All about the contractile uterus

Tout savoir sur l’utérus contractile

Are you experiencing recurrent contractions during your pregnancy ? Have you ever heard of a contractile uterus? How can you recognize it, and should you be concerned?

What is a contractile uterus?

The uterus is the organ of a woman's reproductive system in which fertilization takes place and the fertilized egg develops into a fetus.

The contractile uterus appears in women from around the 16th week or fourth month of pregnancy. This applies to all women, regardless of the different shapes of uterus. The uterus is made up of a muscle called the myometrium , which contracts spontaneously during pregnancy. These contractions occur repeatedly. They may cause irregular pain lasting between 30 seconds and 1 minute. If you experience more than a dozen in a single day, it's best to visit your gynecologist to make sure there isn't a problem with the cervix, such as it opening prematurely. This can be very dangerous and can lead to premature delivery.

This is a malfunction involving contractions. The contractions associated with a contractile uterus are different from those associated with childbirth: they are not as painful. Associated symptoms also include a hard lower abdomen for a few seconds.

Some women may confuse the contractile uterus with the movements of the child, which can only be felt locally.

In any case, if you are subject to strong contractions, persistent pain, or have any doubts about your pregnancy, consult a women's health specialist.

What causes a contractile uterus?

A contractile uterus can be caused by a number of factors:

  • It may be due to an increase in the volume of the uterus, i.e. as the baby grows, it tends to stretch. This can cause pain in several parts of the body: in the ligaments, as well as a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen and pubic area;
  • Birth preparation contractions: at the end of your pregnancy, you may experience false contractions. These are not painful and are intended to prepare you for labor.

In any case, there's no need to worry as long as they are irregular, not very intense and don't recur too often during the day. If, however, they become more intense and regular (even if you're nowhere near term), you may have a contractile uterus.

What are the signs of a contractile uterus?

There are a number of signs that can help you determine whether you have a contractile uterus. Particularly if you're nearing the end of your pregnancy.

Chronic symptoms

These may be chronic symptoms such as:

  • Intense fatigue ;
  • A stomach that hardens for no good reason, at any time of day;
  • A protruding belly that tends to change shape frequently;
  • Sensations of tightness in the hips and lower abdomen.

False contractions

You may also experience false contractions. The uterus is made up of a muscle called the myometrium. Inside this muscle is the endometrium. This is where the fetus develops. During pregnancy, as the fetus develops, the muscle stretches and increases in volume. This is why you may feel pain as the uterine muscle stretches.

These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. They are similar to menstrual cramps. They will prepare your body for childbirth.

Pregnancy pain

Some women experience pain during pregnancy, particularly ligament pain. The uterus is held to the pelvic bones by ligaments. As the baby grows, this organ expands, and the ligaments stretch to a greater or lesser extent in order to support the baby's weight. It is this stretching of the ligaments that causes unpleasant, painful pulling sensations. These pains usually appear at the beginning and end of pregnancy.

How is a contractile uterus diagnosed?

It's sometimes difficult to know whether you have a contractile uterus, or whether you're experiencing sensations related to the baby's movements, which are more common infirst-time pregnancies.

One way to determine this is to compare their extent. When a contraction occurs, the whole belly hardens. When it's a more local tension, it's caused by the baby's activity.

To diagnose a contractile uterus, the healthcare professional (gynecologist or midwife) will examine the cervix by means of a vaginal touch. This will reveal whether the contractions are having an impact on the degree of opening. The gynecologist will then monitor all contractions for 1 hour to determine their number and intensity.

A urine analysis will also be carried out to ensure that there is no infection causing these symptoms.

Once the tests have been carried out and depending on the results, the specialist will suggest a treatment or care plan adapted to your situation.

Are there any treatments to reduce contractions?

There are several solutions to help you:


There are several drugs that can stop or relieve contractions:

  • Antispasmodics such as Spasfon ;
  • Tocolytics such as Salbutamol.

If you're less than 34 weeks pregnant, corticosteroids can be taken to accelerate fetal lung maturation and reduce the risk of premature delivery.

Precautions to be taken

If you have a contractile uterus, it's important to rest, limit physical activity and car journeys, and take care of your health, etc. In certain cases, and under the advice of a doctor, you can also be confined to bed. Rest is very important in such cases.

Contractile uterus FAQs

How can I soothe the pain of a contractile uterus?

Pain can be relieved by taking medication, or by adopting new habits such as rest.

How can I tell the difference between uterine contractions and baby movements?

Uterine contractions can be distinguished from a baby's movements by their overall appearance. When a baby moves, however, the womb hardens, but in a very localized way.

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The information contained in the articles on is general information only. Although reviewed by health professionals, this information is not error-free, does not constitute health advice or consultation, and is not intended to provide a diagnosis or suggest a course of treatment. Under no circumstances may this information be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultation with a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor.