Preterm Labor - Medications
If your contractions are causing changes
in your cervix (preterm labor), or you have signs of
preterm premature rupture of membranes (pPROM), you
may be treated with one or more medicines, including:
- Antibiotics, to prevent or treat infection. Antibiotic treatment
does not always get rid of infection. But it often prevents infection when the
amniotic sac has ruptured (pPROM) and can also delay delivery after
- Medicines (antenatal corticosteroids) to speed up fetal lung
development if birth is anticipated between the 24th and 34th weeks of
- Tocolytic medicines, to slow down contractions and try to delay
labor for a day or two.
Delaying labor even for a short time can allow you to be:
- Transported to a medical center that has a
neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
- Given antenatal corticosteroids, which take a minimum of 48 hours
to fully benefit a fetus's lungs. Even 24 hours provides some benefit.
Antibiotic medicine is chosen by your doctor or
nurse-midwife based on the type of infection present.
Antenatal corticosteroids (betamethasone or dexamethasone) help prepare the
fetus's lungs for preterm birth.
Tocolytic medicines that are used
to stop preterm labor include:
What To Think About
If you have had a spontaneous
preterm birth in the past, you are probably at high risk for another preterm
labor. This might make you a possible candidate for weekly
progesterone for preventing preterm labor and delivery. No fetal or
newborn harm has been observed, though long-term research has not been done to
rule out long-term side effects.8
A single course of antenatal corticosteroid treatment, used to
prepare the fetus's lungs for birth, is considered to be the least risky, most effective treatment available for avoiding
the most common preterm fetal complications at birth. It is standard procedure
to give corticosteroid injections to most women before preterm birth,
especially for pregnancies at 24 to 34 weeks of gestation.
Before using tocolytics, your doctor will consider your
and your fetus's health, how far your labor has progressed, whether your
membranes have ruptured, and whether you have an infection. Certain tocolytic
medicines can be dangerous when a fetus is showing signs of distress or for
women with certain health conditions (such as heart problems, severe
preeclampsia, or poorly controlled
high blood pressure).