Brethine, also known by its generic name terbutaline, is a medication used primarily to treat asthma. It has also been found to be highly effective in stopping preterm uterine contractions. It works on asthma by relaxing the muscles of the lungs; for preterm labor, it has a similar effect on the muscles of the uterus. This drug does have side effects: It speeds up the mother’s and baby’s heart rates, and it can cause nausea, flushing, and nervousness. These symptoms generally are bothersome for the first few days only. Rarely are severe complications seen.
You are correct that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved this drug for pregnancy, but FDA approval for medications takes many years. This medication, like many others, has been used in Europe for preterm labor for years. Studies have shown no increased incidence of short- or long-term developmental problems in children whose mothers were given terbutaline in pregnancy. Whenever the use of medication is considered, it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks. Premature birth can cause a baby significantly more complications than can taking this medication to delay the birth. Always remember to have your practitioner validate medical information that you hear from friends, relatives, or people you encounter on the Internet. Inaccurate information can bring more worry than help.
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