Words we use

Our website is designed for a broad audience. Here we explain some of the words we use throughout the website and/or why we use them.

Some of the language used is medicalised and we are aware that this may be emotionally difficult to read. For information about support services, please visit www.pregnancyandinfantloss.ie.  

Words we use

Word or term Meaning
Anticipatory grief The normal grief response that occurs prior to death that includes sadness, sorrow, anger, crying and emotional preparation for death.
Audit  An audit is a quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes through systematic review of care against explicit criteria and acting to improve care when standards are not met.
Bereavement  The entire experience of family members and friends in the anticipation of death and subsequent adjustment to living following the death of a loved one. Bereavement also refers to the objective situation of having lost someone significant through death.
Bereavement care  The care provided to people in the anticipation of death and subsequent adjustment to living following the death of a loved one. Bereavement care staff are trained to assess the bereavement care needs of individuals; to identify people in need of extra support and/or therapeutic care and will have in place care pathways for referring parents to therapeutic services if necessary.
Bereavement Specialist Team (BST)  The BST is composed of staff members who have undertaken specialist and extensive education in bereavement care. The team includes; a bereavement coordinator, clinical midwife specialist in bereavement, chaplain and senior medical social worker. The team is supported in its work by the hospital chief executive officer (CEO), director of midwifery, clinical leads, obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, perinatal psychiatrist, midwives, nurses, neonatal care nurses, chaplains, ministers of religions, palliative care teams, bereavement committees, end-of-life care committees, administrative and auxiliary staff – all of whom have received training appropriate to their role in bereavement care.
Booking visit  A booking appointment is the first official antenatal appointment at the hospital and takes place normally between 12 and 16 weeks of pregnancy. 
Care pathway  A care pathway is a complex intervention for the mutual decision-making and organisation of care processes for a well-defined group of patients during a well-defined period. The care pathway is based on best practice and is discussed and agreed, in the case of a baby, with his/her parents. 
Chaplain The role of the Healthcare Chaplain in the maternity service is to provide spiritual and pastoral care and support to babies, parents and their families in the midst of illness or bereavement. This support is available to all and respects the personal, spiritual, religious and cultural expressions (or none) of the individual and family.
Chronic Something that persists or continues for at least six months. 
Clinical guideline Systematically developed statements, based on a thorough evaluation of the evidence, to assist practitioner and patient decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances, across the entire clinical spectrum (NCEC 2015).
Clinical Midwife Specialist (CMS) in Bereavement An experienced midwife who has undertaken specific training and education at level 8 or above in the area of bereavement; recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland as a specialist post. The CMS’s role is to support and facilitate the loss and bereavement process in all areas of pregnancy loss. The CMS works collaboratively with clinical colleagues in the formal follow-up care of bereaved parents. They are an advocate for bereaved families, provide education and training to staff, as well as being involved in audit and research aimed at enhancing bereavement care.
Complete miscarriage All the pregnancy tissue is passed, and the uterus (womb) is empty.
Complications Problems that develop after an operation, treatment or illness.
Conception  When an egg is fertilised by a sperm and then starts to grow in the womb. 
Coroner  Coroners are independent public officials whose function is to investigate sudden and unexplained deaths. In many cases, they will arrange for a post-mortem to be carried out to help them come to a conclusion. Where a coroner believes that a death was violent, unnatural or happened suddenly and from unknown causes, they will hold an inquest to establish the facts of how the person died. The function of the inquest is not to decide if someone is legally responsible for the person's death. It is solely to establish the “who, when, where and how” of their death.   
Dating ultrasound scan  An ultrasound examination which is performed in order to establish the gestational age of the pregnancy between 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. 
Determinants of signs of life for births before 23+0 weeks gestation  A live birth is determined by the presence of one or more of the following signs of life for a period of greater than 1 minute after birth: (i) Spontaneous respirations and/or crying, (ii) Easily visible heartbeat, (iii)Visible cord pulsation and (iv) Definite movement of arms and legs (NWIHP, 2021). 
Disenfranchised grief  Occurs when the impact of a death is not recognised. It occurs when grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated or publicly mourned.  
Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU)  A clinic that specialises in problems in early pregnancy (under 12 weeks) where a woman receives medical care, counselling and treatment as required. 
Early (or first-trimester) miscarriage  When a woman loses her baby in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. 
Ectopic pregnancy  A pregnancy in which the fertilised egg (embryo) develops outside the womb, typically in one of the fallopian tubes. Also called extra-uterine pregnancy. 
Electronic healthcare record (EHCR)  An electronic health record in the maternity services is a record of the entire obstetrical, medical and social history of a woman and the care she has been receiving from a multidisciplinary team in the hospital and in the community collected electronically and stored in a digital format. 
Embryo  An unborn human in the earliest stages of growth when its basic structures are being formed between the 5th and 11th week of gestation. 
Emergency room  A hospital room or area staffed and equipped for the reception and treatment of persons with pregnancy-related conditions requiring immediate medical care. 
End-of-life care  Used to describe the perinatal palliative care of a baby during its first week of life (early neonatal period) when life expectancy is limited and death is imminent. It encompasses care of the baby from the time of diagnosis through to his/her death and care of the baby and parents following death. 
Fallopian tube  Two hollow tubes leading from the womb to the ovaries allowing the passage of the egg from the ovary to the womb. In natural conception, the fallopian tube is where the egg is fertilised by the sperm. 
Fatal or lethal fetal anomaly / Life-limiting condition Includes diagnoses that are highly likely to lead to death in utero or in the newborn period (28 days of life), although for some of these diagnoses, survival beyond 28 days has been reported.  
Fetus An unborn baby.
First-trimester miscarriage The unplanned loss of pregnancy in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Gestation or gestational age Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe the age of the baby in the womb. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period.
Gestational sac The first sign of early pregnancy and can be seen on a vaginal ultrasound scan from five weeks of pregnancy.
General Practitioner (GP)  A doctor who provides general medical treatment for people who live in a particular area. Like a family doctor. 
Grief  A reaction to bereavement. It is a natural human response that is irrespective of culture and class and its expression varies considerably. 
Gynaecologist  A doctor who treats medical conditions and diseases that affect women and their reproductive organs. 
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) A hormone that is made by the placenta and that acts to prepare the uterus (womb) for implantation of the fertilized ovum and to maintain pregnancy. It shows up in a woman’s blood or urine if she is pregnant. 
Incomplete miscarriage When a miscarriage has started but some pregnancy tissue remains in the uterus (womb).
Intrauterine pregnancy A medical term describing the pregnancy developing in the uterus (womb).
Intra uterine fetal death Describes a baby who dies in the womb. Also known as an intrauterine death (IUD).
Karyotyping A specific test using blood or tissue to check for anomalies in the chromosomes.
Live birth Birth of an infant which, after complete separation from his/her mother, shows sign of life.
Medical Social Worker Specialist in Bereavement In a maternity setting, a social worker who provides emotional and practical support at a time of loss to bereaved parents, children and extended family members. They are an advocate for bereaved parents and work as part of the bereavement team to ensure optimum care for bereaved families.
Miscarriage Is the unplanned ending of a pregnancy before 24 completed weeks (i.e. when the fetus reaches viability). 
Molar pregnancy  When a fetus doesn’t develop properly in the womb. There are two types of molar pregnancy - partial or complete - neither of which result in a viable pregnancy.  
Multidisciplinary team (MDT) The MDT is a team of health and social care professionals working together to provide holistic care. The MDT in a maternity hospital includes sonographers, fetal medicine consultants, obstetricians, neonatologists, anaesthetists, midwives, nurses, neonatal nurses, allied health professionals, bereavement care specialists, palliative care staff, bereavement care staff including chaplains, medical social workers and clinical midwife specialists, laboratory and mortuary staff.

Refers to the period after birth up until the fourth completed week of life.

Neonatal death  Death of a baby occurring within 28 completed days of birth. An early neonatal death describes a neonatal death occurring within 7 completed days of birth. A late neonatal death describes a neonatal death occurring after the 7th and within 28 completed days of birth. 

A doctor who specialises in the care of pregnant women.

Perinatal bereavement The experience of parents that begins immediately following the diagnosis of or loss of an infant through death by miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal loss, or elective termination for fetal anomalies.
Perinatal bereavement care The care provided by the multidisciplinary maternity hospital staff to parents who experience pregnancy loss; parents who receive a diagnosis during pregnancy of a life-limiting condition; parents whose baby is stillborn; and parents whose baby dies during the early neonatal period. Perinatal bereavement care includes physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual care following loss and is extended to siblings and grandparents.
Perinatal death The death of a baby in the weeks before or four weeks after birth; includes stillbirth and neonatal death.
Perinatal mortality  Refers to the death of babies in the weeks before or four weeks after birth. Perinatal mortality includes stillbirths (babies born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy or weighing at least 500 grammes) and the deaths of babies within 28 days of being born (NPEC 2021). 
Perinatal palliative care  The care provided for the fetus, neonate or infant with life limiting conditions, and their family, from the point of diagnosis or recognition, throughout the child’s life, death and beyond. It encompasses physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements and focuses on the enhancement of quality of life for the neonate and support for the family.  
Perinatal pathologist  A doctor specialising in medical diagnosis, who examines a body after death (post mortem) to identify the cause of death. 
Perinatal pathology  Includes the study of disorders of the placenta, problems affecting unborn babies’ development, and causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal (newborn) death. 
Placenta Is a temporary organ that develops in the womb during pregnancy. It links the mother and baby by transferring oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the baby. 
Placentitis An inflammation of the placenta.
Post mortem The examination of a body after death. It is also known as an autopsy. Post mortems are carried out by pathologists (doctors specialising in medical diagnosis), who aim to identify the cause of death.
Post-natal care Includes the physical and emotional care of a woman after birth. 
Pregnancy loss All types of loss, including spontaneous and medically supervised terminations that can occur during a pregnancy from the first to third trimester.
Pregnancy of unknown location If there is a positive urine pregnancy test but the location of the pregnancy (either intrauterine or extrauterine) cannot be located on initial transvaginal ultrasound scan.
Pregnancy of unknown viability A term given to an intrauterine pregnancy when it is not possible from ultrasound scan to confirm the intrauterine pregnancy as viable or a failed pregnancy.
Progesterone A hormone produced as a result of ovulation. It prepares the lining of the womb to enable a fertilised egg to implant there.
Prolonged grief disorder (formerly known as complicated grief) Reactions to the loss of a significant person often includes temporary impairment of day-to-day functioning, withdrawal from social activities, feelings of yearning and numbness which can last for varying periods of time. Although grief is a natural process, it can lead to a more complex and prolonged response, where symptoms are more disruptive, pervasive or long-lasting than in a normal grief response.
Recurrent miscarriage Two or more consecutive first-trimester miscarriages.
Second-trimester miscarriage The unplanned loss of pregnancy after 12 and before 24 completed weeks of pregnancy.
Service evaluation Service evaluation is designed and conducted solely to define or assess current care. It addresses the question "what standard does this service achieve?". It assesses choices of treatment, care or services that are currently available according to guidance, professional standards and/or patient/service user preference.
Stillbirth A child born weighing 500 grammes or more or having a gestational age of 24 weeks or more who shows no sign of life (Stillbirths Registration Act, 1994). 
Termination of pregnancy A medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus (Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act  2018).
Thrombophilia A blood clotting condition which tends to run in families, whereby the blood is more likely to clot than usual. 

A three-month period of time. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters:

  • First trimester – up to 12 weeks.
  • Second trimester – 13 to 27 weeks.
  • Third trimester – 28 to 40 weeks.
Ultrasound scan High-frequency sound waves used to provide images of the body, tissue and internal organs.
Uterus (Womb) A hollow, pear-shaped organ that is located in a woman's lower abdomen, between the bladder and the rectum. It is the organ where a baby develops during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,