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Tocolytic Medicine


Tocolytics are medicines that are used to slow or stop the contractions of a woman's uterus during pregnancy. They are typically given to women who are in preterm labor to try to delay birth for 1 to 2 days.

This delay may be needed for a variety of medical reasons, such as:

  • To allow time for a fetus's lungs to mature after corticosteroid treatment.
  • To prevent labor until specialized care is obtained that either the mother or fetus is expected to need.
  • To relax the mother's uterine muscles before trying to turn a breech fetus to the head-down position (external cephalic version).
  • To reduce the stress on a baby who has a low heart rate or other problem.

Examples of tocolytics include terbutaline, magnesium sulfate, nifedipine, and indomethacin.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerWilliam Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
Last RevisedJanuary 8, 2013

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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