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 the female reproductive system in which fertilization takes place and the fertilized egg develops into a fetus.

The contractile uterus appears in women, approximately from the 16th week or fourth month of pregnancy. This applies to all women, regardless of the different shapes of the uterus. The uterus is made up of a muscle called the myometrium which contracts spontaneously during pregnancy. These contractions occur repeatedly. They can cause irregular pain lasting between 30 seconds and 1 minute. If you experience more than ten of them in one day, it is best to visit your gynecologist to make sure that there is not a problem with the cervix, for example that it is prematurely opened. This can be very dangerous and can lead to pre-term delivery.

This is a dysfunction involving contractions. The contractions associated with a contractile uterus are different from those associated with childbirth: they are not as painful. The associated symptoms are also 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 if you have any doubt about your pregnancy, consult a women's health specialist.

What causes a contractile uterus?

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

  • It can be due to an increase in the volume of the uterus, meaning that as the baby grows, it tends to stretch. This can cause pain in several parts of the body: in the ligaments as well as sensations of heaviness in the lower abdomen and in the pubic area;
  • Contractions in preparation for childbirth: at the end of your pregnancy, it is possible to have false contractions. They are not painful and are intended to prepare for labor.

In any case, you should not worry as long as they remain irregular, not very intense and do not recur too often during the day. However, if they become more intense and regular (even if you are far from your due date), you may have a contractile uterus.

What are the signs to recognize a contractile uterus?

There are several signs that can help you know if you have a contractile uterus. Especially if you are in late pregnancy.

Chronic symptoms

These may be chronic symptoms such as:

  • Severe fatigue;
  • A belly that hardens for no good reason at any time of the day;
  • A belly that sticks out and tends to change shape often;
  • A feeling of tightness in the hips and lower abdomen.

False contractions

You may also experience false contractions. This is because 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 size. This is why you may feel pain from the stretching of the uterine muscle.

This is called Braxton Hicks contractions. They are similar to menstrual cramps. They will prepare your body for childbirth.

Pregnancy pain

Some women experience pain during pregnancy, especially 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 to support the weight of the baby. It is this stretching of the ligaments that will cause unpleasant and painful sensations of pulling. These pains appear most of the time at the beginning and at the end of the pregnancy.


How to be diagnosed with a contractile uterus?

It is sometimes complicated to know if it is a contractile uterus or sensations related to the movements of the baby, which occur especially ina first pregnancy.

One way to determine this is to compare their extent. When a contraction occurs, the whole belly becomes hard. When it is a much more local tension, it is caused by the activity of the baby.

To diagnose a contractile uterus, the health professional (gynecologist or midwife) will examine the cervix through a vaginal touch. This will allow to know if the contractions have an impact on the degree of opening. Then, the gynecologist will proceed with a monitoring to record all the contractions during 1 hour in order to determine their number and intensity.

Another examination: the urine analysis will also make sure that there is no infection that could cause these symptoms.

After the exams and depending on the results, the specialist will propose a treatment or management adapted to your situation.

Are there any treatments to reduce contractions?

Several solutions can help you:


There are several medications that can stop or relieve contractions:

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

If you are less than 34 weeks pregnant, corticosteroids can be taken to speed up the maturation of the fetus' lungs and reduce the risk of premature delivery.

Precautions to take

If you have a contractile uterus, it is important to rest, limit physical activity, car rides, and take care of your health etc. In some cases and under the advice of a doctor, you may also be bedridden. Rest is very important in these cases.

The FAQ of the contractile uterus

How can I relieve the pain of a contractile uterus?

It is possible to calm the pain by taking medication, by putting in place new habits such as rest.

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

The contractions of the uterus are different from the movements of a baby by their overall appearance. When a baby moves, the belly hardens but in a very local way.

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Les informations issues des articles présents sur le site sont des informations générales. Bien qu’elles aient été relues par des professionnels de santé, ces informations ne sont pas exemptes d’erreurs, ne constituent pas des conseils de santé ou des consultations et n’ont pas vocation à fournir un diagnostic ou proposer un traitement. Ces informations ne peuvent, en aucun cas, se substituer à un avis médical et ne peuvent pas remplacer une consultation auprès d’un professionnel de santé. Pour toute question, nous vous invitons à consulter votre médecin.