How to Delay Preterm Birth and Protect Your Baby

When a woman is at risk of preterm birth, it is important to take steps to delay the birth and protect the baby. Tocolytics can be used for 48 hours to delay

preterm birth

and allow corticosteroids to provide maximum benefit or, if needed, to be transferred to a hospital that can provide specialized care for your premature baby. Medications such as magnesium sulfate, corticosteroids, and tocolytics can help prepare the fetus for

preterm birth

. If the amniotic fluid, or “water,” leaks or ruptures (a condition called premature rupture of the membranes), an antibiotic may be prescribed to stop labor.

If you are less than 32 weeks pregnant and show signs of labor, your doctor may give you magnesium. If signs of magnesium toxicity appear, the doctor stops taking the magnesium and may give you another intravenous infusion, this time of calcium gluconate, to reverse the effects. If labor is successfully interrupted, you may be sent home from the hospital and your doctor may ask you to restrict certain activities to prevent the symptoms of preterm birth from returning. To differentiate normal contractions from preterm birth, your doctor may suggest monitoring your contractions.

If the doctor thinks the baby is ready to be born, usually after 34 weeks of pregnancy, he or she may recommend that labor proceed. Magnesium reduces the chance that a premature baby will have delays in neurological development and may also help delay contractions. At NYU Langone, treatment for preterm birth depends on the development of the fetus, especially on total weight and gestational age. It's difficult for health professionals to predict which women in preterm labor will have a preterm birth.

Treatments include therapies to try to stop labor (tocolytics) and medications given before birth to improve the baby's outcomes if it is born prematurely (prenatal steroids to improve respiratory outcomes and neuroprotective medications such as magnesium sulfate). Depending on your symptoms and your baby's gestational age, your doctor may prescribe medications to delay or stop preterm labor. If you are less than 34 weeks pregnant and have symptoms of childbirth, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid called betamethasone into your arm, leg, or buttocks to help accelerate your baby's lung development and protect against brain complications.If your hospital doesn't have the resources to care for premature babies, your obstetrician-gynecologist may recommend moving to another hospital with these resources.

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