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Doctor Warns That Common Preterm Delivery Drug Might Not Help

New research suggests that a common drug used to delay preterm births might not offer any real benefits for newborns. Because the doctor does not think that these drugs help prevent problems, he also mentioned the risk of causing worse harms by trying to delay deliveries.

Doctors use these drugs, known as tocolytics, to temporarily arrest labor for up to 48 hours. This gives doctors more time to prepare for the birth. For example, doctors sometimes administer steroids to the unborn infant to help accelerate lung development. Tocolytics can also buy time for medical staff to move the mother to a more sophisticated hospital that is equipped to provide better care for premature babies.

Despite this 48-hour opportunity, the doctor concludes that new research shows no actual health benefits for infants. If tocolytics do not make infants healthier, it is possible that they unnecessarily expose infants and mothers to greater health risks.

Whenever doctors and perinatal care specialists encounter preterm delivery issues, it is crucially important for them to be very careful. Preterm deliveries can result in a wide range of health issues for newborns, including cognitive impairments, cerebral palsy, and other problems.

On the other hand, resorting to drugs to unnecessarily delay a delivery can be just as dangerous. While potential negative consequences of tocolytics may exist, other drugs like magnesium sulfate and terbutaline are known to cause dangerous side effects.

This research underscores the need for doctors to put all of their professional skill into each and every delivery-anything less can be catastrophic for mothers and newborns.

Source: Medical Daily, "Doctor Challenges Use of Drugs That Delay Preterm Delivery," Amber Moore, Oct. 10, 2012

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