Objective: To study late side effects of antenatal corticosteroid treatment on health and sexual development in subjects 20 to 22 years old.
Methods: A follow-up study among young adults whose mothers had, because of a threatening delivery, participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo- controlled trial of betamethasone to prevent neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. Measurements were taken on general health, growth, development in puberty, reproductivity, genital or gynecological complaints, gender development, sexual orientation, sex-specific cognitive functioning, and psychoneuroticism. In addition, some measurements were performed on family diseases, socioeconomic status, and education.
Results: No differences were found between the corticosteroid-treated and placebo groups as to medical or psychological variables. In general, the subjects were healthy and had normal intellectual capacities. Groups did not differ on gender development, sexual orientation, sex-specific cognitive functioning, and psychoneuroticism. Systolic blood pressure was significantly lower in the corticosteroid group, but the groups did not differ as to diastolic blood pressure.
Conclusions: Our 20-year follow-up study indicates that 1 course of antenatally administered corticosteroid to prevent respiratory distress syndrome does not have adverse effects up to adulthood.