Every woman has their blissful moments during pregnancy and those moments that are not so blissful. I know a few people who felt fantastic throughout all of their pregnancies and SO wish I was one of those....for the sake of myself, my husband, and my children, in utero and not.
I've been dealing with an irritable uterus since I started having children and I'm on number three...the last one. I also have other pregnancy issues, but will address each one in their own respective blogs. So what is it? What do women who have this condition go through and how do the doctors and the women themselves treat it? My first thought is to listen to your own body and do what you think is best. The doctors are there for guidance when you don't necessarily know something but just like you they're playing a guessing game because they don't live in your body.
Basically irritable uterus is defined as your uterus contracting in a disorganized fashion without making any changes to the cervix. Most times, the contractions are constant and consistent, happening every three to five minutes. Sometimes these contractions can be painful if you have been active for some extended amount of time. The key here is they do not make any changes to the cervix.
It can feel like a very strong tightening of the fist or sometimes it may just be in certain parts of your uterus and can be felt in the lower parts of your belly and not so strong. Even further, it may feel like a low level pain in your back. What I've noticed with the irritable uterus is that if I stay active, the contractions increase and become more uncomfortable.
Some of the things that cause the symptoms to increase are wearing tight pants, having a full bladder, being active (walking, standing, exercising, lifting), having an orgasm, dehydration, stress, and constipation.
So what to you do about these symptoms?
What's best for your baby and for you? Going through this three times with three different doctors, each doctor has their own modality of treating it. Again, remember to do what's best for you and listen to your body.
Some doctors prescribe bed rest for the pregnancy and medication to decrease the uterine irritability. There are several levels of bed rest. Strict bed rest is where a woman must stay in bed all day long and only get up to go to the bathroom, take a shower, make a sandwich and then get back in bed. Moderate bed rest is where a woman needs to lay in bed and rest for at least 4-6 hours out of the day. Pelvic rest is something else irritable uterus sufferers are often prescribed which is no sex and no masturbation to cause the contractions to start up.
The medication that is often prescribed nowadays is the17P shots , Nifedipine (Procardia) and Magnesium Sulfate. These medications are used to calm the uterus down so the woman is not so uncomfortable with the contractions.
So when do you go to the hospital?
When your water breaks prior to 37 weeks.
If the contractions intensify or you can't get them to stop. Normally when they start up, doctors will advise you to lay down for two hours on your left side and drink some water (around 2 8 oz glasses). If they do not slow down or you are having more than 4-6 an hour, it's a good time to go to the hospital. Don't second guess this! Because of the irritability, it's quite common people with irritable uterus can go into preterm labor.
Actually, once women are taking off of all medication and bed rest at 37 weeks, they often have their babies within 24 hours of the going "cold turkey".
Here's my story surrounding it in hopes to alleviate some stress for women that experience this.
Pregnancy Number One
During my pregnancy with Zachery, I started contracting consistently at 5 months. No matter what I did, I could not get the contractions to stop and I was pretty uncomfortable. The doctor placed me on strict bed rest with no medication. I remember the contractions not being very uncomfortable at all unless I did something like clean the house (it was a three story house) or walk around for a 15 or 20 minutes. The bed rest was an issue for me. I was always an active person and spending four months in bed or on the couch was not ideal. I was the main bread winner of our family and had to quit my job. I remember cooking and cleaning anyway because to me at the time it was ridiculous that I was home all day with my husband out working and me sitting at home doing NOTHING. I didn't quite get the concept of what was really going on with my irritable uterus. I made it full term with Zachery, with no cervical changes throughout the pregnancy. My water broke with him at 4am on his due date and off we went. I still ended up having a c-section because I labored for 38 hours (without an epidural) an my cervix opened to a 2. The risk of infection was too high because of my water breaking and out Zachery came.
Pregnancy Number Two
Jessica came five months after having Zachery by accident (yeah, breast feeding is not a form of birth control). Jessica was an emotional baby in utero and my emotions played a lot on how my uterus reacted with this pregnancy. Stress is something that is extremely important to control during pregnancy with women who have an irritable uterus. It can put you into labor. I learned that quickly with Jessica. I again started contracting consistently at 5 months. My doctor did not put me on bed rest with her. She prescribed terbutaline (a medication I hope I never have to take again). It's like giving a woman a crazy pill, seriously. The side effects were irritability, shakiness, fast heart beat, and anxiety. The terbutaline did calm down the contractions quite a bit and there were only two trips to the hospital with preterm labor scares. Low and behold, my cervix stayed long and closed. Because she came so soon after I had my first son, my body was not happy. I basically would rest quite a bit because I was so uncomfortable with the contractions. They felt harder and would come more often. I think it's because I had another baby so soon after the birth of my son. Although the doctor didn't prescribe bed rest for me, I self imposed bed rest because it made me feel better. It was the only thing that helped with that pregnancy. Now mind you, I had a toddler running around that I had to take care of so I wasn't able to sit down when I wanted to but I would play a lot with Zach inside and taught him how to crawl up in the car on his own so I didn't lift him. With Jessica, I went in for my 37 week check up at 2:00 pm, my doctor checked my cervix, took me off of medication and told me she could come at any time. I ended up having Jessica four hours later at 6:23 pm. As soon as the medication stopped, my body went into labor. The medication had kept off the labor for a while and I seriously feel that without it, I would have had her early.
Pregnancy Number 3
I'm currently 31 weeks pregnant with my last son and have had a slew of problems with this pregnancy. Along with the irritable uterus, I've also had two preterm labor scares and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes around 24 weeks. Contractions with this pregnancy started at 5 months pregnant too but was accompanied with nausea, back pain, lots of pelvic pressure, menstrual like cramping, and diarrhea. I feel like the reason being is because my son is breech, with his head facing inward. The contractions with this pregnancy are in the back, so it feels like back labor and unfortunately these are MUCH more painful than the normal uterine contractions. It feels like a rubber band tightening around your back, sometimes taking your breath away.
My doctor placed me on strict bed rest at 20 weeks and nifedipine twice a day. The nifedipine slowed the contractions down some but not much, even on bed rest, I was still contracting quite a bit. It was very irritating at first. If I got up, walked around, I would contract. If I had to go to the restroom, I would get extremely uncomfortable. I would get nauseous, contractions would start up and I would get menstrual like cramps on both sides of my abdomen. Keeping my bladder empty was extremely important. Also, stress really affected my uterus during this pregnancy. I had a few stressful situations come up and one of them put me into preterm labor where the contractions started to change the cervix. The doctor was able to start the 17P shots with me at 22 weeks and instantly things started to calm down, calm down so much that at 29 weeks the doctor took me off of bed rest and told me to take it easy. I still continued to take the nifedipine as needed. For me, it's important that I take it at least twice a day. It keeps things calm. There are days though that I take it up to four times a day.
I'm also not up and running around like a normal pregnant woman. It's literally a day by day thing. Last week was a very good week. I was able to get up, get out of the house, do some grocery shopping, see some family, and be social without any major discomfort. It took me three days to clean my house because I would do something for about an hour and then have to go rest for an hour. When contractions would start up, I'd go home and lay down for a few hours, with a few glasses of water and I was fine. I could get the contractions to slow down and even stop.
This week has been a very rough week. I've had two stressful situations come up this week and one of the side effects of the 17P shots along with this point in pregnancy is being emotional. Combine stress and those side effects and I was an emotional MESS. The contractions started up Tuesday and have continued through Thursday evening. I was able to calm myself down, however, my body was not calm. I've had to lay in bed for three days because the contractions are really uncomfortable. I noticed that as my son gets bigger, the contractions get more and more uncomfortable to deal with. These contractions honestly feel like labor pains but I treat them as normal contractions, per my doctor. Remember, each woman is different. Each pregnancy is different. For this pregnancy, normal contractions for me include very difficult contractions accompanied with nausea, diarrhea, and low back pain because of the way my baby is positioned and because it's my third pregnancy. My body is not happy.
I'm hoping to make it to week 37 with this baby boy and am doing the best I feel possible for my body. I listen to it. When I start contracting I sit or lay down until the contractions stop. I've also had to take some family members and friends out of my life for a minute because of the stress that comes with having a relationship with them because stress affects my body. Some view that as selfish, I view it as taking care of me and my son. Because this condition is coupled with the gestational diabetes, there is an even higher risk of delivering my son early, so I have to make sure and watch my diet and drink lots of water. Us with irritable uterus have a disadvantage because dehydration can start the contractions but so can a full bladder. So, remember to drink your water but know where the bathrooms are in the places you go. I've made other adjustments too because of this irritable uterus. When I go to the store, I ride around in one of those motorized scooters because the walking around starts contractions.
Bottom line, listen to your body. Rest when you need to and find happiness in the condition.
I hope this has given you some insight to the wonderful condition we share and one that my husband has coined as "angry beaver" syndrome. Please feel free to share your story and ask questions. Cheers!