Background: Given the high prevalence of asthma in pregnancy, it is important to understand the relationship between asthma medications and fetal growth in the context of appropriate treatment.
Objective: This study examines the effect of inhaled corticosteroids, systemic corticosteroids, and beta(2)-agonists on fetal growth in 654 infants born to women with asthma compared with 303 infants born to controls without asthma.
Methods: Subjects for this prospective study were enrolled throughout North America between 1998 and 2003 and followed up by the Organization of Teratology Information Services. Incidence of small for gestational age (SGA) infants and mean birth size measures were compared among groups.
Results: Mean birth weight of full-term infants born to mothers who used systemic corticosteroids (3373 g) was lower than in the beta(2)-agonist group (3552 g) and controls without asthma (3540 g; P < .05) after adjustment for other risk factors. However, no differences in the incidence of SGA for weight were observed among groups. Adjusted mean birth length was slightly shorter in the systemic steroid group compared with controls (P=.02). Incidence of SGA for length and head circumference and mean head circumference did not vary among groups (P>.05).
Conclusion: The treatment of asthma with systemic corticosteroids resulted in a deficit of about 200 g in birth weight compared with controls and exclusive beta(2)-agonist users and no increased incidence of SGA. These results suggest that asthma management with beta(2)-agonists and/or inhaled corticosteroids during pregnancy does not impair fetal growth, whereas systemic corticosteroids have a minimal effect which should be weighed against the necessity to control severe asthma.