A new study from UAB suggests that women at risk of preterm delivery should receive corticosteroids due to strong associations with a lower rate of death and serious illness for their babies. The study says that very premature babies seem to benefit the most from the steroids, even those born at 23 weeks of gestation.
"The benefits of antenatal corticosteroids were substantially larger for infants born at the lowest gestations, including less than 28-week infants," said Wally Carlo, director of the UAB Division of Neonatology.
A team of researchers analyzed data for 117,941 infants born between 23 and 34 weeks of gestation at 300 neonatal intensive care units across the United States. Death or major illness was analyzed by gestational age and exposure to antenatal corticosteroids, adjusting for factors such as birth weight, sex, mode of delivery and multiple births.
The researchers found that exposure to antenatal corticosteroids was associated with a significantly lower rate of death before discharge from hospital at each gestation compared with infants without exposure.
They also found that the number of infants needed to treat with antenatal corticosteroids to prevent one death before discharge increased from six at 23 and 24 weeks of gestation to 798 at 34 weeks of gestation, suggesting that infants born at the lowest gestational ages benefit most.