HealthDay News — For women at risk for late preterm delivery, betamethasone administration reduces the rate of neonatal respiratory complications, according to a study published online Feb. 4 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, held from February 1 to 6 in Atlanta.

Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues conducted a multicenter, randomized trial involving women with a singleton pregnancy who were at high risk for delivery during the late preterm period (34 to 36 weeks of gestation). Participants were randomized to receive two injections of betamethasone or matching placebo 24 hours apart.

The researchers found that the primary outcome (a neonatal composite of treatment, stillbirth, or neonatal death within 72 hours after delivery) occurred in 11.6% of 1427 infants and in 14.4% of 1,400 infants in the betamethasone and placebo groups, respectively (relative risk in the betamethasone group, 0.80; P = 0.02). In the betamethasone group, severe respiratory complications, transient tachypnea of the newborn, surfactant use, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia occurred significantly less frequently. The incidence of chorioamnionitis and neonatal sepsis did not differ significantly between the groups. The betamethasone group more often had neonatal hypoglycemia (24.0 versus 15%; relative risk, 1.60; P < 0.001).

“Administration of betamethasone to women at risk for late preterm delivery significantly reduced the rate of neonatal respiratory complications,” the authors write.

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