When a woman is experiencing symptoms of preterm birth, medications called tocolytics can be used to delay or stop uterine contractions and labor for 2 to 7 days. These medications, such as Betamethasone and Dexamethasone, can accelerate the baby's lung development and reduce the risk of health problems after birth, such as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).If a woman is at risk of having a premature birth or is less than 34 weeks pregnant, her doctor may prescribe a tocolytic medication to suppress labor and give the baby's lungs more time to mature. Nifedipine is often the first treatment recommended by doctors. Cervical cerclage may also be recommended if the woman is less than 24 weeks pregnant, has a history of preterm delivery, and an ultrasound shows that the cervix is opening or the length of the cervix is less than 25 millimeters.
Tocolytics can be used for 48 hours to delay preterm birth and allow corticosteroids to provide maximum benefit or, if needed, transfer the woman to a hospital that can provide specialized care for her premature baby.If the amniotic fluid leaks or ruptures (premature rupture of the membranes), antibiotics may be prescribed to help prevent infections in both mother and baby. If a woman tests positive for group B strep or has a premature premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), antibiotics may also be given. The healthcare provider will review the woman's medical history and risk factors for preterm birth and evaluate her signs and symptoms. Depending on her symptoms and her baby's gestational age, medications may be prescribed to delay or stop preterm labor.
If she has a history of premature births, weekly injections of hydroxyprogesterone caproate may be suggested starting during the second trimester and continuing through week 37 of pregnancy.If a woman has a history of preterm birth or premature birth, she is at risk of having a subsequent premature birth. It is important for her to discuss her concerns with her healthcare provider so that they can work together to ensure that she and her baby have the best possible outcome.