No. 364-Antenatal Corticosteroid Therapy for Improving Neonatal Outcomes

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2018 Sep;40(9):1219-1239. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2018.04.018.


Objective: To assess the benefits and risks of antenatal corticosteroid therapy for women at risk of preterm birth or undergoing pre-labour Caesarean section at term and to make recommendations for improving neonatal and long-term outcomes.

Options: To administer or withhold antenatal corticosteroid therapy for women at high risk of preterm birth or women undergoing pre-labour Caesarean section at term.

Outcomes: Perinatal morbidity, including respiratory distress syndrome, intraventricular hemorrhage, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, infection, hypoglycemia, somatic and brain growth, and neurodevelopment; perinatal mortality; and maternal morbidity, including infection and adrenal suppression.

Intended users: Maternity care providers including midwives, family physicians, and obstetricians.

Target population: Pregnant women.

Evidence: Medline, PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were searched from inception to September 2017. Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) terms and key words related to pregnancy, prematurity, corticosteroids, and perinatal and neonatal mortality and morbidity were used. Statements from professional organizations including that of the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Canadian Pediatric Society were reviewed for additional references. Randomized controlled trials conducted in pregnant women evaluating antenatal corticosteroid therapy and previous systematic reviews on the topic were eligible. Evidence from systematic reviews of non-experimental (cohort) studies was also eligible.

Validation methods: This Committee Opinion has been reviewed and approved by the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Committee of the SOGC and approved by SOGC Council.

Benefits, harms, and/or costs: A course of antenatal corticosteroid therapy administered within 7 days of delivery significantly reduces perinatal morbidity/mortality associated with preterm birth between 24 + 0 and 34 + 6 weeks gestation. When antenatal corticosteroid therapy is given more than 7 days prior to delivery or after 34 + 6 weeks gestation, the adverse effects may outweigh the benefits. Evidence on long-term effects is scarce, and potential neurodevelopment harms are unquantified in cases of late preterm, term, and repeated exposure to antenatal corticosteroid therapy.

Guideline update: Evidence will be reviewed 5 years after publication to evaluate the need for a complete or partial update of the guideline. If important evidence is published prior to the 5-year time point, an update will be issued to reflect new knowledge and recommendations.

Sponsors: The guideline was developed with resources provided by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada with support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (APR-126338).

Summary statements: RECOMMENDATIONS: Gestational Age Considerations Agents, Dosage, Regimen, and Target Timing Subpopulations and Special Consideration.

Keywords: Antenatal corticosteroid therapy; fetal maturation; late preterm; pre-labour Caesarean section; prematurity.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Fetal Organ Maturity
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / drug therapy*
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones