Short-term outcomes in low birth weight infants following antenatal exposure to betamethasone versus dexamethasone

Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Sep;104(3):484-8. doi: 10.1097/


Objective: To assess the incidence of short-term outcomes of low birth weight infants (</= 1,750 g) exposed prenatally to either dexamethasone or betamethasone.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed a cohort comprising 550 infants who were born alive at our center during the period January 1999 through December 2001, who weighed 1,750 g or less at birth, and who were exposed to prenatal steroid treatment. We compared brain ultrasound findings, such as intraventricular hemorrhage and cystic periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), as well as other clinical findings, including respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), necrotizing enterocolitis, retinopathy of prematurity, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, for all premature infants whose mothers received either dexamethasone (from January 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000, n = 263) or betamethasone (July 1, 2000 to December 31, 2001, n = 287).

Results: Patient characteristics (mothers and infants) were the same in both groups, with the exception of the number of steroid courses administered, the number of women with premature rupture of membranes (defined as > 24 hours), and the number of women who had received tocolysis. No significant difference was found between the 2 groups with respect to intraventricular hemorrhage and cystic PVL frequencies. No significant differences were found in the incidence of short-term outcomes examined, despite the fact that the dexamethasone group was exposed to a statistically significantly greater number of courses than the betamethasone group.

Conclusion: There seem to be no advantages to maternal antenatal treatment with betamethasone compared with dexamethasone in reducing the risk of PVL in low birth weight (</= 1,750 g) infants. Both drugs have the same effect on all short-term outcome parameters checked.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Betamethasone / therapeutic use*
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone
  • Betamethasone