(HealthDay News) — In some countries, coverage is lacking for the use of pharmacologic interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with preterm births, according to research published online August 13 in The Lancet.

Joshua P. Vogel, MBBS, of the University of Western Australia in Crawley, and colleagues analyzed birth outcomes data for 29 countries from the World Health Organization Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health to assess coverage for interventions to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with preterm birth.

The researchers found that 19% of women who gave birth at 22–25 weeks of gestation, 52% of those who gave birth at 26–34 weeks of gestation, and 24% of those who gave birth at 35–36 weeks of gestation received antenatal corticosteroids for fetal lung maturation and other benefits. Rates of antenatal corticosteroid use ranged from 16–91 percent between countries (median, 54%). Among women who were potentially eligible to receive tocolysis agents to delay delivery, 27% were treated with bed rest and 48% received no treatment. Only 18% of potentially eligible women received both a tocolytic agent and antenatal corticosteroids.

“Future research should not focus on efficacy but on strategies to reduce barriers for appropriate use of antenatal corticosteroids,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial. “Let us not wait another 40 years to translate evidence into global practice.”

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