Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) are an established intervention to improve outcomes in preterm birth. ACS are optimally timed if the administration-to-birth interval is greater than 24 h and <7 days. Evidence has emerged suggesting harm associated with administration-to-birth intervals greater than seven days, or with repeated courses of ACS. Pre-eclampsia is a leading cause of iatrogenic preterm birth, as delivery of the fetus and placenta remains the only cure. This study investigated optimal ACS use in women delivering before 35 weeks’ gestation in the United Kingdom with a diagnosis of preterm pre-eclampsia. Of 1,632 women with suspected pre-eclampsia, 250 delivered before 35 weeks’ gestation with pre-eclampsia. 31 % (78/250) received optimally timed ACS, 49 % (122/250) received ACS more than seven days pre-delivery and 20 % (50/250) did not receive ACS. There were no significant differences in gestational age, mean birthweight, respiratory distress syndrome, neonatal unit admission or neonatal death between groups. There was a higher rate of intrauterine fetal death in the group of women who did not receive ACS (p < 0.05), and a corresponding increase in vaginal delivery and reduction in caesarean section (p < 0.05). Optimal ACS administration is poor in women delivering preterm with pre-eclampsia and the largest group of mistimed ACS administration were those given more than 7 days prior to birth. Clinicians should defer ACS until a decision for delivery has been made, at which point ACS should be prioritised. Judicious use of ACS may improve outcomes.
- Preterm birth