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What is Primigravida?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Primigravida is a medical term used to refer to a woman who is pregnant for the first time. This is one among a number of related terms that provide information about a woman's obstetric history that may be useful to know about, especially when these terms appear in someone's medical chart and cause confusion. The word can be used for a woman of any age who is pregnant for the first time, although in some settings, a woman over 35 may be referred to with the term “elderly primigravida.”

Breaking down the respective roots of this word reveals its meaning and also shows how it can be adapted into other medical terms. The prefix “primi-” means “first,” so when this prefix is seen in a word, it means that it is the first of something. “Gravida” means “a pregnant woman.” A bigravida would be a woman pregnant for the second time, and a multigravida is a woman who has been pregnant two or more times.

This term is used no matter what the outcome of the pregnancy, so a woman who has had a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage would be a multigravida when she got pregnant again. Another term, “para,” is used to refer to the number of births a woman has experienced. Some people reserve this term for live births while others use to describe stillbirths and miscarriages past the age of fetal viability. A primipara, primip, or unipara is a woman who has given birth once, and a multipara or multip is a woman who has given birth more than twice.

Instead of writing “primigravida,” some medical professionals may write “gravida one.” The practice of using the term as a standalone and following it with numbers is especially useful when healthcare providers are talking about multiple pregnancies. Writing “multigravida” on a chart is not nearly as informative as “gravida five” for a woman who has had five pregnancies, for example. This can also be seen with “para” as in “para four” for four births.

A woman who has never been pregnant is a nulligravida or gravida zero. Likewise, women who have not given birth are known as nulliparas. While this medical terminology can be intimidating to people who have not encountered it before, it follows quite simple rules that are easy to understand once people see how the terms are being used.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Azuza — On Jun 02, 2011

This is a great article. Doctors use a lot of medical words with pregnant women and it can be very intimidating. Its very helpful to know that gravidity simply means the number of pregnancies a woman has had.

I was also very surprised to hear that 35 is "elderly" as far as pregnancy goes. In this day and age many women choose to have a career first and then have children in their 30s. I guess social norms don't really factor into biology!

By Windchime — On Jun 02, 2011

@Valencia - Congratulations on the pregnancy. Don't worry too much about the label, there are plenty of first time mums who are over 35.

I had my first when I was in my early twenties, and ended up with a C-section when I developed something called placental abruption. I have friends who have had no issues at all, even though they were older when they became pregnant.

By Valencia — On Jun 02, 2011

It's a relief to read about this term, having just been told I need to go for elderly primigravida antepartum tests!

The doctor just handed me a paper, without mentioning anything about my age being an issue, but it was quite a shock to see the 'e' word. I'm not quite 40 after all!

Luckily I don't fall into a particularly high risk factor group, so the next visit should be fairly straightforward.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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