Long-term effects of betamethasone on fetal development

J. W.C. Johnson, W. Mitzner, J. C. Beck, W. T. London, D. L. Sly, Peter Lee, V. A. Khouzami, R. L. Cavalieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


In previous studies, we noted that treatment of pregnant rhesus monkeys with betamethasone resulted in a marked increase in fetal lung distensibility. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether these changes persisted during subsequent in utero development. Pregnant rhesus monkeys were treated with 2 mg of betamethasone intramuscularly from day 120 to day 133 and underwent delivery by cesarean section one month later. The treated fetuses were found to have smaller lungs (-31%; p <0.005), and lower alveolar stability (-14%; p <0.025) than the control fetuses. Additional findings included smaller weights for the brain (p <0.01), liver, pancreas, and heart (p <0.05). Smaller adrenal (p <0.025) and larger pituitary weights (p <0.05) and lower plasma corticoid concentrations (p <0.001) indicated long-standing adrenal insufficiency in the treated fetuses. These persistent sequelae caution against the indiscriminate and prolonged use of these potent glucocorticoids during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1053-1064
Number of pages12
JournalUnknown Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1981

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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