The administration of antenatal glucocorticoids to women in preterm labour confers clear and significant benefits
on perinatal outcomes, decreasing the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome and intraventricular hemorrhage in
preterm babies, thereby reducing rates of mortality and morbidity. However, there is an evolving body of research addressing
the non-pulmonary consequences of antenatal glucocorticoid administration, particularly in the growth restricted
fetus. In particular, synthetic glucocorticoids, such as betamethasone and dexamethasone, are strong modulators of vascular
structure and function such that antenatal glucocorticoids may have profound and lasting effects on fetal/neonatal cardiovasculature.
This review examines the clinical and experimental literature on the benefits and risks of antenatal glucocorticoids
in the well-grown preterm infant and in infants affected by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), highlighting
the significant lack of specific information on the effects of antenatal glucocorticoids in IUGR infants. This is important
because IUGR is associated with preterm birth and so the IUGR fetus is likely to be exposed to antenatal glucocorticoids.
Recent experimental studies have shown that the fetal hemodynamic actions of exogenous glucocorticoids are profoundly
different in IUGR fetus compared with the well-grown fetus with possible adverse implications for the development of the
immature brain. Such observations merit caution clinically and further investigation.
Keywords: Fetus, placenta, growth restriction, glucocorticoids, cardiovascular, brain
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