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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.