If you start going into labor too soon before your due date, your doctor might try to stop the birth. While halting a birth in its tracks seems like it would be an unsafe procedure, the risks associated with it are not as likely to occur as the risks associated with preterm birth. Babies that are born preterm are often developmentally disabled in one way or another. If you start having labor contractions before your 37th week, there are a few things your doctor might try to slow down the process or stop it completely. One method of stopping it is using a medication called Procardia.

Procardia is the brand named for Nifedipine, and it is not actually made to prevent preterm birth. It is a medication used to treat high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. When it is prescribed for preterm labor, it relaxes the walls of the uterus so that contractions stop and the process of labor ceases. While some studies show that birth defects could be a side effect of Procardia during pregnancy, it is safe to take as long as you follow your doctor’s instructions closely. Once you start the medication, you should not stop taking it until your 37th week of pregnancy. When you stop taking after you almost went into preterm labor, there’s a good chance labor will continue, so it’s best to wait until you are fully prepared and your baby has grown to term.

Procardia is only prescribed to women who are otherwise healthy. If you are relatively close to your 37th week and your doctor decides the labor should only be prolonged slightly, he or she might give you a small dose just to delay labor for a day or two. This dosage will likely be accompanied by a steroid that is used to help your baby grow as quickly as possible in the last few hours he or she will spend in the womb. Specifically, steroids promote lung development.

It’s interesting to think that a medication created for heart problems can actually be used to assist in preterm labor, but when your labor contractions start around week 27 and your baby is not fully grown, you’ll probably adopt a “whatever works” attitude. There are too many risks associated with preterm labor, so anything your doctor can do to stop it will be a step in the right direction.

Source: Ahmed Abou-Setta et al: Atosiban Versus Nifedipine For Prevention Of Preterm Labor: Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Using Direct And Indirect Evidence. Evidence Based Women’s Health Journal Volume 2 Issue 2 pp. 27-46 May 2012

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