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

TitleImpact of antenatal glucocorticoid therapy and risk of preterm delivery on intelligence in term-born children
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAlexander, N, Rosenlöcher, F, Dettenborn, L, Stalder, T, Linke, J, Distler, W, Morgner, J, Miller, R, Kliegel, M, Kirschbaum, C
JournalThe Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism

Context: Women at risk of preterm delivery are routinely treated with synthetic glucocorticoids (sGC). While 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 comprised a mixed-sex cohort of 222 term-born children (aged 6–11-yrs) consisting of three groups: children of mothers admitted to hospital for threatening preterm delivery who had been treated (n97) or untreated (n36) with sGC and controls without pregnancy complications (n89). 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. While 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.

Refereed DesignationRefereed