Challenging the notion that keeping baby in the womb for full time is beneficial, scientists have now said that use of drugs to delay preterm labour may actually be harmful for both mother and child.
The Dutch study claimed that preterm labour is the main cause of perinatal illness and death in the developed world.
AdvertisementUsually drugs, known as tocolytics, are used to delay delivery for up to 48 hours, so that doctors can get time administer steroids to speed up the baby's lung development, transfer the mother to a centre with a neonatal intensive care unit, or both.
For the study, the researchers assessed the rate of serious maternal complications in 1920 women treated for preterm labour with tocolytic drugs at 28 hospitals in The Netherlands and Belgium.
And it was found that the overall incidence of adverse reactions to a tocolytic drug was low.
But, the researchers discovered increased problems when the tocolytics were delivered in a multi-drug regimen.
Four women needed intensive care treatment after being subjected to this treatment, which the experts point out has "no proven benefit."
According to the authors of the study, further trials into tocolytic drugs need to be undertaken, but in the meantime they suggested that one should discourage combined treatments.
"After 30 years of research we still do not know whether tocolysis benefits the foetus," Discovery News quoted Professor Roger Smith, director of the Mothers and Babies Research Center at the Hunter Medical Research Insititute in Newcastle, Australia, as saying in an accompanying editorial with the study.
The authors said that the decision to use tocolysis "should not be taken lightly."
"Accumulating evidence ... alongside improvements in neonatal care mean that the old assumption that ''''keeping the baby inside longer must be a good thing'''' can no longer go unchallenged," they said.
The opinion appears as an editorial in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal in response to a study that appears in the same edition.