How Safe is Delaying a Premature Birth?
Doctors around the world recommend delaying a premature birth, understandably because premature born birth has been linked to a lower cognitive ability in children and there are 14.9 million cases of premature births every year worldwide. However, Professor Alfirevic from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at the University of Liverpool argues, is it really possible to stop spontaneous preterm labour?
In an accompanying research paper, Haas and colleagues carried out a review of several controlled trials to determine the most cost-effective tocolytic agent. Tocolytic drugs are used to delay delivery for up to 48 hours, Medical Xpress reported.
During these 48 hours, doctors administer steroids to speed up the baby's lung development. While Professor Alfirevic acknowledges the importance of choosing the right tocolytic drug, he argues that the stydy conducted by Haas and colleagues did not find any evidence that tocolytic drugs improve rates of newborn illness or death.
Another study that looked into mothers who took antibiotics (erythromycin and co-amoxiclav) to prevent premature birth found that there was an increase in cerebral palsy among the children of those mothers.
Professor Alfirevic suggests that at the moment, there is a need to determine the clinically meaningful effects of the tocolytic drugs.
Clinicians "need proof of a sustained improvement in important health outcomes that matter to women," he says.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' 2011 recommends not using tocolytics, and Alfirevic says that clinicians should be honest and tell women that they are giving them drugs that they hope will prolong pregnancy that may not make their babies healthier.
He said he hopes that the babies are not harmed the attempts to keep them in utero, the report said.