Scientific article

Impact of antenatal glucocorticoid therapy and risk of preterm delivery on intelligence in term-born children

Published inThe Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, vol. 101, p. 581-589
Publication date2016

Context: Women at risk of preterm delivery are routinely treated with synthetic glucocorticoids (sGCs). Although this therapy substantially reduces neonatal morbidity, concerns remain whether sGC excess may disrupt neurodevelopmental trajectories underlying cognitive functioning. Objective: The present study is the first to disentangle direct effects of antenatal sGC treatment on possible long-term cognitive disadvantages from those of pregnancy complications and prematurity. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study included a mixed-sex cohort of 222 term-born children (aged 6–11 years) consisting of three groups: children of mothers admitted to hospital for threatening preterm delivery who had been treated (n = 97) or untreated (n = 36) with sGCs, and controls without pregnancy complications (n = 89). Intervention: Antenatal sGC treatment consisted of single courses with dexamethasone or betamethasone. Main Outcome Measure: Psychometric intelligence was assessed using a German adaption of Cattell's Culture Fair Test. Results: Children born to mothers at risk for preterm delivery scored, on average, 6–7 IQ points below children of mothers without pregnancy complications, irrespective of antenatal sGC treatment. Compared to females, boys were found to be more susceptible to cognitive disadvantages associated with maternal risk for preterm delivery. Conclusions: Our data indicate that conditions related to a threatening preterm delivery rather than antenatal sGC treatment per se are associated with long-term decreases in the child's intelligence. Although these findings imply that a single course of sGC therapy does not aggravate long-term cognitive deficits, they highlight the need for interventions to reduce the detrimental consequences of distress induced by a threatening preterm delivery.

Citation (ISO format)
ALEXANDER, Nina et al. Impact of antenatal glucocorticoid therapy and risk of preterm delivery on intelligence in term-born children. In: The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 2016, vol. 101, p. 581–589. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2453
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0021-972X

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