Repeated steroids on preemies can increase incidence of  cerebral palsyAlthough the corticosteroid betamethasone can improve the survival rate of premature babies, it may also increase their risk for developing cerebral palsy. Betamethasone is used to accelerate lung development in premature babies. It may also decrease the incidence and mortality from intracranial bleeding in premature babies.

According to results of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health headed by Ronald Wapner, MD, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at the Columbia University Medical Center and an attending obstetrician and gynecologist at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in Columbia, repeated courses of steroids lack safety evidence.

To study the long-term effects of steroids, women who continued pregnancy a week after the initial steroids treatment were given a weekly course of steroids or placebo until the babies were born.

The incidence of cerebral palsy among children whose mothers received long-term steroids treatment were found to be higher compared to those whose mothers only received placebo.

By ages two to three years old, those children with physical or neurological defects were diagnosed to have cerebral palsy.

Since long-term benefits of corticosteroids were not established among pregnant women, Dr. Wapner concluded that doctors should take precaution in administering weekly courses due to the potential harm it may cause to the child.

According to Eurekalert:

NEW YORK – Repeated courses of a drug that is used to improve the survival of unborn premature babies also may increase the risk of cerebral palsy in those children, according to results from a multi-center study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Ronald Wapner, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Columbia University Medical Center and attending obstetrician and gynecologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.