Pregnancy Terms Glossary
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Bowing of the long bones


Campylobacteriosis is disease caused by gram negative spiral-shaped bacteria. Most human illness is caused by Campylobacter jejuni, but human illness can also be caused by other species. Campylobacteriosis is characterized by diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to raw or undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, or water contaminated with the organism.  Infection with Campylobacter jejuni appears to increase the risk for developing Guillian-Barré syndrome and reactive arthritis.

Allos BM. Association between Campylobacter infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome. J Infect Dis 1997;176:S125-8.

Candida infection (yeast infection)

Caput succedaneum

Swelling and accumulation of fluid (edema) in the scalp of infants born vaginally. The swelling usually disappears within 24 to 48 hours.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Pain, numbness , and weakness of the hand and fingers caused by pinching of the median nerve as it passes through the space over the wrist (carpal) bones . Conditions associated with carpal tunnel syndrome include diabetes, hypothyroidism, arthritis, obesity, and pregnancy.


A hollow tube used to inject fluid into, or drain  fluid from a space such as the bladder.


A collection of blood caused by rupture of blood vessels between the skull and the periosteum (the membrane surrounding a bone). The blood does not cross the joints of the skull, because it is trapped between the periosteum and bone. Subtle skull fractures may underlie a cephalhematoma. The condition generally resolves over several weeks.

Cephalic presentation 

The baby's head is down near the mother's cervix.

Cephalic index

The ratio of the bi-parietal diameter (BPD) to the occipito-frontal diameter (OFD) X 100. The normal range is 70 to 86.  A cephalic index of less than 70 is considered dolichocephaly. An index of greater than 86 is considered to be brachycephalic

Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD)

The infant's head is too large to pass through the mother's pelvis. Cephalopelvic disproportion is usually diagnosed when labor fails to progress (cervical dilation and effacement have stopped) and is unresponsive to oxytocin augmentation.



Cerebral Palsy

A group of disorders characterized by inability to move and /or to control movements caused by injury or abnormal development in the immature brain.

Certified nurse midwife (CNM)

A registered nurse with at least 1-2 years of nursing experience who has received additional training in delivering babies and providing prenatal and  postpartum care to women. They are certified by the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

Cervical incompetence

A history of passive and painless dilation (opening) of the cervix in the second trimester leading to preterm delivery. The cervix appears to be "short", with a length of less than 2 cm, on ultrasound examination.


Lower narrow part of the uterus that opens into the vagina..

Cesarean section (C-section)

An incision made through the abdomen and uterus for the purpose of delivering one or more fetuses. The incision on the abdomen may be vertical or transverse. The incision made on the uterus may not be in the same direction as the abdominal incision. The three most common types of uterine incisions are:

  • Low transverse (Kerr) See illustration
    • The most common incision. This incision is easy to repair and is associated with the lowest probability of rupture or dehiscence in a subsequent pregnancy
  • Low vertical (Kronig) See illustration
    • Used when lower uterine segment is undeveloped or for premature breech presentation.
  • Classical See illustration
    • This incision may be used when a back down transverse lie that cannot be converted to breech or cephalic presentation, inability to expose the lower uterine segment,  premature breech presentation, and anterior placenta previa.

Chadwick's sign

Bluish discoloration of the vaginal tissue and cervix  caused by accumulation of blood (venous congestion).  Chadwick's sign may be seen as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Chemical pregnancy

A positive pregnancy test ( elevated hCG level in the blood or urine) before pregnancy can be verified by ultrasound. Often used to refer to a pregnancy that has failed before reaching a size large enough to be seen on sonogram.


Chloasma (mask of pregnancy, melasma)

Blotchy areas of darkened skin over the the forehead, cheeks and upper lips associated with pregnancy or with the use of contraceptives.  Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning salons intensifies the pigment changes. The areas of darkened skin usually fade several  months after delivery or discontinuation of the contraceptive.



Cholestasis of pregnancy (Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy ,ICP)

A condition of pregnancy characterized by intense itching. 


Inflammation of the fetal membranes and amniotic fluid usually associated with a bacterial infection. The bacteria responsible are usually those that are normally present in the vagina. The  presence of fever, uterine tenderness, and  foul vaginal discharge help to confirm the clinical diagnosis of chorioamniotis.


The outermost of the two fetal membranes that gives rise to the placenta.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

Removal of cells that line the placenta, the chorionic villi, through the cervix using a catheter or through the abdomen using a needle. The material obtained may be  tested for Down syndrome and other disorders. The procedure is usually performed between the 10th and 12th weeks of pregnancy .

Choroid plexus

Structures in the ventricles (spaces) of the brain that produce the cerebrospinal fluid. Each plexus is made up of a network of capillary blood vessels covered by transporting epithelial cells.

Choroid plexus cyst

Pockets of fluid in the choroid plexus believed to be caused by abnormal folding of the epithelium lining of the choroid plexus which traps fluid and debris .



Structures made of of tightly coiled DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) found in the nucleus of a cell.

Chromosomes are the structures in the cells of your body that  are inherited from each of your parents, and hold the instructions for how your body looks and functions.  Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes for a total of 46. The first 22 chromosomes are numbered from largest to smallest in size. The 23rd pair are  the sex chromosomes and are named as X or Y .


Removal of the foreskin of the penis.

Circumvallate placenta-OBFocus

Circumvallate placenta

The membranes insert closer to the center of the placenta instead of extending to the edge of the placenta  creating a folded and thickened placental margin that appears as a 'shelf-like' structure at  th
e placental edge during ultrasound examination.

Circumvallate placenta has been associated with premature labor, stillbirth, hemorrhage and placental abruption


Cleft lip and palate (orofacial cleft)

A gap of the lip or lip and palate (roof of the mouth) caused by failure of the lip or the lip and palate  to grow together.

The lip and primary palate close during the 4th to 7th weeks of gestation.

The secondary palate begins to close the 6th week and is completed between the 9th and 12th weeks of gestation

Cleft lips are unilateral or bilateral. See Image

SEE ALSO: Cleft Lip And Cleft Palate

1. Moore KL. The branchial apparatus and the head and neck. In: Moore KL, editor. Before we are born: basic embryology and birth defects. 3rd edition. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1989. p. 134–58 2. Sandler TW. Langmans’s Medical Embryology, 7th ed.Baltimore: William and Wilkins; 1995


Deviation or deflection of the fingers. The term most often refers to curving of the little finger toward the fourth finger (the ring finger). Clinodactyly can be inherited as a normal variant, or be associated with chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome.

Club foot (Talipes equinovarus)

The foot is turned inward. Both feet are affected in 50% of cases. The defect may be corrected surgically.

Club foot occurs in about 1 in 700 to 800  births. In a small number of cases, clubfoot may be seen in association with spina bifida or as part of a skeletal dysplasia. The estimated risk of recurrence in future children is 3 to 8% if 1 child is affected and 10% if 1 child and 1 parent are affected.


Thin, yellow, milky fluid secreted by the breasts in the last weeks of pregnancy and the first few days after delivery. Colostrum contains high levels of maternal antibodies.


Enlargement of the occipital horns of the lateral ventricles in the brain.


To become pregnant


Merging of a sperm and egg  to form a new offspring

Conceptual age

Time elapsed since the day of conception.


Present at or before birth

Congenital Pulmonary Airway Malformation (CPAM, Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation)


To be related through a recent common ancestor ( a close blood relative ).

Contraction, uterine

Tightening of the muscular wall of the uterus that may feel like menstrual cramps.


Uncontrolled shaking of the body caused by the tightening and relaxation of muscles. Some causes  of convulsions include preeclampsia,  epilepsy, low blood sugar, drug withdrawal,  and brain tumor.

Cord . See umbilical cord

Cord blood banking

Storage of umbilical cord blood for future use. Public cord blood banks store blood to be used for anyone in need. Private cord blood banks store cord blood for use by a specific family.

Cord compression

Squeezing or pinching of the umbilical cord.

Cordocentesis ( also known as percutaneous umbilical blood sampling)

Insertion of a needle through the mother's abdomen and into the umbilical cord. The procedure is performed to obtain fetal blood for testing. The risk of miscarriage from the procedure is reported to be 1 to 2%.

Cord prolapse

  • Overt prolapse: Passage of the umbilical cord through the cervix (the opening of the uterus) before delivery of the baby.
  • Occult prolapse: Passage of the umbilical cord through the cervix  alongside the presenting part of the baby

Corpus luteum (CL)

A yellow colored structure that the develops from cells of the empty egg follicle after the egg is released. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone which prepares the lining of the uterus for implantation by the embryo.

Couvade syndrome (sympathetic pregnancy)

A condition in which a partner experiences symptoms of the pregnant mother.


Premature closing of joints or sutures in the skull. Craniosynostosis may occur as an isolated finding or may be associated with a syndrome such as Apert, Chotzen, Pfeiffer, Carpenter, and Crouzon syndromes

Crown-rump length (CRL)

The distance between the top of the head (crown)  and buttocks (rump) of the embryo or fetus.

euthman a


The appearance of the infant's scalp at the vaginal opening during labor.

Cystic fibrosis

A condition characterized by  thick mucus build up in the lungs and digestive tract. The mucus in the lungs causes inflammation and infections leading to the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) and cysts in the lungs. Cystic fibrosis (CF) also affects the pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs

CF is caused by mutations in the CFTR gene (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator), and is passed through the genes from parents to children in autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance . The CFTR gene provides instructions for making t
he channel that transports chloride ions into and out of cells, and is involved in the production of sweat, mucus, digestive enzymes, and tears. There are more than 1,000 mutations of the CFTR  gene.

Cystic hygroma

Single or multiple sac-like structures caused by abnormal development of the lymphatic system (the system responsible for carrying white blood cells that help fight infection and disease). Cystic hygromas occur most often about the neck. More than half of fetuses with cystic hygromas diagnosed in utero have Turner syndrome (one x chromosome).


Inflammation of the urinary bladder.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus transmitted by direct person-to-person contact through saliva, breast milk, or urine. CMV infects between 50% and 85% of adults in the United States by 40 years of age. Persons infected with the virus may experience a mononucleosis-like syndrome with prolonged fever, extreme fatigue, body aches, and sometimes a mild hepatitis. Once infected with CMV the virus may remain inactive within the body for many years. Recurrent disease occasionally occurs.

Women who become infected with CMV for the first time during their pregnancy may pass the infection on to their fetus.  Infants born with the infection are said to have a congenital infection. The fetus may be affected to various degrees.  Severe infections can lead to significant damage to the nervous system and other vital organs.

Findings on ultrasound that would raise the possibility of a severe CMV infection include very high or very low levels of amniotic fluid , fluid collections in the abdomen (ascites), dense appearing (echogenic) bowel, growth restriction, very small head (microcephaly), dilation of the fluid filled chambers of the brain ventriculomegaly or hydrocephaly), or calcium deposits in the brain or liver.

Infants of mother who experience recurrent infection with CMV during pregnancy tend to be only mildly affected by the virus if at all.


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