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Irritable Uterus

What is it?

The term irritable uterus relates to uterine contractions that do not produce any changes to the cervix.  These contractions can be extremely painful but fortunately, they are not enough strong to produce cervical modifications. The contractions are similar to Braxton-Hicks but are usually more frequent and often do not respond to rest or relaxation.



There are a number of possible causes of an irritable uterus. Sometimes these contractions are related to urinary infection, a full bladder, sex or other physical activity.  But the definitive cause remains unclear.



Different surveys have revealed some tips to relieve these painful contractions such as to eat or drink some food high in sugar or carbohydrates, to drink more than 2 liters of water,  to lied on the left side, to ensure regular toilet habits, to eat small and frequent meals and to develop an atmosphere of calm at home.


Possible complications

Usually, there are no complications. But an interesting study developed in 1995  have linked the irritable uterus and preterm labour. The authors found that preterm labour was more likely to be associated irritable uterus than other high-risk factors.



The contractions of the irritable uterus can feel similar to Braxton Hills but the contractions occur more frequently more painful, and more regular frequency. Due to the high intensity of the contractions, they usually are confused with labour pains.  The contractions can also be accompanied by a lower back pain and they become worse with the physical activity.



If the contractions appear before 37 weeks, the pregnant woman should see a medical doctor.

Different test needs to be done with the aim to evaluate the strength, length, and duration of the contractions and identify the risk of preterm labour. Some of these tests are CTG monitorization, analysis of vaginal secretions, and ultrasound.



The management of uterine irritability can be a challenge for the woman and for the medical practitioner. If the uterine irritability is severe, it might need analgesia, bed rest and pelvic rest
The woman with less than 37 weeks should see a medical doctor in case of painful contractions,  every 5-10 minutes, or more than five contractions in an hour, vaginal bleeding or leaking, reduced fetal movements, pelvic pressure, or lower back pain.


You can make an appointment with Dr Kenny on 07 3188 5000.

This article is written to be informative and does not substitute seeking a professional consultation from a medical professional.



1. Roberts WE, Perry KG Jr, Naef RW, Washburne JF, Morrison JC. The irritable uterus: a risk factor for preterm birth? J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Jan;172(1 Pt 1):138-42.
2. Kehinde S. Okunade, Ayodeji A. Oluwole, and Maymunah A. Adegbesan-Omilabu. A Study on the Association between Low Maternal Serum Magnesium Level and Preterm Labour. Advances in Medicine. Volume 2014, Article ID 704875, 6 pages
3. Irritable Uterus and Irritable Uterus Contractions: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment.

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