Fetal health and preterm labor

A doctor or nurse-midwife must consider many factors when deciding how to treat preterm labor. Treatment to slow or stop labor may not be used, or may be stopped, if a fetus:

  • Has an abnormal heart rate or shows other signs of not tolerating labor. In such a case, a cesarean section (C-section) delivery is sometimes necessary to prevent fetal harm.
  • Is small for its age, may be undernourished, or both.
  • Has been affected by tocolytic medicine used to stop labor.
  • Has died before birth.

If results from an amniocentesis have shown that the fetus's lungs are mature, a mother in preterm labor may be allowed to deliver without delay.

Last Updated: January 14, 2009

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