Birth Definitions

Tocolysis Definition

In the birth industry, tocolysis is a drug therapy used to stop or delay labor. It is also known as “tocolytic therapy” or “tocolysis therapy”. The term “tocolysis” comes from the Greek words “to” meaning “stop”, and “kolpos” meaning “birth canal”.

Tocolysis is different from “abortion” or “termination of pregnancy”. “Abortion” is the medical term for a procedure that is used to end a pregnancy. “Termination of pregnancy” is another term for abortion. Tocolysis is not used to end a pregnancy; it is only used to delay labor.

This image shows how often the term ‘Tocolysis’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:


Tocolysis is used to stop labor in a number of different situations:

  • If the baby is not ready to be born yet
  • If there are problems with the baby or the birth canal that need to be fixed before the baby is born
  • If the mother is not ready for labor yet or is not feeling well

Tocolysis is also sometimes used to delay labor for a short period of time in order to give the mother and baby more time to prepare. This is called “induction tocolysis”.

Types of Tocolytic Drugs

There are two main types of tocolytic drugs: beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers. Beta-blockers like ritodrine and terbutaline, work by blocking the action of certain hormones that cause the muscles of the uterus to contract. Calcium channel blockers work by blocking the movement of calcium ions into cells, which prevents the cells from contracting. Both types of drugs can be used to stop labor in the early or late stages of labor.

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