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PLoS One. 2013 May 6;8(5):e63800. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063800. Print 2013.

A comparison of the contractile properties of myometrium from singleton and twin pregnancies.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.



Over half of twin pregnancies in US and UK deliver prematurely but the reasons for this are unclear. The contractility of myometrium from twin pregnancies has not been directly investigated. The objective of this research was to determine if there are differences in the contractile activity and response to oxytocin, between myometrium from singleton and twin pregnancies, across a range of gestational ages. Furthermore, we wished to determine if contractile activity correlates with increasing level of stretch, using neonatal birth weights as a marker of uterine stretch.


This was an in vitro, laboratory based study of myometrial contractility in women pregnant with one or two babies, using biopsies obtained from non-labouring women undergoing Caesarean section. Spontaneous, oxytocin-stimulated and depolarization induced contractile activity was compared.


Direct measurements of myometrial contractility under controlled conditions show that the frequency of contractions and responses to oxytocin are significantly increased in twins compared to singletons. The duration of contraction however was significantly reduced. We find that contractile activity correlates with increasing levels of stretch, using neonatal birth weights as a surrogate for uterine stretch, with response to oxytocin being significantly positively correlated with birth weight.


We have found significant differences in contractile properties between myometrium from singleton and twin pregnancies and that increasing uterine stretch can alter the contractile properties of myometrium. We discuss the implication of these findings to preterm delivery and future studies.

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