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Glossary of Terms


[ah-bor'-shun] - The termination (ending) of a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus is developed enough to survive. An abortion may be spontaneous (miscarriage) or induced (medical or surgical abortion).


[ser'-viks]- The cylindrical (tube-like) projection from the uterus into the vagina. Normally tightly closed, the cervix must be dilated gently to permit entrance of a suction curette to perform a surgical abortion.


[kon-sep'-shun] (fertilization) - The moment when a woman's egg (ovum) and a man's sperm join and begin to divide and grow. If uninterrupted, these cells will grow into an embryo, then a fetus, and after nine months will become a full - term baby.


(Dilation [di-la'-shun] and Curettage [ku"rê-tahzh']) (Surgical Abortion) - This is the traditional method of ending an unwanted pregnancy legally and safely; also used sometimes to treat other gynecological disorders. The procedure takes only a few minutes. A doctor uses surgical instruments to enlarge (dilate) the cervical opening and inserts a suctioning tube (curette) into the uterus to remove the pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy

[ek-top'-ik] (Tubal Pregnancy, Abdominal Pregnancy) A pregnancy where the fertilized egg attaches outside the uterus, either in the fallopian tubes or somewhere in the abdomen. This type of pregnancy must be terminated chemically or surgically (in a hospital) for the safety of the woman since life-threatening hemorrhage (bleeding) is certain if the pregnancy is allowed to grow.


[em'-bre-o]- The term for the unborn child during the first eight weeks or so of pregnancy. After that time, the embryo becomes a fetus.


[jes-ta'-shun]- The medical term for pregnancy.


[gi-nê-kol'-o-je] - The branch of medicine devoted to the treatment of women's bodies, especially the reproductive organs. (female organs)


[he-mat'-o-krit] - A measurement of the percentage of red cells in the blood, which determines the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. A low hematocrit is known as "anemia".

At WAWC, the hematocrit is measured with a drop of blood from a fingertip.

Medical Abortion

At WAWC, we use a combination of medications to accomplish medical abortions. This method requires repeated visits to the clinic. Several days later, after taking Mifeprex tablet at the clinic 24-48 hours later the patient places 4 tablets of Cytotec between their gum and cheek. This second phase may take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. The patient can expect to experience heavy bleeding and cramping during the phase when the uterus empties. In about 1 in 20 cases, the medical abortion is unsuccessful and the patient will need a surgical abortion.

Mifepristone (Mifeprex)

[mi-fup'-prist-own] - Clinical testing of mifepristone as a means of inducing medical abortion began in France in 1982. Results from these trials showed that when used as a single agent, mifepristone induced a complete abortion in up to 80% of women up to 70 days’ gestation. By adding small doses of a prostaglandin analogue a few days later to stimulate uterine contractions, investigators discovered that they could induce a complete medical abortion in nearly 100 percent of women.


(Cytolec) [si-tol'-ek] - A medication that causes the uterus to contract and empty out its contents. This is one of the two drugs used in combination to chemically induce abortion.


When medical research discovers a new use for a medication after FDA testing and approval has been completed, doctors may legally prescribe the medication for the new use without waiting years for the FDA to give specific approval. these are called "off-label" uses. Pregnancy - The period during which a woman carries a developing fetus in her uterus; it begins with fertilization.


(Rh Immune Gobulin) [ro'-gam] - A medication given to Rh-negative women during pregnancy to prevent Rh-incompatibility problems in later pregnancy. [see Rh-typing]


A blood test to determine whether a person has the Rh-factor in her blood. A person's blood is either "Rh-positive" (having the Rh factor) or Rh-negative (without the Rh-factor).

At WAWC, Rh-typing is performed using a drop of blood from a fingertip.


[sak]- The "bag" of fluid that contains the pregnancy inside the uterus. In early pregnancy that sac is all that can be seen by ultrasound examination.

Second Trimester

[see first trimester]


[sed'-ah-tiv]- A medication used to cause a patient to feel relaxed and calm.

Surgical Abortion

Termination of an unwanted pregnancy by a doctor using sterile surgical instruments. Also called dilation and curettage because the doctor dilates the cervix and removes the uterine contents using a curette. Tubal Pregnancy - A pregnancy where the embryo attaches to a fallopian tube instead of the wall of the uterus. This type of pregnancy must always be ended for the safety of the woman, since there is not enough room in the tubes for a fetus to grow. If the fetus grows large enough, the tube will rupture (burst open) and the pregnant woman will die if she cannot get emergency surgery soon enough to stop the hemorrhage (bleeding).


[ul'-trah-sownd]- A painless method of seeing inside the body with a machine that uses sound waves to create an image on a video screen.


[u'-ter-us](womb) - The muscular organ in a woman's pelvis where a pregnancy grows and develops.

Vacuum Aspiration

[vak'-u-um as-pî-ra'-shun]- The method of removing uterine contents with gentle suction by placing a sterile tube called a curette inside the dilated cervix.
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