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In this lesson I will discuss tocolytics with you and why they are used and what to watch for with each.
What is a tocolytic? This is a medication that stops contractions. So it is an anti-contraction meds or labor suppressant. And why in the world would we stop labor? Well preterm labor needs to be stopped as well as when the uterus is hyperstimulated, so contracting too much. Also when a breech patient comes for a version, for flipping the baby the provider will want to relax the uterus so we give a tocolytic. Now there is constant research going on with tocolytics so this is ever changing but we will talk about some of the main ones.
Let’s look at some options. Terbutaline and Nifedipine are the ones I see used most but this can vary by the facility. Terbutaline is going to be given IV or subcutaneous. The biggest side effect is maternal tachycardia. T and T. We typically would just continue to monitor the mother through this tachycardia. It is one of those benefit over risk things where giving her the terbutaline is more important unless she worsens or has other concerns. Nifedipine is given PO and the biggest side effect will be hypotension. Indomethacin is given either PO, rectal, or vaginal. This drug is an NSAID so a mother with peptic ulcers or bleeding problems should probably be given a different tocolytic. This drug puts the fetus at risk also. It can decrease the amount of urine the fetus produces so we need to watch for oligohydramnios and it can also cause the ductus arteriosus to close in the heart prior to birth. This is rare but ultrasounds should be done to detect if this has occurred but this can cause big problems for the baby.
We want to offer medication education. So things to educate the family on are what to expect. If she is given terbutaline for example we want her to know that she might feel her heart rate increase or with Nifedipine her blood pressure might drop so she might feel lightheaded. We also want her to know the medication purpose. Why are we are giving it? We need to stop the contractions. Also we want her to report any side effects. We will be really monitoring the patient but if she starts to not feel right or is having these side effects then we want to know so we can intervene if necessary.
Our concepts are pharmacology because we are talking about medications. Safety because we are looking out for the safety of the baby by stopping preterm labor and also safety of the mother with medication use and evidence based practice because research is continually being done about the best treatments for preterm labor and is ever evolving.
Alright so the important things for you to remember are here. Tocolytics are used to stop uterine contractions. So this would be in preterm labor or anytime we need to relax the uterus. So for example a version or a hyperstimulated uterus during labor. The most commonly used drugs are Terbutaline, Nifedipine, and Indomethacin. Our biggest side effects of terbutaline are tachycardia. Nifedipine is hypotension, and indomethacin is bleeding because it is a NSAID, oligohydramnios from a decrease in fetal urine and the ductus arteriosus closing prior to delivery, so this should only be used if less than 32 weeks gestation
Make sure you check out the resources attached to this lesson and review the side effects of each tocolytic. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing.