Can medical problems in premature babies be prevented?
When a health care provider suspects that a woman may deliver prematurely, he may suggest treatment with corticosteroid drugs. Corticosteroids speed maturation of fetal lungs and significantly reduce the risk of RDS, IVH and infant death (12). The provider gives the pregnant woman two or more shots containing these drugs. Treatment is most effective when administered at least 24 hours before delivery. The provider also may suggest treatment with medications (called tocolytics) that may postpone labor (often for only a couple of days). Even this short delay can give the provider time to treat the pregnant woman with corticosteroids and arrange for birth in a hospital with a NICU that can give appropriate care to a premature infant, which could make a lifesaving difference for the baby. A recent study found that treatment with a tocolytic called magnesium sulfate may significantly reduce the risk for cerebral palsy in premature infants (24). More studies are needed to confirm the effecti