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A new evidence report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, MD, finds that certain drug therapies and diagnostic tools have a positive outcome on the treatment of preterm labor.
Researchers report that the use of tocolytics effectively stops uterine contractions during episodes of preterm labor and is an effective means of extending the length of the pregnancy. However, the research team also found that continued use of tocolytics after contractions subside offers no apparent further benefit.
The evidence report states that antibiotics also prolong the length of pregnancy and the infant’s gestational age at birth, suggesting that there is validity to the theory that hidden infections of the upper genital tract do play a role in preterm labor but that their potentially harmful impact can be moderated.
In addition, the report found that two diagnostic tools, fetal fibronectin tests and endovaginal ultrasound, are effective in predicting which women with symptoms of preterm labor are at low risk of preterm birth. Researchers conclude that these two tests can usefully supplement clinical judgment, offering valuable information that helps avoid unnecessary treatments.
Further, after controlling for whether or not women received nursing support, the use of home uterine activity monitoring for women in preterm labor was not found to have an effect on the infant’s gestational age at birth or birth weight.
The summary of the evidence report, Management of Preterm Labor, is available online at www.ahrq.gov/clinic/epcix.htm. Printed copies of the report are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse, P.O. Box 8547, Silver Spring, MD 20907. Telephone: (800) 358-9295.