Glossary

A description of the medical terms used in or which relate to this abortion guide.

A

Abortion

The medical name for terminating a pregnancy: the foetus is removed either by medical or surgical means for a variety of reasons. This is a controversial procedure which strongly divides public opinion.

Anaemia

A medical condition in which a person has fewer than normal red blood cells in their body. This affects the ability of the body to transport oxygen around the body which leads to all manner of problems. These include fatigue, pale appearance and shortness of breath.

B

Birth control

A device, method or practice which is designed to prevent pregnancy. Examples of this include the contraceptive pill, condoms and Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs).

C

Cervix

The medical term for the opening to the womb: this is a long, narrow part of the womb which acts as a channel into the vagina.

Complications

A medical term used to describe problems which occur after an illness or a form of treatment, e.g. after an abortion.

Conception

The moment at which a sperm fertilises an egg released from the ovaries.

Curette

An instrument shaped like a spoon which has a sharp edge. This is used during an abortion to scrape away any remaining tissue. Often used in a dilation and evacuation procedure.

D

Dilation

The name given an expansion or opening: in this case it refers to the opening up of the cervix to enable access for the curette and/or suction tube.

E

Ectopic

This means in the wrong place. This is often used to refer to an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancy

A pregnancy where the embryo develops inside the Fallopian tube rather than in the uterus. This can be fatal if left untreated. Most cases occur in the Fallopian tube but a few can develop in an ovary or the abdomen.

Elective

This refers to a procedure or form of treatment which someone chooses to have done, often for lifestyle reasons. An elective abortion is carried out for social reasons rather than an urgent medical need.

F

Fallopian tubes

Two long, slim tubes which connect the ovaries to the uterus.

Fertilisation

The process whereby the sperm (male gamete) combines with the ovum (female gamete). This results in a zygote (the first stage in the development of a baby).

Foetus

The name for the unborn baby from the 8th week of development up until birth. Before this, it is known as an embryo from conception up until this 8th week.

G

Gestation

A name given to the development of a baby from initial conception to its birth.

Gynaecology

A branch of medicine which deals with the structure, function and diseases of the female reproductive system.

H

Haemorrhage

Medical term for bleeding.

I

Ibuprofen

A commonly used painkiller which can be purchased over the counter at a local pharmacy. This is classed as a ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug’(NSAID).

In-vitro fertilisation

Also known as IVF: a procedure carried out in a laboratory in which a sperm is combined with an egg in a Petri dish to achieve fertilisation. The fertilised embryo is then implanted into a woman’s uterus to initiate a pregnancy.

Induced abortion

An abortion which is brought about by medical or surgical intervention.

Infection

The growth of a germ or organism within the human body.

Intra-uterine

This means inside the uterus (womb).

J

None at present.

K

None at present.

L

Laminaria

A piece of dried seaweed, shaped like a rod which is inserted into the cervix to cause it to dilate.

M

Menstruation

The medical name for a woman’s monthly periods. This is a process in which the lining of the womb is shed every month via the vagina. This occurs as bleeding and abdominal cramps over a number of days, e.g. 5 days.

Menstrual

Refers to anything to do with menstruation.

Mifepristone

An artificial steroid based medication which is used to induce an abortion.

N

Neonatal

This refers to the first four weeks after a birth.

O

Ovaries

A pair of glands within the female reproductive system which stores eggs (ova) and releases one of these every month for fertilisation. If an egg is not fertilised it then breaks down in the Fallopian tube.

The ovaries are also responsible for secreting the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

P

Pregnancy

A period of time (9 months) in which a baby develops inside the female body. This baby goes through several developmental stages which include embryo, foetus and then newborn baby.

Prostaglandin

A type of hormone which is allows muscles to relax and expand. This is injected during an abortion to dissolve the lining of the womb. This lining is then removed along with the foetus.

R

None at present.

S

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)

A type of disease which is spread via sexual contact. Examples of this include chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

T

Therapeutic abortion

An abortion which is carried out for medical reasons. This is also known as an induced abortion.

U

Uterus

The medical name for the womb: this is a pear shaped organ within the female reproductive system which lies between the bladder and the rectum. The bottom part of the uterus is the cervix.

V

Vagina

The canal which leads from the cervix to outside of the female body.

W

Womb

Another name for the uterus.

X

None at present.

Y

None at present.

Z

Zygote

A cell formed as a result of fertilisation between a sperm and an egg.

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