The term "maternal" is derived from the Latin word mater, which means mother. In the early 19th century, the word became synonymous with the concept of maternity. Today, the word is often used to describe a woman's natural instinct to care for her child. Many women feel this instinct kick in during pregnancy, and if it doesn't, they can be at a loss for what is wrong.
Maternal is also the name of a medical condition that can occur in some pregnant women, where the fetus is located too close to the cervix and can lead to complications during delivery. It is considered a high risk pregnancy and may require the patient to have more frequent prenatal visits, earlier glucose screening tests, ultrasounds or fetal heart rate monitoring.
If you're over 35, you are considered to be of advanced maternal age (AMA). Unlike geriatric pregnancy, which is used for people over the age of 65, a doctor won't treat you differently just because you're AMA. However, if your genetic screening tests show a potential problem with the fetus, you may be referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Despite the myth of a maternal instinct, anyone can develop a strong bond with children, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. In fact, research has shown that both fathers and foster parents have a similar response to babies, which includes heightened levels of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which encourage attachment and bonding.