Preterm labor

Am Fam Physician. 1999 Feb 1;59(3):593-602.


Preterm labor is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in the United States. It is characterized by cervical effacement and/or dilatation and increased uterine irritability before 37 weeks of gestation. Women with a history of preterm labor are at greatest risk. Strategies for reducing the incidence of preterm labor and delivery have focused on educating both physicians and patients about the risks for preterm labor and methods of detecting preterm cervical dilatation. Methods used to predict preterm labor include weekly cervical assessment, transvaginal ultrasonography, detection of fetal fibronectin and home uterine activity monitoring. As yet, it is unclear if any of these strategies should be routinely employed. At present, management of preterm labor may include the use of tocolytic agents, corticosteroids and antibiotics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature* / diagnostic imaging
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature* / drug therapy
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature* / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Tocolytic Agents / adverse effects
  • Tocolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal


  • Tocolytic Agents