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Preterm labour occurs in about 10% of all pregnancies and is the most important cause of premature birth. Women with preterm labour are admitted to hospital to have the contractions stopped. Thereafter, many women remain in hospital until delivery. We conducted a randomized clinical trial to compare hospital care with home care of women who had been admitted to hospital for preterm labour.After they had received treatment for an acute episode of premature labour, women at 2 regional perinatal centres associated with teaching hospitals were randomly assigned to home care or hospital care. Eligible women (n = 250) were aged 18 years or older, lived within 50 km of the hospital, had a gestational age between 20 and 35 weeks, had no prior preterm delivery and were experiencing their first episode of preterm labour and first admission to hospital for preterm labour. Analysis was by intention to treat.There were no significant differences between the 2 groups in mean gestational age at delivery (home: 37.52 weeks, hospital: 37.50 weeks) or in mean birth weight (home: 2974 g, hospital: 3020 g). There were no significant differences between the 2 groups with respect to the proportions of babies born before term or the mean duration of neonatal hospital stay, neonatal intensive care unit stay and intermediate care nursery stay. The mean duration of the first stay in hospital for the women in the home group (3.8 days) was significantly shorter than the mean duration for women in the hospital group (6.1 days). In addition, the mean duration of all maternal stays in hospital was significantly shorter for the women in the home group (3.7 days) than in the hospital group (5.0 days).Home care management is an efficient and acceptable alternative to hospital care for women experiencing preterm labour.