Antenatal dexamethasone and decreased birth weight

Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Apr;97(4):485-90. doi: 10.1016/s0029-7844(00)01206-0.


Objective: To test the hypothesis that antenatal dexamethasone treatment to promote fetal lung maturation results in decreased birth weight corrected for gestational age.

Methods: The birth weights of all dexamethasone-treated, singleton, live-born infants delivered at our hospital were compared with our overall obstetric population; a group of untreated infants frequency matched approximately 3:1 according to maternal race, infant sex, and gestational age at delivery; and an historical cohort of infants with an indication for dexamethasone but delivered in the 12 months before the introduction of corticosteroid therapy at our hospital.

Results: Dexamethasone-treated infants (n = 961), when compared with either the overall population (n = 122,629) or matched controls (n = 2808), had significantly lower birth weights after adjustment for week of gestation (P <.001). Compared with the historical cohort of infants, the average birth weight of dexamethasone-treated infants was smaller by 12 g at 24-26 weeks, 63 g at 27-29 weeks, 161 g at 30-32 weeks, and 80 g at 33-34 weeks' gestation.

Conclusion: Antenatal dexamethasone administered to promote fetal maturation is associated with diminished birth weight.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight / drug effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage
  • Dexamethasone / adverse effects*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Fetal Organ Maturity / drug effects
  • Gestational Age
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / embryology*
  • Male
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature*
  • Pregnancy


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone