Steroids Are No Boon to World’s Poorer Women

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Giving steroids to women who are about to give birth prematurely — a standard lifesaving medical practice in richer countries — may be useless or even dangerous in poor countries where most women give birth at home, a major new study has found.

Steroids like dexamethasone help the fragile lungs of preterm infants mature quickly so they can absorb more oxygen at birth. Many studies have shown that more preemies who receive them survive, so it is now routine practice in rich and middle-income countries, and donors have been under pressure to help introduce it in poor ones.

But a study of more than 100,000 pregnant women in Argentina, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Kenya and Zambia found that the number of very small babies who died in the first month was about the same whether they received steroids or not — suggesting that the treatment did no good.

Source: The New York Times (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
public health