Depending on your symptoms and the baby’s gestational age, your doctor may prescribe medication to delay or stop preterm labor.
If a urine test during preterm labor diagnosis reveals a bladder, kidney, or urinary tract infection, your doctor prescribes antibiotics. Sometimes, managing the infection stops preterm labor.
If your amniotic fluid, or “water,” leaks or ruptures—a condition called preterm premature rupture of membranes—your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, which can cause labor to stop. Antibiotics can also prevent an infection in the amniotic fluid, membranes, or placenta when this occurs.
If you are showing signs of preterm labor and are less than 34 weeks pregnant, your doctor may administer a tocolytic medication to suppress labor and give your baby’s lungs more time to mature. Tocolytics can reduce contractions, thereby delaying labor, for up to several days. Nifedipine, which is given by mouth, is often the first treatment recommended by NYU Langone doctors.
Tocolytics may not be prescribed for women with certain health conditions, such as severe bleeding, which may be caused by the placenta detaching from the wall of the uterus, a rare condition called placental abruption. In these situations, labor may be allowed to progress for the safety of both the mother and the baby.
If labor is successfully stopped, you may be sent home from the hospital, and your doctor may ask that you restrict certain activities to prevent a recurrence of preterm labor symptoms. Often, this includes instructions for “pelvic rest,” which means that nothing is allowed in your vagina. This can help to prevent contractions, which can trigger labor. Doctors typically advise women to refrain from sexual activity and to decrease or eliminate strenuous activity, such as exercise and heavy lifting. Occasionally, you may be asked to stop working.
It is important to drink enough fluids when you are experiencing preterm labor, because dehydration can cause contractions. NYU Langone doctors advise drinking enough water to ensure your urine is pale yellow or almost clear—for most women, this is about 8 glasses (8 ounces each) per day.