Friday, March 16, 2012

Dealing With An Irritable Uterus

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!

15 comments:

  1. I am in total awe of your strength Amanda! Thank you for sharing this.. I am sure this will offer great advice to someone dealing with the same issues you are facing.

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  2. I am pregnant with our 7th child right now and have had irritable uterus contractions with all 7 pregnancies.I started contracting at 37 weeks with my 1st pregnancy, 35 weeks with my 2nd, 34 weeks with my 3rd pregnancy, 33 weeks with my 4th pregnancy, 32 weeks with my 5th, 15 weeks with my 6th and only 5 weeks with my 7th. The other difference that I have had is that my contractions are VERY consistent. Once they start they come at consistent intervals 24 hours a day until I deliver. With my 1st pregnancy they were 5-7 minutes apart, with my 2nd & 3rd they were 4-5 minutes apart and with my 4th, 5th, 6th & 7th pregnancies my contractions have been 2 minutes apart for 24 hours a day lasting until I am induced a week early to be put out of my misery. My contractions also perfectly mimic labor contractions in that they last for one minute, becoming most painful right at the height of the contraction. The good news is that they aren't super painful until my uterus gets really big (around 32 weeks). However my uterus is TIRED and I am EXHAUSTED by the end of my pregnancies due to the constant contracting. In trying to help my husband understand what it's like I told him to imagine taking a 3 or 5 pound dumbbell and doing a bicep curl with it every 2 minutes for 9 months without stopping. And then imagine if that weight gradually increased over time so that at the time when your muscles were getting exhausted you were curling the most amount of weight. I have tried putting myself on bed rest and have found that the contractions DO NOT STOP nor do they slow down or spread out in consistency, but when I am up and moving around and exercise the pain seems to be more intense. So I try to rest as much as possible but don't consider myself on bed rest because I still clean and cook and drive my kids everywhere, the difference is that I pay for it in the evening after being active. On the days I am productive and clean my house and take care of my children and cook dinner, my contractions are more intense and painful that evening when I finally sit down. On the days that I spend resting they stay at a constant middle of the road painful all day long. I always start to dilate and efface about 3 or 4 weeks before my due date. I do not notice any difference in the contractions during this time. I will have nights regularly (several times a week) for the last few weeks of my pregnancies where my contractions are so intense that it feels like transition for several hours. (I should say that all but 2 of my deliveries have been unmedicated so I know what it feels like and feel confident in know when "it's time"). Most of the time after having 3 or 4 days of these "transition contractions" for hours every day I will go into my Doctor and my cervix will not have changed at all. I typically will dilate to about a 2 or 3 and sit there for 3 weeks until I am induced. So I imagine that these "transition contractions" that are not progressing my cervix at all are only my irritable uterus contractions increasing in severity since I'm not progressing. My doctor has also given me tributaline to try to stop the contractions which does absolutely nothing to stop them. Neither my doctor or I have ever been concerned with my babies coming early or having any complications in my pregnancies since I have always been so healthy and this seems to just be the way my body handles pregnancy. I got married at only 18 and we had our first baby a year later, so I started having children very young and very healthy. All of my kids are approximately 2 years apart which means that I am only 30 years old (31 in a few months). I'm curious if you've ever heard of someone having a similar experience as me.

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  3. WOW! I cannot believe how similar our stories are! I can almost copy and paste each pregnancy story into my own blog! I feel like now that I'm carrying baby number three, I feel a lot more prepared and informed about how my body is going to be. I know my major problems the first two times were dehydration and stress, and am already looking ahead to approach this in the best way that I can. It's SOOO nice to hear someone else who can relate - thanks for sharing! IU is HARD.

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  4. Wow! Your story is so much like mine! I'm on baby no. 5 with my 3rd case of gestational diabetes. (Somehow I escaped it for 2 pregnancies.) I have been having contractions on and off for weeks (I'm 28 wks now) sometimes I cant tell when one contraction begins or ends. I have noticed when my bladder was full I contract...when I dont drink enough I contract or when I'm stressed at all I contract. Certain people walking into a room makes me contract bc of the stress I feel from them. I was on bedrest for a few weeks due to a bout of bleeding, coupled with contractions and low back pain. With my last 2 babies I had prodromal labor where my contractions were actually SLOWLY dialating me weeks before my babies were born. Thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes I feel like people around me think I'm just making this stuff up...glad to have someone to relate to.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your stories. I have irritable uterus with my (only) child. I felt contractions at 16 weeks and was told it was BH. I went into labor at 28 weeks, had a positive fetal fibronetrine and was hospitalized for days. When baby didn't come I was put on very strict bedrest at home. I felt that nobody knew what I was going through, it was so painful and difficult. The contractions were continuous every 2-3 minutes with the odd deep 10 minute long contraction. I remember just crying on the floor wanting them to stop, not wanting to go to the hospital... again. It was my hell and I remember asking my husband to push me down the stairs just to make the pain stop to force the baby out. My daughter is just over a year now, she was born at 38 weeks, small at just over 5 lbs. My husband wants another child, I'm terrified I'll have IU again. From these stories it sounds like you get it with every pregnancy. My doctor for my 1st pregnancy was a GP, did others use OB-GYNs or mid-wives? She was wonderful but just didn't understand what I was going though, always saying "I know you're uncomfortable, but..." Uncomfortable was an understatement. I couldn't roll over in bed without contraction, I couldn't take a deep breath or even blink... for 10 weeks. I'm for sure I can do it again. Your stories uplift me, the strength of women amazes me. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. It makes me feel a tiny bit better reading your stories! I am 18 weeks pregnant now with my second child, and last week it happened at night that i felt my lower belly contracting, no pain, but it became really hard and stayed hard for quite a while. It repeated pretty often and more than 4 times in an hour. I got so scared!!! I didn't know what to do.
    The next day I called the ER and they told me to come in, and I did. They took blood and looked at my urine, listened to the baby's heart beat and made an ultrasound. Everything was ok.
    My problem is that i can't believe that everything is ok because i just can't imagine that this is normal. But there is nothing they will do because i am only 18 weeks... Yesterday it was the same thing again: I felt my lower belly contracting a lot without pain. I was cleaning the house before it started.
    I read so much about Braxton Hicks, but my contractions are way more often and last longer than one hour (maybe two or three). I also feel like if my son (5 years old) moves around on the bed next to me i feel it inside my uterus, if i wear pants i feel like it wants to start contracting and also after using the bathroom... I told the doctor about that and she couldn't tell what that could be because my test were normal. So they just send me home and tell me to come back for my next appointment in two weeks - to weeks worrying for me.
    I just kinda put myself on bed rest (as far as that is possible with a five-year-old). Try to do my house cleaning bit by bit at the time with resting inbetween and got me some Magnesium over the counter. I also try to drink as much as i can and use the bathroom more frequently so my bladder wouldn't become to full.
    Those things i did out of my own intuition, doctors gave me no kind of advise, they just send me home as if i am making stuff up, not taking me seriously.
    Now i am waiting for my next appointment in two weeks, hoping they will tell me that my cervix still will be closed. And hoping to make it to more than 20 weeks so the doctors might help me more and eventually give me some meds for those contractions!

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  7. Listening to your body is a great message! Thanks for sharing this, Amanda. You had to go through so much!

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  8. Wow, I can't imagine what that's like! I had a hard enough time dealing with contractions at the normal time! A woman's strength is amazing!

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  9. I am 28 weeks and 6 days I was having cramps two weeks ago went into the doctors to see what was up turns out I had an infection. Was on medication for five days after that I was fine for a week now on Tuesday night I called about cramps again. Called and got sent into L&D they checked me for uti and my infection again both came back negitive. My cervix was still closed and long bit I was having mini contractions. After monitoring them for 3 hours got sent home and told to call if the pain gets worse if there is any leaking or bleeding. Also to drink water and get plenty of rest. Spent the whole day Wednesday in bed and drank tons of water cramps where of and on all day with back pain. No tightening at all just cramps those two days. Woke up Thursday didn't have any cramps but every time I got up to use the bathroom my stomach would harden I would use the bathroom then everytime I was done using the bathroom and stand it would tighten again. Still no pain I went to sleep and then woke up at 12:00 with cramps and back pain and tightening of the stomach when I stand to use the bathroom or after. I have been awake for two hours with this happening can't time it because it just feels constant. Not sure if this is what I have wasn't told what was wrong just what it maybe. Reading these stories makes me feel a bit better considering its my first pregnancy and I'm freaking out over everything. This is like two years later but
    hey it feels good to get my story out there.

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  10. 2nd pregnancy and dealing with another irritable uterus. The first time, it started about 5 weeks before I was due and they had to "stop labor" about 2 or 3 times. Then when I hit that 37 week mark, they said just to let it happen if it may...but my due date came and this whole time having contractions and no baby. They induced me b/c I also have GD (as I do again). So here I am, baby#2 and the contractions started again about week 36. They can be 3-8 minutes apart some days and last for many hours. Sometimes there is lower cramping and back pain, other days just tight-long contractions. I tell this to friends and they think I'm crazy or it's just "braxton hicks". Can be frustrating. But now I'm in the stage of not knowing when it is real labor. All the stories I read about people going into labor sound just like what I experience on a daily basis (except the water breaking sign) And when I was in labor with my first after the induction, it felt just like this does. Confusing, right? My uterus feels really bruised some days after all the contractions. This is definitely not fun but I guess there will be a time soon it will be over and I will really go into labor or they will induce again. Grrrrrr

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  11. This post and all of the comments have been so helpful. I'm on my fourth pregnancy (25 weeks along). My first baby was born at 33 weeks after I went into preterm labor. With my 2nd & 3rd I began contracting at 20 weeks but was able to carry to term with the help of progesterone shots. Now I'm on my fourth and final pregnancy. As expected, I began contracting at 19 weeks and began my weekly progesterone shots. All went well for the first two weeks on the shots, and then to my dismay, I began suddenly contracting again. I called my Dr. and he prescribed Nifedipine to take as needed, and told me that if that didn't stop the contractions I needed to come in to L&D. The meds knocked out the contractions, but unfortunately the side effects seemed to knock me out too! When I take it I get a severe migraine, racing heartbeat and very dizzy when I stand. But I'm grateful it stopped my contractions. I see my Dr. every two weeks so he can keep an eye on my cervix. With as painful and regular as my contractions have been, I was shocked (in a good way) that no change had happened to my cervix. When I asked him what the heck was going on with my body, he said, "It's just what your body does." I was given the usual advice that has been listed (stay hydrated, empty bladder, lie down when contracting, etc). It was only after doing my own internet research that I realized I have IU. You don't know how nice it is to read all of these stories and say, "I'm not the only one!" After all of these experiences I also agree that what it comes down to listening to your own body. As much as I wanted answers, no one else knew exactly what I was feeling. Through trial and error I've learned that stress and activity are my main triggers. It's maddening with three little kiddos at home to not think, "If these contractions aren't causing labor, why should I stay down?" But the bottom line is (and IMO, the most frustrating part of IU), you just never know when these contractions MIGHT lead to real labor. I've done the NICU thing, and nothing is worth the anxiety of watching your little one struggle like that. So, even though my Dr. doesn't hold much to bed rest, I know lying down is the best thing to make my contractions stop. I've been blessed to have family and friends rally around and offer help. Normally, I'm the type who says, "Thanks so much, but I'll be fine. It's no big deal." But this experience has humbled me enough to realize that I need help, and people want to help. So, listen to your body. Err on the side of caution, don't be afraid to ask for and accept help, and most of all, realize that this is all for a good cause! It won't last forever. At least these are the things I'm telling myself to stay sane as I look ahead at the next 12-15 weeks of modified bed rest. It will all be worth it in the end and, though it may not seem like it now, one day life will return to normal.

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  12. Having this is utterly horrible! What makes it worse is going to the doctors and them playing it down. Hearing them say it is "a little annoyance" absolutely drove me nuts!!! Do not give up, listen to your bodies and if you are having frequent contractions, keep going in. It is found that an IT can turn into real labor without notice. I'd rather take 100 trips to the docs than deliver my baby early at home, perhaps by myself. Eventually you will find the right doctor who will listen and treat you. I am 23 weeks along with my fourth baby, fourth c-sec, third insidence of IT. I am on partial bed rest, Progesterone supp. every night, and Nifedipine PRN. It is nice to at the very least have a plan or something to go to when the contractions flare up. And really do take care of yourselves, it is only a few months and a small price to pay for your munchkins to stay the much needed time in the belly. Do not give up or be disappointed with what seems like wasted time, when you go in to the doctors and they send you back. Being concerned and proactive about your baby is never a waste of time. I have Kaiser Ins. and it was not easy seeing the same doctor twice so I had to keep explaining my situation over and over to every doctor who happened to be there. Finally after seeing five different people, there was one who had experienced a case like mine only twice in his 40+ year carrier!!! He knew just what to do, by that time it took a couple of shots of Terbutaline, 24 hrs of round the clock Endocin, paralleled with Nifedipine, and three liters of IV to finally get the contractions down to about 6 an hour. Far better than every 3 min = 20 an hour, and much more manageable to say the least. On the upside it really does take a while for the IT to turn into active labor, however, it can and will happen, so be safe, be persistent, you and your baby do not have to suffer!!! If you are experiencing this, you are not crazy, you are not a liar, do not let anybody tell you that it is normal or nothing. You know your body and if it doesn't feel right keep seeking treatment and make sure your baby is ok. Thank you for this post Amanda!

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  13. Has anyone tried cramp bark? Its our 5th baby and I didn't have any health issues with my first four,but at around 9 weeks into this pregnancy the cramps, and even lower back pain started. My midwife said to keep taking it, and if I do it faithfully and also rest a few hours a day, the cramps do go away. I was wondering what other women's experience with it might've been.

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