A twin pregnancy is an entirely different ballgame than a singleton. More tests, more monitoring, more possibility for complications. Something you might experience during a twin pregnancy is called irritable uterus, or uterine irritability, when regular contractions occur but there is no labor or cervical change. An irritable uterus is different from Braxton-Hicks contractions because BH contractions are random with no pattern. Also, irritable uterus contractions aren’t affected by resting or hydrating.
I had two incidences of regular contractions during my pregnancy with my twins (I never had any with my singletons). The first was at 31 weeks gestation. I had regular contractions every five minutes for an hour, and no amount of rest helped them go away. I went to the hospital to be checked out, and my cervix was still unchanged and the FFN test to signal preterm labor came back negative. They gave me a medication to stop the contractions and sent me home.
Over the next few weeks, I didn’t have any major issues until one evening, when I was around 36 weeks, I had a dizzy spell which ended up causing nausea and a major headache. After several hours, the headache had not gone away, so I headed to L&D again to be tested for preeclampsia. Thankfully the test was negative, but nothing they did could make the headache go away. I started having contractions again, perhaps due to the stress of being at the hospital. They were coming about every five minutes, but they never got longer or stronger. They kept me overnight for monitoring. After several hours of contractions in which there was no cervical change, the contractions finally stopped somewhere during the night after a dose of narcotics. I ended up carrying my twins all the way to my scheduled c-section at 38 weeks.
I felt so sure I was in preterm labor those two times, but in reality, I believe I just had an irritable uterus. The contractions were regular, but they never got stronger or longer like true labor contractions and they didn’t cause any cervical change. But they still landed me in the hospital twice.
If you have an irritable uterus, here are a few tips to help manage.
- Make sure to stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause or make contractions worse. I have heard it recommended to drink at least a gallon of water a day when pregnant with twins. That may seem like a lot, but it is manageable if spaced throughout the day, and you will probably be thirsty enough to drink that much, too.
- Rest, rest, and rest. I think what helped me carry my twins to term was in large part due to getting a lot of rest. I was never placed on bed rest, but I did spend a lot of time taking it easy on the couch or in bed. Rest may not help irritable uterus, but it is still a good idea to pay attention to when your body needs it. Carrying twins is like running a marathon. It is a lot of work on your body, and you are still using a lot of energy even when you are not doing anything but resting.
- Avoid extra pressure on your uterus. Empty your bladder frequently and eat small, frequent, easy to digest meals. Anything that puts extra pressure on your uterus could cause contractions, so these tips can help prevent that. Additionally, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common during pregnancy, and emptying your bladder frequently can help to prevent them.
- Better safe than sorry. Call your doctor or go to the hospital if you feel more than four contractions in an hour, even if they don’t hurt. Or if in any doubt at all that something isn’t right, like if you think you are leaking fluid or if you notice decreased fetal movement, call or go in. Even though my contractions were not true labor, I know that going to the hospital was the right thing to do. Sometimes true labor isn’t painful or the contractions aren’t regular.
- Take care of yourself. A twin pregnancy is a whirlwind, but make sure to take care of yourself and your babies and enjoy your pregnancy!
Carrying twins was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but looking back I am so glad I made it through the pregnancy and that they weren’t born early. Sure, I landed in the hospital twice, but everything I went through was so worth it to bring my adorable son and daughter into the world.
Sarah Morel is a stay at home mom to four children six years and under, including twin toddlers. When not working to keep the house clean, you can find her chatting with other parents online, reading books like Harry Potter, or writing on her blog.