Human Pregnancy Vocabulary

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  • 1:09 Trimesters
  • 2:32 Quickening
  • 2:57 Braxton Hicks Contractions
  • 3:44 Viable
  • 4:11 Antepartum & Postpartum
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

In this video, you'll learn how to speak the language of pregnancy as we explore the meaning of terms related to pregnancy, like trimesters, due date, quickening, Braxton Hicks contractions, viable, antepartum, and postpartum.


What day does a woman's pregnancy begin? Most people would say the answer to this question is the day that her egg is fertilized by a sperm, or the day of conception. But the answer to this question is not as straightforward as it seems.

Technically speaking, a pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants itself in the wall of a woman's uterus. Because an egg is usually fertilized inside the fallopian tube and then takes a couple of days to travel to the uterus, we see that the actual pregnancy begins a few days after conception.

While the reasoning for this definition might leave you scratching your head, defining pregnancy this way does provide a standard for the medical community. Having a standard allows us to better understand other terms related to pregnancy, such as trimesters and due date. It also allows us to better predict when a woman can expect to experience things like quickening or Braxton Hicks contractions. In this lesson, you'll learn about these terms and others related to human pregnancy.


A human pregnancy typically lasts about 40 weeks and is broken up into three periods, known as trimesters. The prefix 'tri-' means 'three,' which makes this term's definition easy to remember.

Do you remember that I said a pregnancy technically begins a few days after conception? Well, that's not the only definition that doesn't seem to line up. When we start counting trimesters, we see that the first trimester actually starts before the woman becomes pregnant. That's right, the first trimester starts being counted from the first day of the woman's last normal period and runs until the 12th week. This first trimester is marked by a rush of hormonal changes that can leave the woman feeling wiped out and nauseated.

The second trimester takes place from week 13 to week 28. At this point, most women feel better as many of the symptoms felt in the first 12 weeks subside.

The third trimester extends from week 29 to 40. At this point, the fetus is growing in size and taking up more space, which can cause mom to experience symptoms like heartburn and difficulty breathing. Yet, this bit of discomfort can be overlooked as the woman looks forward to her due date, which is the expected day of delivery.


As the fetus progresses through the trimesters, it becomes more active inside the womb. Just like a newborn, the unborn child eats, sleeps, and fidgets. At a certain point, this fluttering of activity can be felt. These first fetal movements felt by the mother are referred to as quickening and mark an exciting time for a first-time mom.

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Pregnant women can also experience another sensation known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These irregular contractions of the uterus are caused by periodic tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles.

Although not every woman feels Braxton Hicks contractions, which get their name from John Braxton Hicks, who was the first doctor to describe them, some women experience them frequently. When they occur near the end of the pregnancy, the woman may mistakenly think she is experiencing labor contractions and rush to the hospital. But, after being checked by her doctor, she would be sent home with a diagnosis of false labor. False labor can be frustrating for the expectant parents, but it doesn't indicate any problem with the pregnancy.

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