Obstetrics and gynecology

Magnesium sulfate for preterm labor and preterm birth.

PMID 19701047


Approximately half of the more than 500,000 preterm births each year result from preterm labor. Tocolytic therapy continues to be the focus of treatment of these women. Although a variety of tocolytics are used in clinical practice, magnesium sulfate remains one of the most commonly used agents. Magnesium sulfate has also been the focus of recent research for its potential neuroprotective effects for neonates born preterm. Evaluation of 19 randomized clinical trials reveals that magnesium sulfate tocolysis does not reduce the frequencies of delivery within 48 hours, 7 days, or early/late preterm birth, and is not associated with improvements in newborn morbidities or mortality. No other tocolytic class resulted in improved newborn outcomes when compared with magnesium sulfate tocolysis. We conclude that it is appropriate to withhold tocolysis with magnesium sulfate or other agents from women presenting in preterm labor as newborn benefit has not been demonstrated with such treatment. If initiated to achieve time for antenatal corticosteroid administration, or for other acute reasons, treatment can be discontinued once these goals have been achieved or if labor subsides before then. Because brief pregnancy prolongation is unlikely to improve newborn outcomes after corticosteroid administration has been completed, it is appropriate to withhold magnesium sulfate tocolysis from women with recurrent preterm labor thereafter. If magnesium sulfate is given for neuroprotection, a protocol from one of the three major trials that have demonstrated benefits should be used.