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Steroids during pregnancy may sound too scary. However, they’re absolutely safe. Expecting mothers can take steroids (only on prescription) for numerous pre-existing health conditions like asthma, lupus and skin problems. They are mostly prescribed when the doctor feels that the pregnant woman may go into pre-term labour. The use of steroids in such a case helps the baby’s lungs, brain and intestine to mature quickly.
Why Do Steroids Become Necessary During Pregnancy?
In early pregnancy, steroids are given for treating recurring miscarriages or foetal abnormalities. Doctors often prescribe steroid drugs known as corticosteroids for preterm labour. Babies born before the full term (i.e. 37th week) are at a risk of respiratory distress and death due to underdeveloped lungs. The use of steroids expedites the development of the lungs of preterm babies and increases their chances of survival.
Steroids also lower the risk of brain haemorrhage and a serious bowel disorder called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature babies.
What Do Steroids Do?
Steroids are believed to have numerous benefits. Some of them are:
- They can delay a preterm delivery, thus reducing the risk of respiratory morbidity.
- Steroids help to develop the various organs and body parts of preemies faster.
- They can do wonders for women who have a history of miscarriage.
- They are beneficial for pregnant women with health problems like asthma, lupus and skin disorders.
- Consuming steroids also lowers the risk of brain damage and Neonatal Respiratory Distress Syndrome (NRDS) in premature babies.
- The intestines of a preterm newborn are underdeveloped and weak. Therefore, steroids help in protecting the baby from intestinal infections and bowel issues.
What Is the Recommended Dosage?
Steroids during pregnancy are safe if prescribed by a gynaecologist. The dosage is:
- In case of unexpected preterm labour, a minimum of two doses are given, 12 or 24 hours apart.
- If necessary, the dose may be repeated after it has been taken more than a week before.
- As per doctor’s advice, the steroid can also be taken weekly for a long duration.
Who Can Take Steroids?
Steroids can be taken:
- From the 24th to the 36th week of pregnancy
- If preterm labour is imminent.
- By women having asthma or bronchial infections
- For recurrent miscarriages or foetal abnormalities.
Who Shouldn’t Take Steroids?
Women who suffer from diabetes or chorioamnionitis shouldn’t take steroids.
Side Effects of Taking Steroids During Pregnancy
There are two sides to a coin. Here are some side effects of taking steroids:
- Steroids aggravate blood pressure.
- A condition called pulmonary oedema (water retention in the lungs) occurs if the person is taking steroids with medication to prevent preterm labour.
- A person with diabetes or gestational diabetes should not take steroids since it could increase the blood sugar level.
- In some cases babies born of mothers who took steroids during pregnancy, weigh less when born.
- The risk of cleft lip is 6 times more in newborns when the mother takes steroids in the first trimester.
- It is also said that multiple doses of steroids during pregnancy can have a negative effect on fetal intrauterine growth.
- It can also result in a decrease of the foetal heart rate variation.
- Multiple doses of corticosteroid can cause an increase in infections like endometritis.
Antenatal steroids (ANS) like corticosteroids have a lot many benefits; they have been successful in saving many preterm babies from the jaws of death. However, the use of steroids during pregnancy can also have serious and long-lasting effects on the baby and the mother. So, never take this medication without a prescription.
Also Read: How to Prevent Preterm Labour