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What Is an Irritable Uterus?

By C.B. Fox
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A woman may be said to have an irritable uterus if, during pregnancy, she has irregular contractions that do not cause the cervix to dilate. Though contractions in the second or third trimester can lead to premature labor, the contractions created by an irritable uterus usually do not. Women with this condition are often put on bed rest, if the contractions are severe, or prescribed mild pain killers and allowed to return to normal activity if the pain is manageable. The contractions caused by the condition may also be referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions or false labor.

Many pregnant women occasionally experience a tightening of the uterus or pain that may feel like the beginning of labor. This condition is not abnormal and is not necessarily a cause for alarm. If the pain is accompanied by any bleeding, however, it should be immediately reported to a doctor. Pain that persists or that causes severe, irregular contractions may be a sign of an irritable uterus. The contractions experienced by women with this condition are different than the contractions that begin labor because they do not come at regular intervals, occur only in the front of the abdomen, and can often be alleviated by moving around.

An irritable uterus may occur without any cause or may be brought on by a number of factors. Stress, dehydration, and exercise can all lead to pain in the uterus. Reducing stress and drinking plenty of fluids can eliminate or reduce the symptoms. Women who experience too much discomfort while exercising can decide to take it easy for the duration of the pregnancy or can find exercise routines that do not cause discomfort.

Over-the-counter pain medications, massage, and rest can alleviate the pain caused by this condition. Elevating the feet can be especially helpful in lessening the symptoms. Some women find that the pain can be alleviated if they walk around or rest in a different position.

It is possible, though uncommon, for irritable uterus to lead to an early labor. A doctor will need to determine if the contractions are causing the cervix to dilate. This can lead to labor and needs to be watched so that the life and health of the baby are not jeopardized. Though these symptoms do not usually lead to any complications, women with this condition are more likely to go into premature labor than women who do not experience early contractions.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Apr 29, 2013

@burcidi-- It's possible if irritable uterus occurs early in the pregnancy. For the most part though, it tends to happen in the second trimester when the baby is bigger. Particularly women pregnant with twins experience this because the uterus has a hard time adapting.

Your sister will have this risk in her next pregnancy too. If she becomes pregnant again, she must discuss this with her doctor to take the necessary precautions. She will probably be put on medication and told to rest. Staying as far as possible from stress is a must.

By turquoise — On Apr 29, 2013

@burcidi-- I'm not sure. I know an irritable uterus could trigger premature labor but doctors are very good at keeping it under control these days.

If a pregnant woman has uterus contractions due to an irritable uterus, she will have to be in bed rest for the most of the time until labor. Taking it easy, resting and treating any infections can stop or reduce the number of early uterus contractions.

My mom had irritable uterus syndrome when she was pregnant with my brother. She spent her whole third trimester in bed but it stopped the contractions and she gave normal birth.

By burcidi — On Apr 28, 2013

My sister had a miscarriage soon after she was told she has an irritable uterus in pregnancy. Is there a connection between these two?

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