Antenatal Patterns of Uterine Activity in Low-Risk Women: A Longitudinal Study

Authors

  • Jan E. Dickinson FRACOG, DDU, CMFM,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Obstetrics, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women and the Research Foundation for Women and Infants Health, Perth, Western Australia
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    • 1

      Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist.

  • Maryellen Godfrey RN, RM,

    1. Department of Obstetrics, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women and the Research Foundation for Women and Infants Health, Perth, Western Australia
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    • 2

      Research Midwife.

  • Sharon F. Evans MSc, PhD

    1. Department of Obstetrics, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women and the Research Foundation for Women and Infants Health, Perth, Western Australia
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    • 3

      Biostatistician.


5 King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, 374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, Western Australia 6008.

Abstract

Summary: There is a surprising lack of information on antenatal patterns of uterine activity in the normal obstetric population, with the majority of research having focussed on women at high-risk for preterm birth. We conducted a prospective longitudinal study to investigate patterns of uterine activity in women with singleton gestations at low-risk for preterm birth. Twenty pregnant women were recruited and their uterine activity was recorded using ambulatory tocodynamometry twice weekly throughout the latter half of pregnancy. The collected data were transmitted to a central receiving station for analysis. As gestation advanced there was a progressive increase in the median number of contractions detected per hour, peaking and stabilizing at 37–40 weeks (median of 0 contractions/hour at 20–24 weeks rising to 5.4 contractions/hour at 37–40 weeks). In those women with uterine activity, contraction duration and amplitude of deflection significantly increased as gestation advanced. There was a progressive increase in the number of higher amplitude contractions throughout the third trimester. Increasing parity was not associated with increasing antenatal uterine contraction frequency. No association between normal daily physical activity and uterine contraction frequency was evident throughout gestation. In normal human pregnancy there is a steady, progressive increase in the frequency, duration and amplitude of antenatal uterine activity throughout the latter half of gestation. The uterine contractile profile alters from one of a low amplitude, low frequency pattern in the second trimester to a higher amplitude, higher frequency pattern at term.

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