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Antenatal corticosteroid treatment: what's happened since Drs Liggins and Howie?

      In 1972, Drs Liggins and Howie published a landmark article demonstrating that antenatal corticosteroids significantly reduced the frequency of respiratory distress syndrome and neonatal mortality. A single course of antenatal corticosteroids has become standard of care for pregnant women at risk for preterm birth. Recent studies have suggested weekly courses of antenatal corticosteroids result in improvement in the acute neonatal condition but have not supported long-term benefit. With greater understanding of the beneficial actions of corticosteroids on the fetal lung, the role for this therapy may expand. In addition to increased surfactant production and secretion, corticosteroids facilitate clearance of fetal lung fluid, as well as other maturational effects. Thus, antenatal corticosteroids may prove valuable in the late preterm period and before elective cesarean delivery at term.

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