Word of the Week: Viable

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Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.

Word of the Week: Viable

How to say itViable (vye-ah-bull)

What it means: Capable of growing and developing, and living after birth.

Where it comes from: Latin vita meaning "life."

A close up of a fetal ultrasound.

Mart Production/Pexels

Where you might see or hear it: The term "viable" is usually used in medicine to refer to whether a pregnancy will be able to carry through to the birth of a baby that will survive.

The topic of fetal viability comes up a lot in conversations about abortion. The laws on abortion take the ability of a developing fetus to survive outside the womb—including with help from incubators and breathing machines, if necessary—into account.

In America, states have different "gestational limits" for when abortions can be legally performed.

When you might want to use it: If you are pregnant and are at risk for going into labor early, you may want to ask your doctor about fetal viability. Your doctor can explain the different factors that determine whether a fetus can survive if they are born prematurely.

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