new studies found that infants exposed to corticosteroids during pregnancy to
prevent complications from premature birth had an increased risk of serious
infection, especially if the child was born at term.
providers often use corticosteroids in pregnancies at high risk of preterm
birth to improve the health outcomes of babies born early. Still, scientists
aren’t sure how steroids affect a child long-term, specifically those born
close to their due date.
new research has revealed more information on the impacts of steroid use on
infants, and the findings suggest that practitioners should use caution when
prescribing corticosteroids during pregnancy.
the first study, published on August 2 in the BMJ, researchers examined the
data of 1,960,545 mother/child pairs in Taiwan. They compared the outcomes of
45,232 infants exposed to steroids during pregnancy and 1,915,313 babies who
found that in the first year of life, infants exposed to one course of steroids
during pregnancy had an increased risk of serious infections, including
pneumonia and sepsis. However, this risk was more significant in babies born
full-term than those born prematurely.
the second study, also published in the BMJ on August 2, scientists looked at
data from seven randomized controlled trials and ten population studies. The
studies involved 1.6 million babies born since 2000.
analysis showed that 40% of infants with corticosteroid exposure during
pregnancy were born at term. Among these full-term infants, early exposure to
steroids was associated with an increased risk of admission to neonatal
intensive care, intubation, reduced head circumference, and long-term neurodevelopmental
the researchers say they can’t make firm conclusions about the impacts of
steroid use during pregnancy because of the observational nature of the
studies. In addition, many studies provided low or very low certainty evidence.
in a linked editorial, the authors say that while more investigations are
needed, healthcare providers should consider these findings when counseling
expectant parents about prenatal steroid use.
authors note, "These studies highlight the challenge of preventive
treatments in fetal and neonatal medicine and should remind clinicians and
parents that there is no such thing as a risk-free drug."