Finnish Words of Pregnancy and Birth
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Last year, I made this little lexicon to help my clients navigate through their journey in a smoother way. When you are pregnant in Finland, you meet nurses, doctors and midwives who speak Finnish or Swedish. Most of them speak English but you might be confronted to some "lost in translation" moments. I've got your back!
Abortti / raskaudenkeskeytys
Termination of the pregnancy. It can be medical (induced with drugs) or surgical.
Alternative Chinese medicine similar to acupuncture but without needles.
Traditional Chinese medicine using the meridians of the body to balance and heal. Very thin needles are screwed in the skin at strategic points. It can be used during pregnancy to alleviate discomfort, pain or to facilitate labour.
Sterile water injection (aqua blisters)
A non-medical pain tricker. Hot feeling that makes diversion. The sterile water is injected just under your skin, in your back or lower belly. You can ask for refills.
Group B Streptococcus also known as Group B Strep Infection (GBS) is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman's vagina or rectum. This bacteria is normally found in the vagina and/or rectum of about 25% of all healthy, adult women. Women who test positive for GBS are said to be colonised.
Foley balloon catheter
This is a tool used as a mechanical induction method. The balloon is inserted in the cervix, then it is inflated with a saline solution and left in place while being taped to the thigh to provide gentle traction. When the balloon falls down, that means the cervix has opened. During this process, contractions usually start and labour follows.
A professional who offers you information and unconditional (emotional and physical) support through pregnancy, birth and beyond. There are different types of doulas: birth doulas, yoga doulas, water doulas, bereavement doulas, death doulas, postpartum doulas. Some doulas are even specialised in adoption or surrogacy. Doulas are there to facilitate all types of transitions.
Magical organ with superpowers. It is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft lining which connects the uterus to the outside world.
Injection of anaesthetic and/or analgesic in the epidural space.
Episiotomia / välilihan leikkaus
A surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to aid a difficult delivery or to enlarge the vaginal opening during a vacuum-assisted delivery. Traditionally, it used to be practised systematically to avoid tears. Since then, evidence based medicine has refuted the theory and tears, healing faster and better, are preferred to a surgical cut that can lead to further damages and challenge the mother’s quality of life.
Gua sha kampa
Gua sha comb
A traditional Chinese medicine massage tool that looks like a comb, a fish, an heart, made of jade, quartz, bone or wood. It is use to scrap or spoon the skin. A way to relax, release tensions, during pregnancy, birth and after.
One of the tools we have to relieve pain, relax, and stimulate oxytocin production.
Self induced state of relaxation. Technique to enter and stay in a safe bubble. The mind-body fantastic relationship.
Lips of the vulva.
Häpykieli / Klitoris
The female organ that focuses on pleasure. Its full shape has recently been discovered.
Nitrous oxide (nitrox) is used as a pain relief during labour. The birthing person inhales the gas through a mask. The gas formula is N2O.
Gastronomic exchange of oxytocin. Soothes and reassures baby. Helps mummy/parent to get a restorative sleep, bond with their baby and so much more.
The vacuum device uses a soft cup that attaches to the baby’s head with suction and guides the baby’s expulsion through the birth canal.
The placenta (a type of cake, in Latin) is a temporary organ that connects the developing fetus via the umbilical cord to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, thermo-regulation, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother's blood supply; to fight against internal infection; and to produce hormones which support pregnancy.
Thick mat with a grip which doesn’t damage the knee caps.
Birthing ball (gym ball)
It helps you dance your baby down, sitting. You can also hug it while your doula gently sifts your belly or shakes your apples with her rebozo.
Two for the price of one birth. Twice more love and twice more everything.
Membranes sweeping (stripping)
Mechanical labour induction technique. A doctor or midwife will use a gloved hand to sweep the inside of the cervix in a circular motion.
Keisarinleikkaus / sektio
C-section / Belly birth
This is one of the possible entrances for babies into our world. This is a surgery which can be elective (elektiivinen keisarileikkaus), urgent (kiireellinen keisarileikkaus) or emergent (hätäkeisarileikkaus).
When the pregnancy involuntarily stops.
Tools, medical or non-medical, to alleviate the pain.
The womb’s turtle neck.
Birth in your own very familiar nest. Your bed, your fridge, your shower, your smell and friendly bacteria.
An art and a strategic position for pregnancy and birth. Relaxes the pelvic floor and strengthens the legs. And it doesn’t press your tail bone, making more room for baby’s exit.
Midwives are medically trained to assist families during pregnancy and birth. They also deal with female reproductive health and menopause.
The layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder and bowels). It is often referred as a hammock.
Protective water contained in the amniotic sac. Not pee. Not discharge. It is slightly shiny and smells sweet like an areola. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
You might meet one if you encounter challenges before or during the birth. If not, you’ll meet one at your post partum check up, about 6 weeks after birth.
The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that live on the skin and inside the human body.
The female part of the breast that is too often censured on social media.
When nipples are stimulated (with the person’s consent) the body might secrete oxytocin, which relaxes or excites the person and can help induce the start of labour if the conditions are present.
Napanuoran myöhäinen katkaisu
Delayed cord clamping
It’s when you wait for your baby’s umbilical cord to be empty of blood (and nutrients, ferritin, oxygen etc.) and stop pulsate, so your baby gets the maximum amount of goodness to thrive. (3-10mn).
The conduit connecting the placenta to the navel of the fetus or baby. Contains two arteries and one vein buried in Wharton’s jelly. The average length is 55cm but it can rarely be longer than 1m and in this case the midwife must bake a cake for her colleagues. That’s the tradition.
Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in the chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid backs up into the oesophagus. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the valve to relax, which can increase the frequency of heartburns.
The love hormone involved in love making but also labour progress, breastfeeding and bonding.
This is peanut shaped ball created for pilates but used more and more during labour to mobilise the pelvis while lying down. Placed between the legs of the birthing person, the peanut ball can significantly shorten the length of the second phase of labour.
The beginning of the end.
Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, are swellings containing enlarged blood vessels inside or around the rectum and anus. During pregnancy, piles (just like varicose veins) can occur because hormones make the veins relax. Fortunately, they retract once the baby is born.
When your baby is ready to enter the world bum/feet/foot first.
Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition. Symptoms might be: high blood pressure, blurred vision, headaches, swelling.
They are synthesised within the human foetal membranes (amnion and chorion) and decidua and act to ripen the cervix, change membrane structure and contract the myometrium (middle layer of the uterine wall).
A pregnant woman's placenta produces hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), also called the pregnancy hormone. If you're pregnant, an urine pregnancy test can detect this hormone in your urine from about 1 day after your first missed period.
Too much sugar in the blood during pregnancy. The condition disappears after childbirth.
A beautiful shawl traditionally made in Mexico or Guatemala to carry merchandise and children. It is also a piece of fashion. Traditional midwives use the shawl to massage pregnant women and new mothers. They also use this tool to help the baby rotate and descend in the birth canal in an optimal position.
When pressure and pushes lacerates the perineum, vulva or vagina. Some tears require stitches, others don’t. A tear heals faster than a straight cut (episiotomy) because it follows the fibres of your skin tissue.
Rupture of membranes
Rupture of membranes (ROM) or amniorrhexis is a term used during pregnancy to describe a rupture of the amniotic sac. Normally, it occurs spontaneously at full term during labour. Rarely, it doesn’t happen and the baby is born “en caul”. Rupture of the membranes is known colloquially as "breaking the water”. Membranes are sometimes artificially broken to kick start or accelerate labour.
Single dose anaesthetic injection in the spinal fluid. Acts quickly in numbing the saddle area. The risks are hypotension, difficulty to push, severe itching, headache, medication crosses the baby bloodstream, challenged breastfeeding.
Oh, the c-word. Call them “surges” just like Ina May Gaskin does. Suddenly these waves are more pleasurable.
When nature is assisted by the human’s touch.
A new beginning.
Synnytys laskettu aika
Are babies just like industrial pizzas? Let’s talk about an approximate due month, shall we?
This is the ward dedicated to birth.
Fetal ejection reflex (FER)
This is a natural process happening during an undisturbed birth. High levels of adrenaline can trigger the foetal ejection reflex. The surge triggers strong, rapid contractions which move the baby from the uterus and into the birth canal. The pressure of the baby in the vagina stimulates the Ferguson reflex, which is the uncontrollable expulsion of the baby, which happens when nerves in the pelvis are stimulated as the baby descends through the birth canal. This biofeedback sends messages to the brain to release even more oxytocin, resulting in two or three strong contractions. The baby is born quickly and easily without voluntary pushing from the mother. More about FER.
Like in ovulation test, pregnancy test, amniotic fluid test, GBS+ test.
Tens machine / Tens unit
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Electrodes are sticked on your skin and you press a button to deliver an electric shock. It feels like thousands needles. Another pain tricker that makes endorphins kick in.
Type of imagery that uses sound waves to produces pictures of the inside of the body. It helps dating the pregnancy and the child’s healthy development. In Finland there are 2 routine ultrasounds: the early pregnancy ultrasound scan, (week 10+0 – 13+6) and the structural ultrasound scan (week 19–21).
Similar to acupressure but specialised in hands and feet. Each spot is linked to an organ or system.
In Finland, you get a maternity allowance for 105 working days minimum (4 months). After the maternity leave, there is the parental leave to share as you agree with the partner. More info on Kela’s website.