Antenatal betamethasone exposure tied to mental health problems in children

  • Wolford E & al.
  • Psychol Med
  • 28 Jan 2019

  • curated by Antara Ghosh
  • UK Clinical Digest
Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals.


  • Antenatal exposure to betamethasone might be associated with early childhood mental health problems in both, children born preterm and those born at term.
  • Betamethasone-exposed children had higher prevalence of mental health, psychological development (particularly speech and language) and behavioural and emotional disorders.

Why this matters

  • In case of impending preterm birth, synthetic glucocorticoids are a standard treatment for enhanced foetal maturation.
  • While benefits of synthetic glucocorticoids may outweigh potential harms in children born preterm, evidence regarding its effect when pregnancy continues to term (37 gestational weeks) is limited.

Study design

  • Study evaluated 4708 women and their children, born between 2006 and 2010 in Finland, from the PREDO (Prediction and Prevention of Pre-eclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction) study.
  • Information on antenatal betamethasone treatment and child mental and behavioural disorders from birth to December 2016 was obtained from the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register.
  • Funding: PREDO study funded by Academy of Finland.

Key results

  • Betamethasone-exposed vs non-exposed children had higher prevalence of:
    • any mental and behavioural disorder (aOR, 2.76; P<.001>
    • psychological development disorders (aOR, 3.61; P<.001>
    • behavioural and emotional disorders (aOR, 3.29; P<.001 and>
    • comorbid disorders (aOR, 6.04; P<.001>
  • Betamethasone-exposed children had higher prevalence of speech and language (aOR, 2.57; P.05), psychological development (aOR, 7.26; P<.001 and hyperkinetic p disorders.>
  • These associations did not vary significantly between preterm and term children (all values for P>.27).
  • Betamethasone-exposure was associated with higher scores on total (P=.002), internalising (P=.008) and externalising (P=.003) problems.


  • Limited generalisability.
  • Number of children exposed to betamethasone prenatally was relatively small.

Please confirm your acceptance

To gain full access to GPnotebook please confirm:

By submitting here you confirm that you have accepted Terms of Use and Privacy Policy of GPnotebook.