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Maternal Corticosteroid Use Linked to Orofacial Clefts

Moderate risk associated with corticosteroid use during first 12 weeks of pregnancy

MONDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal use of corticosteroids during early pregnancy may moderately increase the risk of orofacial clefts in infants, according to a report published in the December issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Suzan L. Carmichael, Ph.D., of the March of Dimes Foundation/California Department of Health Services, California Birth Defects Monitoring Program in Berkeley, and colleagues interviewed mothers of 1,141 cases with cleft lip and palate, 628 cases with cleft palate, and 4,143 controls.

The researchers found that corticosteroid use from four weeks before conception through 12 weeks after conception was reported by mothers of 33 infants with cleft lip palate (2.9 percent), mothers of six infants with cleft palate (1 percent), and 72 control subjects (1.7 percent). They calculated a crude odds ratio for orofacial clefts of 1.7 for "any" versus "no" use of corticosteroids.

"Given that a relatively small percentage of women use corticosteroids during pregnancy and the moderate increase in risk, corticosteroid use likely accounts for only a small fraction of clefts," the authors write. "Previously published information regarding potential differences in risks that are associated with particular types of corticosteroids, timing of exposure, or phenotypes is limited. Information on the association of corticosteroid medications with other birth defects is even more limited. Further studies are needed to provide this information."

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