STUDY: Prenatal Steroids Lower Risk Of Respiratory Illness In Late Preterm Infants

baby with doctorsPrenatal steroid therapy reduces the chance of respiratory complications among infants born at 34-36 weeks, so-called “late” preterm infants, according to a study by a National Institutes of Health research network.

Steroids are a standard treatment for women likely to deliver before 34 weeks of pregnancy because these drugs are known to reduce respiratory and other complications, as well as death, among infants born early preterm. Now, researchers have found that steroids also reduce the occurrence of serious respiratory complications in late preterm infants.

Previously, it was believed that late preterm infants could thrive without their mothers having received steroid treatment. Researchers then learned that late preterm infants have a higher risk of respiratory complications compared to infants born at 37 weeks or later.

“Eight percent of all deliveries occur in the late preterm period,” said study author Uma Reddy, M.D., M.P.H., of the Pregnancy and Perinatology Research Branch at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Our results indicate that prenatal steroid therapy for women delivering late preterm could greatly reduce the rate of serious respiratory complications in this group of infants.”

The study was co-funded by NICHD and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).