Preterm Labor - Treatment Overview
Treatment to slow your
preterm labor contractions may be used if:
- You are between 23 and 34 completed weeks of pregnancy.
- You are having regular contractions. This means about 4 or more
in 20 minutes, or about 8 or more within 1 hour, even after you have had a
glass of water and are resting.
cervix has opened (dilated) to more than 2 centimeters
and has begun to thin (efface).
Preterm labor is not always treated. When a pregnancy is
nearing term (about 37 or more weeks), or when the mother or her fetus has a
serious medical problem, preterm labor is usually allowed to continue until
When deciding on the amount and type of treatment, your
doctor or nurse-midwife will think about:
- Your baby's weight and age. Ideally, preterm labor is
delayed until a baby is mature enough that complications after birth are
unlikely. The closer the baby is to full term and the more a baby weighs, the better the baby's chances of surviving and avoiding complications.
- Your health. Very high blood pressure,
HELLP syndrome, chronic disease, infection, or heavy
bleeding can make it necessary to deliver immediately rather than try to delay
- Your baby's health. Signs of fetal distress or
illness can make it necessary to deliver immediately rather than try to delay a
- Whether your amniotic sac has ruptured (preterm premature rupture of membranes, or pPROM).
- The stage of your labor and its rate of progression. For example,
when your cervix is well
effaced (thinned) and dilated (opened) beyond 4
centimeters, tocolytic medicine to slow labor is less likely to be
distance to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
If there is a good chance that you could be transferred to a hospital with a NICU before the birth, your doctor may try to slow labor. If the baby is born before you are transferred, he or she may be transferred after birth if necessary.
- The benefit of the
tocolytic medicines used to delay labor versus their
risks to you and your baby.
If you are treated for preterm labor
is usually treated in the hospital, in the labor and delivery area. Whether
your amniotic membranes have ruptured before contractions start (preterm premature rupture of membranes, or pPROM) or after contractions have
begun (spontaneous rupture of membranes, or SROM), you will be admitted
directly to the labor and delivery unit. If rupture of membranes has not
occurred, you will be observed for at least an hour or two to see whether your
contractions continue and your cervix changes (opens and thins).
- If your cervix does not change, or if your contractions stop or
slow down, you may be sent home.
- If your cervix changes, you will be admitted to the labor and