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Very preterm birth: who has access to antenatal corticosteroid therapy?


Dr Antoine Burguet, Réanimation Pédiatrique et Néonatale, Centre Hospitalier et Universitaire du CHU de Dijon, 21030 Dijon Cedex, France.


Burguet A, Ferdynus C, Thiriez G, Bouthet M-F, Kayemba-Kays S, Sanyas P, Menget A, Mulin B, Riethmuller D, Maillet R, Brousse C, Magnin G, Boisselier P, Sagot P, Pierre F, Gouyon B, Gouyon J-B. Very preterm birth: who has access to antenatal corticosteroid therapy? Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 2010; 24: 63–74.

We describe the administration of antenatal corticosteroid therapy (ACT) for liveborn very preterm neonates in a population-based study. A total of 790 very preterm neonates (between 24 and 31 full weeks of gestation) were included in this regionally defined population of very preterm neonates in France. The main outcome measure was non-access to ACT. Data were analysed using logistic and polytomous models to control for neonatal and sociodemographic characteristics, mechanisms of very preterm birth and neonatal network organisation.

As compared with level III, births in levels I-II maternity units were closely related to non-access to ACT (60.1% vs. 8.8%), but not to pregnancy follow-up (19.7% vs. 17.8%). Only 6.3% of very preterm neonates that benefited from antepartum referral did nor receive ACT. Births associated with rupture of membranes and gestational hypertension were significantly more often transferred to level-III units (73.8% and 68.3% respectively) than those due to maternal bleeding and spontaneous labour (57.0% and 50.7% respectively), and the neonates had a lower probability of not receiving ACT (8.5%, 11.5%, 23.0%, 31.2% respectively). Very preterm neonates referred in utero to a level-III unit came from a more favourable socio-economic environment. Non-access to ACT was more often observed in neonates born to 14- to 24-year-old mothers, smokers, of low socio-economic status, and preterm birth resulting from maternal bleeding or spontaneous labour.

These data from a French regional study show that access to ACT is not only explained by practitioners' support of recommendations. In our population-based study, ACT access was related to socio-economic factors and to the mechanisms of very preterm birth. Improving the rate of access to ACT should take these organisational, medical and socio-economic dimensions into account.