FRIDAY, Dec. 16, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Infants born to mothers who use inhaled glucocorticoids -- a class of steroids -- to treat asthma during pregnancy may be at risk for endocrine and metabolic disorders, a new study indicates.
Researchers looked at more than 65,000 mother-child pairs from the Danish National Birth Cohort who were followed from early pregnancy into childhood.
Of the women in the study, about 61,000 (94 percent) had no asthma during pregnancy while almost 4,100 (6 percent) did have asthma during pregnancy. At the end of follow-up, the median age for the children was about 6, with an age range of about 3.5 to 9.
For mothers who used the asthma inhalers, budesonide (Pulmicort) was the most common glucocorticoid.
The use of inhaled glucocorticoids during pregnancy was not associated with an increased risk of most diseases in children, with the exception of endocrine and metabolic disorders.
"Our data are mostly reassuring and support the use of inhaled glucocorticoids during pregnancy," wrote first author Marion Tegethoff, an associate faculty member in clinical psychology and psychiatry at the University of Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues.
The study appears online ahead of print in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Asthma is common in pregnant women and glucocorticoids are the recommended treatment, the researchers noted.
"This is the first comprehensive study of potential effects of glucocorticoid inhalation during pregnancy on the health of offspring, covering a wide spectrum of pediatric diseases," study co-author author Gunther Meinlschmidt, an associate faculty member in clinical psychology and epidemiology, said in a journal news release. "While our results support the use of these widely used asthma treatments during pregnancy, their effect on endocrine and metabolic disturbances during childhood merits further study."
Although the study found an association between inhaler use and certain disorders, it did not show cause and effect.
The Canadian Lung Association has more about asthma and pregnancy.