OBJECTIVE:

To assess if exposure to repeat dose(s) of antenatal corticosteroids has beneficial effects on neurodevelopment and general health in mid-childhood, at 6 to 8 years’ corrected age.

METHODS:

Women at risk for very preterm birth, who had received a course of corticosteroids ≥7 days previously, were randomized to intramuscular betamethasone (11.4 mg Celestone Chronodose) or saline placebo, repeated weekly if risk of very preterm birth remained. Mid-childhood assessments included neurocognitive function, behavior, growth, lung function, blood pressure, health-related quality of life, and health service utilization. The primary outcome was survival free of neurosensory disability.

RESULTS:

Of the 1059 eligible long-term survivors, 963 (91%) were included in the primary outcome; 479 (91%) in the repeat corticosteroid group and 484 (91%) in the placebo group. The rate of survival free of neurosensory disability was similar in both groups (78.3% repeat versus 77.3% placebo; risk ratio 1.00, 95% confidence interval, 0.94–1.08). Neurodevelopment, including cognitive function, and behavior, body size, blood pressure, spirometry, and health-related quality of life were similar in both groups, as was the use of health services.

CONCLUSIONS:

Treatment with repeat dose(s) of antenatal corticosteroids was associated with neither benefit nor harm in mid-childhood. Our finding of long-term safety supports the use of repeat dose(s) of antenatal corticosteroids, in view of the related neonatal benefits. For women at risk for preterm birth before 32 weeks’ gestation, ≥7 days after an initial course of antenatal corticosteroids, clinicians could consider using a single injection of betamethasone, repeated weekly if risk remains.

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