How Does Terbutaline Affect the Baby?


Dear Midwife,
I recently started having preterm labor at 26 weeks. I am now 28 weeks and 1 cm dilated external os 0 cm dilated internal os. I'm on strict bedrest and Terbutaline 5 mg every six hours.

My doctor tried to decrease but I started with more contractions so I am on this medication for a while.

What can some of the side effects be on my unborn son? I know if my OB is very conservative when it comes to medicines and wants me off soon. I want off also even if it means more bed rest. I guess Terbutaline is much better than treating pre-term labor with alcohol like they used to.

Anyway, whatever information you can get me would be great.


Of course no one wants a pregnant woman to take medication unless there is a very good reason, and preventing a birth at 26-28 weeks is definitely a very good reason.

I'm not aware of any research that shows damage to the fetus, but there may be subtle effects long-term. I still think it's the lesser of two evils, though, because the risks of having a very premature birth are known and even greater.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.