Antenatal betamethasone treatment has a persisting influence on infant HPA axis regulation

E. P. Davis, E. L. Townsend, M. R. Gunnar, S. F. Guiang, R. C. Lussky, R. F. Cifuentes, M. K. Georgieff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objective:To examine the consequences of antenatal betamethasone (AB) exposure on postnatal stress regulation. Study design: Fourteen AB expos ed infants born at 28-30 weeks' gestation were assessed in the NICU during postnatal week 1 and at 34 weeks postconception. Nine infants born at 34 weeks gestation without AB treatment were evaluated as a postconceptional age comparison group. Salivary cortisol, heart rate, and behavior were measured at baseline and in response to a heelstick blood draw. Results: Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed that both groups displayed an increase in heart rate and behavioral distress in response to the stressor. The cortisol response, however, was blunted in AB-treated infants at both assessments. Conclusion: AB treatment has consequences for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulation that persist for at least four to six weeks after birth, indicating that studies of long-term effects are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-153
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Perinatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant from the Minnesota Medical Foundation (643-7051). The authors wish to give a very special thank you to the families who participated in this research and to the nurses, lab technicians, and physicians at University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital-Fairview and Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN. Thanks are also expressed to the many undergraduates at the University of Minnesota for their assistance with data collection and to Andrea Geiren at the University of Trier for careful analysis of the salivary cortisol data.


  • Cortisol
  • Glucocorticoid treatment
  • Prematurity
  • Prenatal exposure
  • Stress


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