If you are having preterm labor, you may be given medication. Drugs for preterm labor include:

  1. Tocolytics—to slow or stop preterm labor contractions
    1. Calcium channel blockers
    2. Betamimetics
    3. Prostaglandin synthetase inhibitors (cyclooxygenase inhibitors)
    4. Magnesium sulfate
  2. Corticosteroids—to help the baby’s lungs and brain mature
  3. Antibiotics—to prevent infection in the mother and baby


Tocolytics are drugs that minimize the strength and number of contractions. Although an ideal goal would be to stop preterm labor completely, the most that can be reasonably expected from current tocolytics is a delay of 48 hours. This delay allows time for treatment with steroids and antibiotics. Steroids are given to speed the baby’s lung development. Even a few extra days in the uterus can be vital to the baby’s development.

Antibiotics may be given to treat a suspected infection. During this time, you may also be transferred to a better-equipped hospital.

These drugs can be given through an IV or by mouth between 24 and 34 weeks gestation.

Calcium Channel Blockers

  • Common name: Nifedipine
  • Calcium channel blockers reduce smooth muscle contractions, such as those in the uterus. In addition, statistically significant benefit has been seen for infants in terms of preventing respiratory distress syndrome , necrotizing enterocolitis , intraventricular hemorrhage, and jaundice .

    Prostaglandin Synthetase Inhibitors (Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors)

    Common names include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Indomethacin
  • Ketorolac
  • Sulindac
  • Prostaglandins cause uterine contractions, so these drugs are meant to block the production of prostaglandin and may be used in certain causes of preterm contractions.


    Common names include:

  • Terbutaline
  • Ritodrine
  • These drugs cause uterine muscles to relax.

    Magnesium Sulfate

    This is a muscle relaxant that is given intravenously. While this medication has not been proven to delay preterm birth, it is effective in treating pre-eclampsia and does offer protection against brain injury in the baby. It is used frequently in the presence of preterm labor.


    Common names include:

  • Betamethasone
  • Dexamethasone
  • If you are between 24-34 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may give corticosteroids. These drugs help your baby’s lungs mature. They also reduce the risk of respiratory distress syndrome and bleeding in the brain. With these drugs, your baby will breathe easier after delivery.


    Common names include:

  • Penicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Vancomycin
  • Cefazolin
  • Antibiotics help to treat and prevent infection in both the mother and the baby. Preterm babies are at increased risk of infection because their immune systems are immature.