When a woman is experiencing symptoms of preterm birth, medications called tocolytics can be used to delay or stop labor. These medications can provide a window of time, usually 2 to 7 days, for the baby's lungs to mature. Commonly used tocolytics include magnesium sulfate, which is administered intravenously, and nifedipine, which is taken orally. If the woman is less than 24 weeks pregnant and has a history of preterm delivery, her doctor may recommend a cervical cerclage.
Women who have had a premature birth in the past may be prescribed weekly injections of hydroxyprogesterone caproate, starting in the second trimester and continuing until week 37 of pregnancy. Terbutaline has been used as an oral medication in the past, but it has been discontinued due to dangerous side effects. Doctors may also prescribe terbutaline (Brethine) to try and stop or delay preterm labor. If the amniotic fluid leaks or ruptures (premature rupture of the membranes), antibiotics may be prescribed to stop labor.
Women at risk of having a premature birth may feel anxious about their pregnancy, but there are treatments available to help delay or stop preterm labor. These treatments include therapies such as tocolytics and medications given before birth to improve the baby's outcomes if it is born prematurely, such as prenatal steroids and neuroprotective medications like magnesium sulfate. Long-term use of these drugs can increase the risk of life-threatening heart problems in the mother.