Treatment for preterm labor is aimed at reducing the likelihood of giving birth early. If they can't delay the birth until the 37th week, they can at try to buy at least 48 hours. This will allow enough time to give you corticosteroids, which can help your baby gain some fetal lung maturity prior to birth. The steroids are most likely to be effective between 24-34 weeks gestation.
The first line of defense in preterm labor is typically going to be IV fluids since dehydration can be a cause of contractions. This is typically done in the hospital setting. If the contractions go away, you may go home to await normal labor. When you leave the hospital, however, it may be with restrictions such as bed rest.
Tocolytics are a class of medications to reduce contractions. This can include: terbutaline (Brethine), nifedipine (Procardia), magnesium sulfate and others. For many of these medications this is considered an off label use, but they have been used for many years, despite some controversy, because of the risks of premature birth.
These medications can cause side effects that are uncomfortable. The side effects will depend on which medication is used. Some cause muscle weakness, other racing heart beat. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the benefits and trade offs as well as the side effects of each medication being used.
Preterm Labor. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Patient Education. July 2004.
King JF, Flenady VJ, Papatsonis DNM, Dekker GA, Carbonne B. Calcium channel blockers for inhibiting preterm labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002255. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002255.