• Journal Article

Tocolytic therapy for preterm labour: Assessing its potential for reducing preterm delivery


West, S., Yawn, B. P., Thorp, J. M., Korhonen, M. J. H., Savitz, D. A., & Guess, H. A. (2001). Tocolytic therapy for preterm labour: Assessing its potential for reducing preterm delivery. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 15(3), 243-251. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.2001.00335.x


Preterm labour (PTL) is a major contributor to preterm delivery (PTD) but delivery is often not preventable by current therapies. We conducted this study to determine the proportion of women with PTL who were and who were not candidates for tocolytic therapy. The cohort comprised residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota who delivered at > 20 weeks' gestation in 1985-94 and who experienced PTL. Medical records were abstracted to identify episodes of PTL, its treatment and outcome. We developed an algorithm that accounted for gestation at delivery and pregnancy complications to determine the proportion of pregnancies complicated by PTL that were candidates for tocolytic therapy. Of 651 pregnancies complicated by PTL, a 50% probability sample, stratified by delivery year, were selected and abstracted. The cumulative incidence of PTL ranged from 3.6 to 6.4 per 100 deliveries of live or stillborn infants. Tocolysis was not contraindicated for 49.4% of all women with PTL and for a third of women with only one PTL episode. Delivery was delayed to > 35 weeks in 53.8% of candidates for tocolysis. Only an additional 11.7% of women with one or more PTL episodes could have had their PTD delayed beyond 35 weeks if a perfect tocolytic therapy had been available. Many pregnancies complicated by PTL occurred at greater than or equal to 35 weeks or involved maternal or obstetric factors that contraindicated tocolytic medications. The maximum incremental benefit that could be expected of a new safe and efficacious tocolytic therapy would be to reduce current PTD rates resulting from PTL by about 12%