Betamethasone Cuts Neonatal Respiratory Distress

No long-term cognitive, quality-of-life effects

FRIDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Betamethasone treatment prevents neonatal respiratory distress syndrome after full-term Caesarean sections, and has no long-term cognitive or quality-of-life effects on the newborns, according to two reports in the Sept. 24 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Peter Stutchfield, RCPCH, of the University of Wales, United Kingdom, and colleagues report on behalf of the Antenatal Steroids for Term Elective Caesarean Section Research Team that antenatal betamethasone reduces the incidence of respiratory distress by more than 50%, primarily by preventing tachypnea.

In the second study, Stuart R. Dalziel, MBChB, of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and colleagues examined adult offspring (average age, 31 years) born prematurely, and whose mothers took antenatal betamethasone or placebo as part of a trial to prevent neonatal respiratory distress. There were no differences in cognitive functioning, memory and attention, psychiatric morbidity due to depression or anxiety, handedness or overall health-related quality of life between the experimental and control groups in adulthood.

Betamethasone treatment is thought to increase surfactant production in the newborns. Stutchfield's group concludes that the drug, previously indicated only for pre-term pregnancies, should be used for full-term C-sections to prevent respiratory distress.

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