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Using Prenatal Corticosteroids does not Increase Children’s Death Rate

Update Date: Oct 15, 2013 04:04 PM EDT

Even though the majority of pregnancies result in healthy live births, pregnant women still have to take some measures to prevent complications from arising. For some women, taking prenatal corticosteroids is necessary to curb preterm births, which increase the infant's and mother's risks of having potentially life threatening problems during and post birth. Women who are at high risk of giving birth prematurely are usually recommended to receive one dosage of this type of therapy. According to a new study, receiving multiple courses of prenatal corticosteroids does not appear to increase or decrease the risk of death or disability for children.

For this study, the research team composed of Elizabeth V. Asztalos, MD from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Canada and colleagues compared the effects of receiving either a single course or multiple courses of corticosteroids on the risk of death and brain disorders. These neurodevelopmental disabilities included cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or irregular attention or behavior. The researchers examined children born to mothers who were a part of the Multiple Courses of Antenatal Corticosteroids for Preterm Birth Study (MACS). The follow-up of this studied gathered information on over 1,700 mothers and their children.

The researchers calculated the risk of death or neurodevelopmental disability in each group. In the group of women who received multiple courses of corticosteroids, 217 out of 871 children, or 24.9 percent, suffered from some kind of complication. In the other group, 210 out of 848, or 24.8 percent, had similar complications. The researchers concluded that taking more courses of corticosteroids would not increase or decrease the children's risk factors.

"Multiple courses, compared with a single course, of antenatal corticosteroid therapy did not increase or decrease the risk of death or disability at 5 years of age. Because of a lack of strong conclusive evidence of short-term or long-term benefits, it remains our opinion that multiple courses should not be recommended in women with ongoing risk of preterm birth," the authors reported.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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