What is Uterine Tachysystole? Can it Harm the Baby?

Most mothers who’ve gone through labor want it to be over pronto! But it’s actually harmful for contractions to come on too fast and too strong. When that happens, the woman might be suffering from uterine tachysystole–and suffering’s a good word for it. 

With this condition, contractions can be very painful and long. There may be little time to recover between them. And while it’s not always dangerous, in some cases tachysystole does lead to injuries for the mother, baby, or both. 

A woman overwhelmed with emotion cradles her newborn baby in her arms after childbirth.

What is Uterine Tachysystole?

Uterine tachysystole is the medical term for when a woman has excessive contractions during labor. The meaning of “excessive’ can vary a bit. But in general, it’s when a woman experiences more than five contractions in a 10-minute period, averaged over a 30-minute window. These contractions can be too frequent or too intense, which may lead to complications.

What Causes Uterine Tachysystole?

Uterine tachysystole can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Using labor-inducing medications such as oxytocin (Pitocin), prostaglandins, or misoprostol.
  • Certain maternal conditions, like dehydration and uterine fibroids.
  • Fetal distress. When the fetus is in distress, it may release stress hormones that can stimulate uterine contractions.
  • The fetus is in an abnormal position, such as occiput posterior (back-to-back)

Certain risk factors can make tachysystole more likely to happen. For example, having preeclampsia or uterine fibroids might predispose women to uterine tachysystole.

An incorrect dosage of labor-inducing medications, or an adverse reaction to them is one of the most common causes of tachysystole. Research has shown that Pitocin in particular causes worrisome adverse effects. So doctors should be cautious when using it to induce labor. 

An infant affected by Uterine Tachysystole receives care in the NICU.

Can Uterine Tachysystole Harm a Baby?

Tachysystole isn’t a medical emergency by itself. But it can be harmful to the baby, especially if the medical team mismanages it. 

It’s normal for a baby to receive a bit less oxygen during labor. Every time the uterus contracts, the blood supply to the placenta is diminished for a moment. But then the contraction stops, and things go back to normal. 

But contractions that last too long, are too frequent, or are too strong can be dangerous. They can compromise the baby’s oxygen supply, leading to fetal distress and serious complications, such as the following: 

  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome (when a baby breathes in the first stool while in the womb)
  • Fetal acidosis: Insufficient oxygen supply to the baby can cause a buildup of acids in the blood. This might harm the baby’s organs.
  • Stillbirth (in severe cases)

Can Uterine Tachysystole Injure the Mother?

Normal contractions are painful and tiring enough. So is it any wonder that uterine tachysystole causes extreme exhaustion for a mother? This can make labor more challenging, opening the door for potential complications. 

Uterine tachysystole also may increase the risk of postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after childbirth). This happens because the uterus gets overstimulated. It can’t contract effectively to prevent bleeding. 

On rare occasions, uterine tachysystole causes uterine rupture. That’s a dangerous condition where the uterus tears. It can cause severe pain and bleeding. Women with a history of uterine surgery are most susceptible to it. 

A tired woman in labor grips the side of an inflatable tub.

How Doctors Handle Tachysystole

Management of uterine tachysystole typically involves the following:

  • Monitoring mother and baby
  • Putting the mother in the left lateral position
  • Giving the mother oxygen
  • Adjusting medication dosages 
  • Providing hydration
  • Stopping medication administration
  • Performing an emergency cesarean section (if fetal distress persists.)

With tachysystole, the situation can take a sudden turn for the worse. So doctors need to take action as soon as the woman shows signs of excessive contractions. Failing to do so can result in serious birth injuries. It can also lead to serious injury for the mother, as is the case with uterine rupture. 

In severe cases, mishandling of uterine tachysystole may necessitate interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction. Using those tools increases the risk of birth injuries such as cephalohematoma, brachial plexus injuries, or skull fractures.

If you or your baby suffered injuries because your doctors mishandled uterine tachysystole, don’t hesitate to call us. You may be eligible to file a birth injury lawsuit. 

Contact us here and tell us about your injury. We offer free consultations to help you understand your legal options. If you have a case, we’ll help you seek the compensation you deserve.