Objective: Despite widespread recognition that prenatal administration of corticosteroids dramatically reduces perinatal mortality and morbidity, clinical practice in this area remains less than ideal. We therefore reviewed our practice to identify reasons for this and to determine attainable standards of care.
Design: Retrospective case record review.
Setting: Level three maternity unit in Edinburgh, UK.
Population: All women admitted at gestations of 24 to 34 weeks and 6 days inclusive, and all women receiving corticosteroids in one institution, over a 10-month period.
Main outcome measures: The number and clinical features of women delivering before and after 35 weeks of pregnancy who had received corticosteroids.
Results: Seven hundred and two women were admitted during the study period; case records were available for 688 of these. One hundred and ninety-two women (28%) delivered before 35 weeks of gestation, of whom 123 (64%) had received dexamethasone. Of 69 women who received no steroids 30 (43%) were in hospital for more than 24 hours before delivery. Overall, 29% of women receiving dexamethasone delivered after 35 weeks of gestation and 42 (24%) women treated with dexamethasone received more than one course. While the grade of admitting doctor did not affect prescribing, there were other significant differences that may help guide future practice.
Conclusions: This study provides some guidance for optimising corticosteroid prescribing and for the development of clinical practice guidelines. Approximately 80% of women should be able to receive at least some corticosteroids prior to delivery before 35 completed weeks of pregnancy.