OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of three cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors: nimesulide, meloxicam, and celecoxib, which exhibit varying COX-2 selectivity, on contractile activity in pregnant (before and after labor) and nonpregnant human myometrial tissue in vitro.METHODS: Isometric tension recording was performed under physiologic conditions in isolated myometrial strips obtained from 33 women undergoing hysterectomy or either elective or emergency cesarean section. The effects of cumulative additions of nimesulide, meloxicam, and celecoxib (between 1 nmol/L and 100 mu mol/L) on myometrial contractility were measured, and values for -log(10) EC50 and mean maximal inhibition were compared.RESULTS: Nimesulide, meloxicam, and celecoxib exerted significant relaxant effects on contractility in nonpregnant, pregnant nonlabor, and pregnant labor myometrial strips. Values for -log(10) EC50 values (+/- standard error of die mean) were as follows: nimesulide (nonpregnant) 5.14 +/- 0.93 (n = 6), (pregnant nonlabor) 4.91 +/- 0.75 (n = 6), and (pregnant labor) 5.84 +/- 0.35 (n = 6); meloxicam (nonpregnant) 6.53 +/- 0.57 (n = 6), (pregnant nonlabor) 4.80 +/- 0.71 (n = 6), and (pregnant labor) 5.62 +/- 0.21 (n = 6); celecoxib (nonpregnant) 6.15 +/- 0.99 (n = 6), (pregnant nonlabor) 7.08 +/- 0.98 (n = 6), and (pregnant labor) 7.25 k 0.99 (n = 3). Celecoxib exhibited greater potency than nimesulide or meloxicam (P < .01). The range of maximal relaxation values achieved in the three tissue types were as follows: nimesulide 68-70% (n = 18; P < .01), meloxicam 69-84% (n = 18; P < .01), and celecoxib 69-77% (n = 15; P < .01).CONCLUSION: COX-2 inhibitors exert significant relaxation in human myometrium with a similar potency in nonpregnant and pregnant (before and after labor onset) tissues. Celecoxib, a COX-2 specific inhibitor, was more potent than nimesulide or meloxicam, COX-2 preferential inhibitors. (C) 2001 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.