In Britain preterm delivery accounts for 85% of the neonatal deaths not associated with fetal abnormality,1 and it is assumed that this wastage would be reduced if preterm labour were arrested and the fetus allowed to mature normally in utero. Failing this even a short delay would allow for a corticosteroid given to the mother to induce maturation of the fetal lungs,2 3 or for the transfer of the mother to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. Although a reduction in perinatal mortality and morbidity has yet to established4 it is standard to attempt to arrest preterm labour and the drugs used for this include β-adrenoceptor stimulants,5 6 ethanol and prostaglandin-synthetase inhibitors.
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