Promoting the Use of Antenatal Corticosteroids to Boost Infant Survival

Premature Infant

The timely delivery of corticosteroids to a mother before her baby is born can significantly increase the chances of a premature newborn's survival.

In addition to providing premature infants with respiratory support after they are born, it is also possible to accelerate lung development prior to birth. Administering antenatal corticosteroids to a mother who is likely to undergo premature labor stimulates lung development and increases newborn survival.

Corticosteroid administration is standard practice in countries like the United States, but has not been widely adopted in resource-limited healthcare settings. The high cost of commercially available antenatal corticosteroids is one major barrier to widespread implementation. Another barrier is knowing when to administer the drug, because it is sometimes difficult to know when a woman is in danger of going into preterm labor.

Corticosteroids are available in different formulations and can be given to mothers in different doses at different times, but the clinical community has not yet agreed on which method provides the optimal outcome for a premature infant. Given the huge advantages conferred to preterm infants by antenatal corticosteroid therapy, it is important to generate consensus on antenatal corticosteroid best practices, especially in developing countries.

With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NeoRest team is currently reviewing existing research on the use, type and dose of antenatal corticosteroids, with the goal of publishing their findings so they may provide a stepping stone toward adapting corticosteroid therapy for widespread implementation in resource-limited settings.