Does the Combined Antenatal Use of Corticosteroids and Antibiotics Increase Late-Onset Neonatal Sepsis in the Very Low Birth Weight Infant?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Nov;185(5):1081-5. doi: 10.1067/mob.2001.117634.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether the combined use of maternal antenatal corticosteroids and antibiotic therapy is associated with an increased risk of late-onset neonatal sepsis among very low birth weight infants.

Study design: The outcomes of infants admitted to the 3 Cincinnati neonatal intensive care units between May 1991 and May 2000 were retrospectively evaluated. Late-onset neonatal sepsis was defined either as the occurrence of a positive blood culture obtained after 72 hours of life with clinical signs of sepsis or as the need for >5 consecutive days of antibiotic therapy for presumed sepsis that initiated after 72 hours of life. Wilcoxon rank sum, chi-square test, and multiple logistic regression were used for analysis.

Results: Among the parturients delivering the study infants, 434 women (24%) received corticosteroids only, 175 women (9%) received antibiotics only, 819 women (46%) received both corticosteroids and antibiotics, and 370 women (20%) received neither corticosteroids nor antibiotics. Among 1978 study infants, there were 732 infants (41%) with late-onset neonatal sepsis. By univariate analysis, the odds ratio for late-onset neonatal sepsis caused by combined corticosteroid and antibiotic use was 0.96 (95% CI, 0.89%, 1.04%). Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to evaluate the risk of combined corticosteroids and antibiotic use after controlling for potential covariates and confounders. After controlling for outborn birth (odds ratio, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.0%-1.8%), increasing gestational age at delivery (odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.60%-0.66%), interaction between white race and male gender (P =.01) and interaction between antibiotics and prolonged rupture of membranes (P =.02), the use of corticosteroids and antibiotics was not associated with an increased risk of late-onset neonatal sepsis (P =.9).

Conclusion: The combined use of maternal corticosteroids and antibiotic therapy is not associated with an increased risk for late-onset neonatal sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Age of Onset
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Risk Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents