Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica

Antenatal corticosteroid exposure at term increases adult adiposity: an experimental study in sheep.

PMID 23663068


Clinical practice guidelines for elective cesarean section at early-term gestation (37-38 weeks) recommend antenatal corticosteroids to reduce neonatal respiratory morbidity. However, the long-term health implications for offspring exposed to corticosteroids at term are unknown and may differ from the effects of preterm corticosteroid exposure. We therefore randomized singleton-bearing ewes (n = 64) to receive a clinically relevant dose of corticosteroids at term or no treatment. Body composition was assessed in adult offspring using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Relative to skeletal size female, but not male, offspring of steroid-treated ewes had increased weight and a greater fat mass than controls (relative weight: 49.1 ± 1.1 vs. 52.9 ± 1.2 kg/m², p = 0.02; relative fat mass: 5.4 ± 0.7 vs. 3.4 ± 0.7 kg/m², p = 0.04). Whether corticosteroid exposure at early-term gestation increases adult adiposity in humans is unknown and needs further investigation.