Risks and complications of tocolysis

Clin Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Dec;38(4):725-45. doi: 10.1097/00003081-199538040-00008.


In this article, the author has reviewed available information on maternal, fetal, and neonatal risks and complications of tocolytic therapy. Because no ideal tocolytic agent exists, clinicians must be aware of the potential problems that can be encountered from initiating tocolysis. A variety of tocolytic agents may be effective in delaying preterm delivery. However, whether these agents reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality is debatable. This review emphasizes that serious complications occur from the use of these drugs including maternal, fetal, and neonatal death. Clinicians who use tocolysis, even oral terbutaline, must be aware of the significant side effects associated with these agents. Caution should be exercised not only in their initiation but also in their continuation. Additional research is needed and ongoing to limit the use of tocolytic agents and develop drugs with more efficacy, less risk, fewer complications, and more tolerable means of administration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Channel Blockers / adverse effects
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Indomethacin / adverse effects
  • Indomethacin / therapeutic use
  • Magnesium Sulfate / adverse effects
  • Magnesium Sulfate / therapeutic use
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / drug therapy
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / prevention & control*
  • Oxytocin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors
  • Sympathomimetics / adverse effects
  • Sympathomimetics / therapeutic use
  • Tocolysis / adverse effects*
  • Tocolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Tocolytic Agents / pharmacology
  • Tocolytic Agents / therapeutic use


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Sympathomimetics
  • Tocolytic Agents
  • Oxytocin
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Indomethacin