A Simple Guide to understanding OB/GYN terminology

It is not very difficult to leave the doctor’s office confused. Perhaps there were some questions you forgot to ask or more commonly, you had some trouble understanding the terminology used to explain your own health status to you.

Without any sort of medical training or exposure, it can be very hard to follow your doctor when he starts talking about “follicles” and “HCG tests”. Although Dr. Tobón typically does a good job of explaining concepts to patients, this guide can be used as a supplement to your visits to help you truly understand the information given to you during your appointment.

Obstetric: medical and/or surgical care related to pregnancy and women giving birth. Obstetric care includes prenatal and postnatal care as well as delivery.

Gynecology: concerned with the care of female health (non-pregnant).

Follicles: fluid-containing sacs that contain immature egg cells. Follicles release eggs during ovulation.

Cyst: In general, a cyst is a sac filled with fluid or other tissue. In cases that have to do with women’s health, cysts generally appear on the ovaries and are found via ultrasound. These are called ovarian cysts and are bigger than normal follicles which allows them to be detected.

Fibroma: also known as a myoma, fibroid, or leiomyoma. A type of mass that grows in or on the uterus typically in the child-rearing years. They tend to be noncancerous and a range of sizes, from undetectable to the human eye to the size of an orange. If small, they are usually asymptomatic and not a problem.

Corpus luteum: Every cycle we ovulate an egg, which is inside a follicle. The follicle bursts to release the egg and allow ovulation to occur. The remnant of the follicle, which is essentially and empty, popped, sac, is the corpus luteum and can typically be seen via ultrasound during early stages of pregnancy.

Ovulation: the release of an egg from an ovary to the fallopian tube. Ovulation usually occurs from one ovary and alternates each cycle (one cycle the egg will come from your right ovary and the next it will most likely come from your left).The fallopian tube is typically the site of fertilization of the egg. Ovulation usually occurs 10-16 days before the start of your period.

Yolk sac: the structure that forms before the placenta in order to provide the embryo with nutrients and blood. It looks like a little donut and is typically visible via ultrasound between week 5 and week 11 of gestation.

Cervix: the lower part of the uterus, starts after the vagina and is typically around an inch long. This is the area where samples are taken from during your pap smear.

Speculum: an instrument used to facilitate visualization of the vagina and cervix. It is used in pap smears as well as other procedures and can be either metallic or plastic. Sizes range from extra small, typically used on women who haven’t had intercourse yet, to extra-large sizes.

HCG test: Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone also known as the pregnancy hormone is used as a measure for how far along you are in your pregnancy. This is what is measured in at home urine tests but these tests just look for whether or not it is present. The tests we do in blood for this hormone can give us a number that will correlate to an estimate of how many weeks you are. These values typically double every two days. 

Pap smear: also known as a cytology exam or Papa Nikolaou Smear. This test consists of taking a sample of cells from the cervix to test it for any abnormalities in the cells that could lead to cervical cancer. Some STD tests can be added to this exam but they are not the main reason it is performed.

If there are any concepts you want more information on or another term you would like to add to this list, let us know! We would be more than happy to answer your questions on our monthly blog to help you understand aspects of your healthcare with more clarity. Email us at obgynultrasoundllc@gmail.com with requests and inquiries.