Although prenatal steroid therapy is known to enhance in utero maturation of the surfactant and antioxidant enzyme systems, little is known about the effects of steroids on the antioxidant system after birth. We measured activities of the antioxidant enzymes, catalase, superoxide dismutase, and glutathione peroxidase, in lung homogenates from both preterm and term rat pups after prenatal dexamethasone treatment. Enzyme activities were measured at birth and after exposure to > 98% oxygen. Dexamethasone treatment resulted in significantly higher survival of the preterm pups at 24 h (91.3% for dexamethasone versus 57% for saline). In preterm pups, the activities of catalase and superoxide dismutase at birth were higher after dexamethasone treatment (p < 0.05). However, after 24 h of hyperoxic exposure, there were no differences in activities of any of the antioxidant enzymes between the dexamethasone and control groups of prematurely born pups. In term pups, antioxidant enzyme activities did not differ significantly at birth; nor did they differ after 24 to 72 h of hyperoxic exposure in the dexamethasone and control treatment groups. Our results indicate that although prenatal dexamethasone treatment augments survival and catalase and superoxide dismutase activities at birth in preterm rat pups, dexamethasone does not result in altered early postnatal antioxidant enzyme activities after exposure to hyperoxia.