Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. If you have preterm labor, your health care provider may give you medicine to try to stop your contractions and help prevent health problems in your baby.
There are three kinds of medicines your provider may give you if you’re having preterm labor. They include:
Sometimes these medicines may cause side effects for you and your baby. Side effects are different for every woman and depend on the kind of medicine you get. Your provider can help you decide which medicine is best for you and your baby. For example, if you have a health condition, like a heart problem or severe preeclampsia, some tocolytics may not be safe for you.
Here are some medicines used during preterm labor and possible side effects for mom and baby:
Last reviewed October 2012
No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have preterm labor. But if you have certain risk factors, you're more likely than a woman without risk factors to have preterm labor. Risk factors include: having already had a premature baby or getting pregnant again too soon after having a baby; being pregnant with twins or more; and having problems with your uterus or cervix. You're more likely to have preterm labor if you're underweight or overweight or if you have health problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes or certain infections. Things in your life like stress, smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs also put you at risk. Talk to your provider if you have any of these risk factors. You may be able to reduce your risk and have a better chance for a healthy pregnancy.
You'll know you're in labor if:
If you think you're in labor, call your health care provider, no matter what time of day or night.
There is no set timeline for survival for babies born early. Babies born earlier than 23 weeks have a much smaller chance of survival than babies born after 23 weeks.
About 9 out of 10 babies born at 28 weeks survive. But many have serious health problems. Any baby born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy is considered premature. Premature babies have less time to develop in the womb than babies who arrive on time. This puts them at greater risk of medical and developmental problems. Every extra day in the womb helps the baby develop and mature and probably improve his or her health and development later in life. Between 23 and 26 weeks, every extra day in the womb increases a baby's chance of survival by 2 to 4 percent.