeks of amenorrhoea” is a bit of a mouthful, you will often hear the term “WA”.

Anaemia: severe fatigue associated with iron deficiency

Iron is a very important element that is essential for manufacturing and maintaining the red blood cells that carry oxygen in the blood. If you are anaemic, your blood has a low red blood cell count. A blood test will tell you how much and allow you to adapt your diet.

Gestational diabetes: too much sugar in pregnancy

Gestational diabetes means a recurrent excess of sugar in the blood (diabetes) that occurs for the first time during pregnancy (gestational). In the case of gestational diabetes, detected in a medical environment, blood sugar testing needs to be put in place to ensure your pregnancy runs smoothly.

Sickle-cell anaemia(2): a hereditary disease to be monitored in mums to be

This genetic disease is caused by abnormal haemoglobin and results in the mass destruction of red blood cells, which causes anaemia. Mums to be with sickle-cell anaemia therefore need to be closely monitored during their pregnancy.

Folates(1), or folic acid, or vitamin B9: it’s the same thing and it’s very important

Three terms for the same thing: folates, which are found in food (leafy green, nuts, citrus fruit, etc.). They play a very important role, particularly in the 1st trimester of pregnancy, at the time baby’s organs and skeleton are being formed.

Placenta: the hyper organ, the link between you and your baby

The placenta is a temporary organ that changes throughout pregnancy to ensure all the exchanges between you and your baby: it is a super filter that provides nutrients to baby and “evacuates” waste. Eventually the placenta looks like a waffle and weighs between 500 and 700 grams by the end of the 9th month of pregnancy. It is “delivered” after the birth of your baby.

Toxoplasmosis: a disease that can fortunately be prevented

Toxoplasmosis3  belongs to the family of zoonoses: infectious diseases that affect animals, cats in particular, and that can be transmitted to humans. Toxoplasmosis is a mini-parasite present in animal intestines, and it becomes very serious for pregnant woman. The main modes of transmission of toxoplasmosis are ingestion of undercooked meat (beef, pork, lamb), consumption of unwashed fruits/vegetables contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii, or contact with a cat (young cats in particular) or its litter: the parasite is rejected in the faeces of contaminated felines. 

But don’t worry. There are a few simple things you can do to prevent it: cook meat all the way through, don’t eat unpasteurised dairy products, wash fruits and vegetables properly with a vinegar-water mixture, avoid eating raw, smoked or salted meats and if you do handle raw meat, wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Listeriosis, salmonellosis1: consequences of harmful foodborne bacteria

Listeriosis and salmonellosis are illnesses caused by bacteria found in certain foodstuffs. The most common ones are unpasteurised cheeses and raw or smoked meat and fish, which should be avoided when you are expecting a baby.

1 Béatrice Knoepfler, with the participation of Dr Jean-Philippe Bault, Le calendrier de votre grossesse, Eyrolles., La toxoplasmose enceinte, comment l’éviter ?


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Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months and then continuation thereof until the age of 2 alongside the introduction, from 6 months, of safe and appropriate complementary foods. Please consult a healthcare professional if you need any advice about feeding your baby.