Effects of asthma severity, exacerbations and oral corticosteroids on perinatal outcomes

Eur Respir J. 2013 May;41(5):1082-90. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00195111. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


This systematic review and meta-analysis sought to investigate whether asthma exacerbations, oral corticosteroid use or asthma severity are associated with prematurity and intrauterine growth restriction. Cohort studies published between 1975 and March 11, 2012 were considered for inclusion. 138 publications were identified for possible inclusion, and nine papers met the inclusion criteria, by reporting perinatal outcomes of interest (low birth weight, <2500 g), pre-term birth (<37 weeks gestation unless otherwise stated) and small for gestational age (<10th percentile for gestational age and sex) in groups of asthmatic patients stratified by history of exacerbations, oral corticosteroid use or asthma severity. Maternal asthma exacerbations and oral corticosteroid use had a significant effect on outcomes, including low birth weight (RR 3.02, 95% CI 1.87-4.89 and RR 1.41, 95% CI 1.04-1.93, respectively) and pre-term delivery (RR 1.54, 95% CI 0.89-2.69 and RR 1.51, 95% CI 1.15-1.98, respectively). Moderate-to-severe asthma during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of small for gestational age (RR 1.24, 95% CI 1.15-1.35) and low birth weight (RR 1.15, 95% CI 1.05-1.26) infants. These data suggest that asthma exacerbations, oral corticosteroid use or asthma severity defined as moderate-to-severe may be associated with pre-term delivery, low birth weight, and small for gestational age infants. Further studies on the effect of maternal asthma control on perinatal outcomes are warranted.

Keywords: Asthma; low birth weight; oral corticosteroid; pre-term delivery; pregnancy; small for gestational age.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Birth Weight / drug effects
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents