Pregnancy Problems

Uterine Irritability

Are you experiencing mild contractions? Find out the difference between uterine irritability and Braxton Hicks and how it relates to preterm labor.

What is uterine irritability?

Uterine irritability is when you get very mild contractions that ultimately feel a lot like menstrual cramps. It can be confused with false labor, but it’s different because the contractions are much lighter.

What are the signs of uterine irritability?

You might feel cramping or tightening in your abdomen — those are very weak contractions.

Are there any tests for uterine irritability?

Usually your doctor will monitor your contractions. She may also perform a fetal fibronectin test that checks for preterm labor by looking for fetal fibronectin (a protein that attaches the amniotic sac to the uterus). If the test is positive, it may be a sign that you’re at risk for preterm labor. In some cases, your doc might do a transvaginal ultrasound to check your cervix length.

How common is uterine irritability?

It’s pretty common and normal as your body prepares for labor.

How did I get uterine irritability?

There’s no specific cause for uterine irritability, but it may be brought on by dehydrationstress or lifting heavy objects.

How will uterine irritability affect my baby?

In most cases, it doesn’t mean anything, and the contractions go away on their own. But sometimes they do develop into real contractions and lead to preterm labor or actual labor. So it's a good idea to tell your doctor if you think you're experiencing uterine irritability symptoms.

What’s the best way to treat uterine irritability?

Since it normally goes away on its own, you may not need to treat it. If you’re experiencing frequent contractions, your doctor may put you on bed rest or you may have to be hospitalized.

What can I do to prevent uterine irritability?

You can sometimes stop contractions by lying on your side or changing positions. Also, stress can cause contractions, so take it easy!

What do other pregnant moms do when they have uterine irritability?

“This morning, I started having uterine irritability. I’m still taking the medicine that my doctor prescribed me and doing all I can to stay calm and help these babies stay put. I didn’t know about a full bladder increasing irritability, so I’ll be sure to stay on top of that.”

"I'm on hospital bed rest, and my uterus still has slight irritability. However, I get reassured every day that any woman pregnant with twins will have some irritability, but most people don’t know about it because they aren’t being monitored. I try to drink a lot of water and go to the bathroom as soon as I feel it.”

“I have an irritable uterus and have been on and off bed rest since 25 weeks. Being tired and dehydrated makes it worse. I’m on magnesium gluconate, but to be honest, it hasn’t done much for me.”

Are there any other resources for uterine irritability?

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Plus more from The Bump:

What is a bicornuate uterus? 

What is a contraction stress test? 

Contraction Calculator

By Dr. Ashley Roman