Are corticosteroids appropriate for all women who are expected to give birth early?

Corticosteroids help a baby’s lungs mature and are often given to women who are expected to go into premature labour imminently. However, our researchers think that this treatment may not always be beneficial, particularly in women with diabetes, and want to find out more.
  • Author's list

    Dr Emily Frier, Professor Rebecca Reynolds, Dr Sarah Stock

    Start date: August 2020
    End date: March 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

Babies that are born early are at high risk of having breathing problems as their lungs are not yet mature enough to breathe independently. Drugs called corticosteroids can be used to help the lungs mature and are often given to women who are expected to go into premature labour imminently. However, it is unclear whether corticosteroids should be given to women whose babies are at risk of being born only a few weeks or days before their due date, as their use can disrupt blood sugar levels in mothers, causing low blood sugar in babies and slowing down their growth. This could be a particular problem in women with diabetes, who often have their babies slightly early.

What’s happening in this project?

Tommy’s researchers will be looking back over the records of women who had babies in Scotland between 1998 and 2008 to find those that gave birth between 34+0 weeks and 39+6 weeks. The team will find out how many of these women were treated with corticosteroids before they went into labour and see if there are any differences between corticosteroid use in women with and without diabetes. They will also explore whether there is a link between the stage of pregnancy at which corticosteroids were given and the outcomes for the babies, including in mothers with diabetes.

What difference will this project make?

The results of this research will feed into guidelines explaining how corticosteroids should be used in women who are about to go into labour a few weeks or days before their due date, and in women with diabetes.