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Ask A Midwife


Q. What exactly does "Irritable Uterus" mean and what if any problems will it present during labor, delivery, and post partum? My Doc said I had a "irritable uterus also. I am 36 weeks on Friday. I was hospitalized for contractions at 25 weeks and again at 32 weeks with contractions coming every minute and lasting 90 seconds. But no dilation or effacement. I am completely frustrated as my contractions start even when I am not dooing anything at all. Both times I was in bed when they started.

A. An 'irritable uterus' means simply that your uterus contracts without causing any changes in your cervix, or labor.

There are many causes: dehydration (<8-10 glasses of water/day), infections (urinary or vaginal), twins or multiple gestations, and stress are main causative factors. The concern comes in, before 36-37 weeks that perhaps the contractions are labor, or perhaps preterm dilatation. That is why you were hospitalized, so evaluate you for preterm labor. Now you are at 'term' so an irritable uterus becomes less of a concern.

Now, it's just irritating !!

An irritable uterus has NOTHING to do with your labor: neither making it shorter nor longer, nor less effective. It is simply the uterus contracting in an erratic, irregular pattern.


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Pat Sonnenstuhl is a semi-retired nurse midwife with over 30 years of experience in health care (first as an RN, then as an ARNP, CNM). She has experience with hospital nursing/midwifery and home and birth center midwifery.

Two areas of special interest to her are GBS and nutrition.

She is about empowerment, and helping folks find their own answers, what is right for them, not what is right for her. But, she wants you well informed.

This advice does not take the place of your practitioner.
Personal answers will not always be possible.


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