Gynecology and Obstetrics Terminology

Glossary to help patients better communicate with their doctor.

The complexity of women's bodies brings on questions about gynecology and pregnancy for many people, especially those seeking obstetric or gynecological care. It's important that patients are able to take control of their health and that begins with gaining knowledge about their bodies and the healthcare field. Here is a list of definitions that includes important abbreviations and commonly used words about women's health.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z


Amenorrhea – This term references a lack of or end to menstrual periods.

Anovulation – Medical professionals use this word when a woman's ovaries stop producing or releasing eggs that are mature.

Atrophy, vaginal – This is when the vaginal tissues shrink or thin due to a lack of estrogen following menopause, a condition that results in painful intercourse.


Bartholin's cyst – This is a buildup of mucus or an infection in one of the major mucus producing glands close to the opening of the vagina. The condition causes swelling or pain and is usually treated with surgical draining.

Benign – This term refers to cell growth that medical specialists deem non-cancerous. Benign cell growth does not make its way into nearby tissue nor will it spread to other body parts.

Biopsy – When medical professionals do a biopsy, they remove a small tissue sample using a scalpel or hollow needle.


Cerclage – A cerclage is a round row of stitches set inside the cervix to stop dilation and ejection of a preterm fetus.

Cancer – This is an abnormal, unconstrained growth of cells capable of making its way into nearby tissue and distant sites.

Cure – Medical specialists consider a cancer or other illness cured if, following treatment, it can no longer be detected and remains undetected for a long time. In many cases, this means that the cancer has not come back in five years or more.


Dysplasia – When dysplasia occurs, abnormal cells have been detected on the cervix or another area of the genitals. Dysplasia can progress into a cancer, one that's caused by the human papillomavirus.

Dyspareunia – This condition is pain in the pelvis or vagina following intercourse.


Ectopic pregnancy – An ectopic pregnancy is one that is developing outside of the uterus. In most cases, this type of pregnancy occurs in a fallopian tube.

Endometriosis – This is a condition involving tissue that resembles endometrium. It develops outside of the uterus. The tissue grows on or close to the fallopian tubes, ovaries or other parts of the pelvic region.

Estrogen – A set of hormones emitted by the ovaries. These hormones affect a women's menstrual cycle and sexual development.


Fibroid – A common term that refers to “leiomyoma,” which is a uterine tumor that is benign. This type of tumor is formed from uterine muscle tissue. Fibroids can be painful, and they may cause heavy bleeding.


Genital herpes – This is a sexually transmitted disease involving bumps and sores. It is caused by the human papillomavirus.


Human papillomaviruses – A set of viruses that cause warts. Some of these kinds of viruses are transmitted sexually. The virus is associated with some cancers.

Hysterectomy – A hysterectomy is a surgery that doctors perform to remove the uterus.


Infertility – When a woman is infertile, she is unable to have children.


Labia – The labia is the skin fold located at the vaginal opening.

Lymph nodes – These are small organs that store bacteria trapping cells. Lymph node clusters are located in the groin, underarms, neck, abdomen and chest.


Menopause – The time when menstruation has ended.

Menses – This is the menstrual flow.


Ovaries – The ovaries are a woman's reproductive organs. They are in the pelvis.

Ovulation – This is when a woman's body releases a mature egg from one of the ovaries.


Pap test – A pap test, or pap smear, is a test in which cervical cells are collected and examined to check for changes that may indicate pre-cancer or cancer.


Sexually transmitted infection – This is an infection that spreads via sexual intercourse as well as through other sexual contact.

Speculum – The speculum is a piece of gynecological equipment. It is used to open the cervix and complete a pap smear.


Transvaginal ultrasound – This is a test in which a transducer, a small gynecological instrument, is inserted into the vagina to complete a detailed ultrasound test.


Uterus – The uterus is the organ required to support the growth of a baby. It is between the rectum and the bladder.


Vagina – This is the canal that permits the passage of fluid. It is connected to the vulva and the cervix.

For more information about women's health, obstetrics and gynecology, contact the experienced medical professionals at All About Women.

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