Monday, October 31, 2011

Medical terminology

Since I did a rerun entry earlier, here's a real one:

Honestly, I find it slightly amazing how terminology that is second nature to doctors and nurses is completely foreign to others, even some people in medical careers.

For example, I recently had a patient whose medical history said she was "Gravida 2 Para 2" without further explanation.

Psychologist: "Gravida 2 Para 2?? What on earth does that mean?"

Me: "Oh, that means she was pregnant twice and had two babies."


Therapist: "Dr. Fizzy, can I ask you something? What does gravida 2 para 2 mean?"

Me: "Oh, it means she was pregnant twice and had two babies."

Therapist: "I have never ever heard that terminology before."


Me: "When I was at work today, nobody knew what a female patient being gravida 2 para 2 meant. I was surprised. Do you know what it means?"

Non-medical husband: "Does it mean she's a paraplegic?"

Me: "No."

Husband: "Does it mean she's really serious? Like gravitas?"

So apparently this is really obscure terminology!


  1. Generally people here ignore the gravida part, and just include it as P2+0.

  2. What is scary is that people have access to those records (and presumably act upon what they read) who don't know what the words mean.

    Almost as bad as getting a letter from my insurance company complaining that they don't have record of (among other things) my a1c results.

    I wonder how many people get that letter who have no idea what "a1c" means.

    And why the hell does my insurance company have a right to that information?

  3. I always assume that people know basic anatomy, when apparently they don't. I was complaining to my husband that my shoulder hurt. So he, being the good husband he is, asked where it hurt so he could massage it. When I told him to rub by my scapula, he was incredibly confused. I thought that was a common enough term!

  4. I actually learned that term this weekend. One of the Paramedic teachers told me (I was playing a pregnant patient in scenario's for the EMT's) to watch for them to ask me about it, and was kind enough to explain it to me.

    Needless to say, I was quite thrilled to read this post and be able to say "Hey! I know what that means!!". It does not happen often.

  5. I learned that term last year in my EMT class.

  6. You're asking the wrong lay people - ask a woman who's at least a para 4 - the fourth time's a charm...

  7. Once I had a nurse from the maternity wards asking a colleague to call the social worker because the patient was gravida 6 para 0 and that meant her others 5 babies where taken away from her (due to bad parenting skills)...

  8. @Milla: Bwahahaha. Ouch.

  9. I'm a genetics grad student, and I know what it means :) We learned it in a human genetics class somewhere along the way. I actually explained it to another grad student recently, after overhearing a conversation between two med students.

  10. @ Milla, ouch! Hope the patient didn't get wind of it.

    Dr.Fizzy, I love your husband's response. :D

  11. I knew what it meant way before I started any sort of medical education but then I've been pregnant before so I guess you pick stuff up?

  12. I stand to be corrected!!
    however, I think it's almost impossible to be considered Gravida 2 Para 2

    Being Gravid by definition means somebody who's currently pregnant. So Gravida 2 means a woman during her second pregnancy

    Parity refers to the number of children that have been born to you so Para 2 means you have had two children

    So the only way somebody can be G2P2 is if they had twins on their first pregnancy and were pregnant again
    It doesn't mean as you suggested Fizzy that she WAS pregnant twice and had two babies

    So pedantic I know!!!! Just one of these things that annoys me!!

    Ob/Gyn Resident

  13. @Niamh:

    Fizzy's right. Gravida 2 refers to a woman who has been pregnant twice, ever. It could be one past pregnancy and one current pregnancy, or it could mean two past pregnancies (almost certainly the case in Fizzy's scenario).

    As an OB resident, you likely rarely see a G2P2 because, as you said, if they're currently pregnant they would have to have had twins the first pregnancy.

    But a non-gravid woman can very easily be a G2P2.

  14. As far as I know, the patient never knew! Thankfully! Gravida 2 para 2 means in our ward that you have been pregnant 2 times and delivered 2times in the past... Not sure if that is correct but that what it is used for!

  15. It makes perfect sense in Portuguese (though it's not really the best grammar):

    "Gravida duas vezes, pariu duas vezes."

    Pregnant twice, gave birth twice.

    I assume the substitution of "para" for "pariu" is due to the medical term coming more directly from latin than the Portuguese version

  16. Ha, this is great ObGyn revision for me! (We learn more than this in ObGyn, honest!) I am curious and confused, though, how does it work when you have had twins? Do twins count as one pregnancy? So if a woman has three children, two of which are twins, and is currently pregnant, would it be written as: G3P3? (each 'gravida' for each time she was in pregnancy, once with twins, once with other child, currently pregnant and each 'para' for the number of children she has?) or would it be G4P3 (twins = +1 for gravida). or do you just write 'twins' somewhere? :S Would love it if someone can shed some light on this please!

  17. I knew the gravida part but not the rest..but i'm just a first year practical nursing student.

    I did just this summer though, before my course, have an eyeroller. Gal came up to me, 'hey, Cait, my mum's fallen and I think she needs a hospital but she refuses, can you take a look?'...I wander over, fully happy to back friend up, ask mum what happened. She can't move her arm above shoulder height. Well, says I, could be a problem with your clavicle. Why don't you get it x-rayed just to put all our minds at ease, and let the professionals tell us if there's something wrong? (that was one of the key signs of a broken clavicle i was always taught in the scouts, so felt warrented suggesting an ER visit)...Three hours later she came back. 'its not my clavicle' she insists 'its a broken collarbone.....

  18. Wait isn't your clavicle your collarbone? Maybe I'm not that knowledgeable of the skeletal parts as I thought I was, so don't laugh at me people :)

  19. OB/Gyn attending chiming in:
    Fizzy is totally right. 2 pregnancies, 2 deliveries. I'm ashamed to see the OB resident get this wrong.
    Twins would count as one pregancy, two kids.
    In the whole Gs and Ps game, remember the parity is four numbers: full term deliveries, preterm deliveries, miscarriges/abortions, living children.
    The gravity includes all pregnancies, including the current one, if pregnancy.
    So yeah, a women whose had full term twins and is pregnant now would be G2 P1002

  20. How many times has she said "GEE, I'm pregnant!" and how many times has a kid POPPED out? My little way of remembering my G's and P's as a paramedic.