Definitions

Preterm labor: Cervical change associated with uterine contractions prior to 37 completed weeks and after 20 weeks' gestation. In a nulliparous woman, uterine contractions and a single cervical examination revealing 2-cm dilation and 80% or greater effacement is sufficient to make the diagnosis.

Tocolysis: Pharmacologic agents used to delay delivery once preterm labor is diagnosed. The most commonly used agents are magnesium sulfate, terbutaline, ritodrine, and indomethacin.

Antenatal steroids: Betamethasone or dexamethasone given intramuscularly to a pregnant woman in an effort to decrease some of the complications of prematurity, particularly respiratory distress syndrome (intraventricular hemorrhage in the more extremely premature babies).

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